On December 8th, the House considered the Seniors Protection Act (H.R. 5987) to provide 54 million seniors with a one-time payment of $250 given that there will be no automatic Cost-of-Living-Adjustment for America's seniors in 2011. While a majority of Members voted aye (254-153), it failed to receive the 2/3 necessary under suspension of the rules.
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. That means 2011 will be the second consecutive year that Social Security retirees, veterans, and people with disabilities will see no increase in their monthly Social Security, SSI, VA Pension and Compensation, and Railroad Retirement benefits. There are several false rumors circulating about the reason for the lack of a COLA--the non-partisan FactCheck.org explains it succinctly, “the reason is simple: the official measure of the cost of living has gone down, not up.”
But without the COLA, many Americans who rely on Social Security to survive can't make ends meet. This $250 payment will help seniors, veterans, railroad retirees and people with disabilities who receive Social Security make ends meet during this tough time, when housing values are down, other retirement income is volatile, and many are facing rising expenses.
Similar Recovery Act payments in 2009 boosted GDP by about 0.5% in the second quarter of 2009, translating to roughly 125,000 jobs created or saved due to these payments.[Economic Policy Institute, 9/14/10]. CBO estimates that these payments will cost $14 billion. Under the bill, the cost would be offset by some of savings included in earlier legislation that are tallied on the PAYGO scorecard. If not used, the balance of the scorecard will be available to offset spending and tax cuts next year in the new Congress.
The fiscally responsible legislation enjoys broad support from veterans and seniors organizations, including AARP, Alliance for Retired Americans, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Disabled American Veterans, and Military Officers Association of America:
AARP, Nancy Leamond, Executive Vice President: “…we urge you to provide this relief in a fiscally responsible manner to millions of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet in this difficult economic environment. Older Americans are facing unique financial difficulties, have been acutely impacted by the downturn in the U.S. economy, and are in particular need of economic relief” [12/7/10]
Alliance for Retired Americans, President, Barbara J. Easterling, Executive Director, Edward F. Coyle: “For retirees faced with declining home and retirement account values and, the $250 payment is immediately needed. Your support for this payment will demonstrate a commitment to older Americans.”
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Barbara B. Kennelly, President and CEO: “The one-time $250 payment will assist millions of older Americans who are still reeling from the economic collapse, providing resources likely to be injected directly into the economy.”[12/6/10]
Strengthen Social Security Campaign, which is comprised of 250 organizations representing more than 50 million members from many of the nation's leading aging, labor, disability, women's, children, consumer, civil rights and equality organizations: “It is both fair and appropriate to now provide a… payment to help stimulate our nation's economy and at the same time assist seniors, people with disabilities, children and other Social Security beneficiaries who did not receive a cost of living adjustment 2010 and will not get one again in 2011.” [12/7/10]
Disabled American Veterans, National Commander Wallace E. Tyson: “Once again, our nation's economic woes have affected every disabled veteran and surviving spouse receiving compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is especially troubling for those who already bear the burden of disability and loss.” In a grassroots alert to its members and others, the DAV urged them to encourage their lawmakers to support this legislation vital to so many service-connected disabled veterans and their families. The $250 would be helpful to many veterans and their families who are struggling with the second consecutive year of no cost-of-living allowance in their veteran and dependent benefits.
Wider Opportunities for Women, Joan Kuriansky, Executive Director: “Supporting the $250 one-time payment to Social Security beneficiaries is a small, yet critical, step forward in building economic security for elders and families.” [12/8/10]
Other groups supporting the Social Security $250 payment include Military Officers Association of America, National Association of Retired and Veteran Railways Employees, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association and National Treasury Employees Union. [Washington Post, 10/20/10]