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Congresswoman Waters Announces Support for $250 Payment to Seniors

October 15, 2010
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) announced her support for legislation to provide Social Security recipients with a one-time, $250 payment after the Social Security Administration said today that there will not be an automatic Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) for 2011. 

Next year will be the second consecutive year that seniors and other recipients will see no increase in their monthly Social Security, SSI, VA Pension and Compensation, and Railroad Retirement benefits. This unprecedented situation is a result of economic conditions, not the result of Congressional or Presidential action or inaction.  The COLA is automatically calculated using data on inflation published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In 2009, Social Security recipients saw a 5.8% increase in their benefits, the largest since 1982, as a result of rising costs; but in 2010, they saw no COLA at all.

"Americans who rely on Social Security to survive will need additional help next year," said Congresswoman Waters.  "As soon as Congress reconvenes in November, my colleagues and I will act quickly to pass H.R. 5987, the Seniors Protection Act. The Act will provide a one-time, $250 payment to about 54 million American seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities to help them make ends meet during this tough time when housing values are down, other retirement income is volatile, and many are facing rising expenses."

Social Security benefit levels are modest – only $14,000 a year for the average retiree.  The median income for senior households is just $24,000, reflecting just how much Social Security means to most elderly Americans. Six in ten seniors rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, and about a third of retirees have little other than Social Security on which to live.

"The Administration has already budgeted for this, meaning we can do this in a fiscally responsible way," Congresswoman Waters said. "I will vote for this legislation in November and will continue to stand up for seniors and other vulnerable Americans."

Gains for Seniors
The 111th Congress has worked to strengthen the economic security of America's seniors.  In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Congress provided seniors and other
beneficiaries a $250 economic recovery payment to boost the economy and help them weather an anticipated upcoming COLA cutback.  In fact, a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute showed that similar payments to seniors in 2009 strengthened the economy, increasing the nation's GDP by 0.5% in the second quarter of the year, and creating or saving 125,000 American jobs.

Under health reform, millions of seniors will save thousands of dollars on their prescription drug costs by phasing out the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" coverage gap and Medicare will be strengthened.  In 2010, 4 million seniors who hit the donut hole are receiving a $250 rebate check.  Beginning in 2011, seniors who hit the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs, and the donut hole will be completely closed by 2020.  In addition, beginning on January 1, 2011, the Affordable Care Act provides that seniors will receive, under Medicare, free preventive services such as mammograms and certain colon cancer tests and a free annual physical.  The Affordable Care Act also strengthens Medicare by extending the solvency of the trust fund by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029.

Both of these plans to bring greater security to America's seniors were opposed by Republicans in Congress who created the donut hole and would stop donut hole checks to seniors, and who favor turning over Medicare to the insurance companies, forcing seniors to hunt for their own coverage with vouchers that would decrease in value over time.

Internet Myths
There are several false rumors circulating among seniors on the internet about Social Security and the reasons for the lack of a COLA.  You may find useful the debunking information at the
following links:

• "Is it true that the Democratic Congress will not allow an increase in the Social Security COLA?"

• Is SSA spending COLA money on electronic medical records, instead of a COLA?

• Debunking myths about the history of Social Security