Bustos Continues Fight To Protect Social Security, Seniors & Veterans From Benefit Cuts

Today, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) led a group of 117 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in urging President Obama to rule out cuts to Social Security and veterans’ benefits in his upcoming budget proposal for next year.   

In the letter, Bustos and her colleagues called on the President to avoid using the chained consumer price index to calculate cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for Social Security and other federal programs.  Switching to this measure of inflation, known as “chained CPI,” would reduce Social Security payments for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.

“Social Security is the greatest anti-poverty program in history and one seniors and veterans in our region, especially those on a fixed income, rely on,” said Congresswoman Cheri Bustos.  “Those who have worked hard their entire lives and played by the rules deserve a strong and fair Social Security benefit program – that is why I am opposed to switching to a chained CPI system.”

Among the organizations supporting the letter are:  American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM); Military Officers Association of America (MOAA); Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA); Alliance for Retired Americans; National Organization for Women (NOW).

During her time in office, Bustos has been a champion for Illinois seniors and has fought to protect Social Security benefits and the Medicare guarantee. Last year, she was honored by the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans for her strong support for both Medicare and Social Security and her opposition to switching to a so-called “chained CPI” system in calculating Social Security benefits.  

The full text of Bustos’ letter is below and HERE.  The other lead cosigners are Reps. Allyson Schwartz (PA-13), Bruce Braley (IA-01), David Cicilline (RI-01) and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09).

FULL TEXT OF LETTER

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to rule out using the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) to calculate cost-of-living and inflation adjustments for federal programs in your Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

Switching to a chained CPI would be devastating for seniors, veterans, federal retirees, disabled individuals and others.  Under legislation enacted in 1983, Social Security benefits for seniors retiring in the coming years are already scheduled to be reduced.  Today, the average worker earning $43,000 annually who retires at age 65 will find that Social Security replaces 41 percent of their previous earnings.  Soon, this will decline to just 36 percent of previous earnings, as the full retirement age climbs from 66 to 67 over the 2017-2022 period.

Chained CPI would further reduce those earned benefits over time because it fails to take into account inflation for older Americans.  While the Affordable Care Act has had a positive effect in reducing Medicare spending growth, increased medical costs continue to take a larger and larger share of Social Security earned benefits.  As you know, many seniors already face tight personal budgets, challenges that the recession has only exacerbated.  For many seniors living on a fixed income, any reduction in benefits would have a serious impact on their ability to afford basic necessities.

While there have been protections proposed to mitigate the impact of chained CPI on the very elderly and certain vulnerable populations, such as the blind, disabled and seniors with limited income, many with limited, modest incomes would still be impacted.  For instance, even with the benefit enhancements that have been proposed, a low-wage retiree receiving $9,600 per year would see their benefits reduced by an average of 1.5 percent between ages 62 and 81, a loss of more than $140 per year. 

Your Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 proposed a comprehensive $1.8 trillion deficit reduction package that sought to replace sequestration and reflected the compromise you offered to House Speaker John Boehner in December 2012.  That plan incorporated a Republican proposal to use chained CPI to reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, as well as military veterans, people with disabilities, and beneficiaries of other federal programs.   Since then, however, the Republican majority has consistently refused to discuss a balanced approach that would include increased revenues and the closing of tax loopholes.

We recognize that additional measures are required to address our nation’s long-term budget challenges, and we appreciate the difficult choices you are wrestling with as you prepare a fiscal blueprint to promote economic growth. But, we respectfully ask that you not place the burden of additional deficit reduction on the backs of seniors, veterans, federal retirees, disabled individuals and others by including chained CPI in your Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

Sincerely,

Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz
Rep. Bruce L. Braley
Rep. Cheri Bustos
Rep. David N. Cicilline
Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky
Rep. Ron Barber
Rep. Joyce Beatty
Rep. Earl Blumenauer
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici
Rep. Robert A. Brady
Rep. Corrine Brown
Rep. Lois Capps
Rep. Tony Cardenas
Rep. Andre Carson
Rep. Matthew A. Cartwright
Rep. Judy Chu
Rep. Katherine Clark
Rep. Yvette D. Clarke
Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver
Rep. Steve Cohen
Rep. John Conyers
Rep. Joe Courtney
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings
Rep. Danny K. Davis
Rep. Peter A. DeFazio
Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro
Rep. Theodore E. Deutch
Rep. Lloyd Doggett
Rep. Michael F. Doyle
Rep. Donna F. Edwards
Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. William L. Enyart
Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty
Rep. Lois Frankel
Rep. Marcia L. Fudge
Rep. John Garamendi
Rep. Alan Grayson
Rep. Al Green
Rep. Gene Green
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva
Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez
Rep. Janice Hahn
Rep. Colleen W. Hanabusa
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings
Rep. Brian Higgins
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa
Rep. Rush Holt
Rep. Michael M. Honda
Rep. Steven A. Horsford
Rep. Jared Huffman
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson
Rep. Henry C. “Hank” Johnson
Rep. Marcy Kaptur
Rep. William R. Keating
Rep. Robin Kelly
Rep. Daniel T. Kildee
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick
Rep. James R. Langevin
Rep. Rick Larsen
Rep. Barbara Lee
Rep. John Lewis
Rep. David Loebsack
Rep. Zoe Lofgren
Rep. Alan S. Lowenthal
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham
Rep. Stephen F. Lynch
Rep. Daniel B. Maffei
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney
Rep. Doris O. Matsui
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. Betty McCollum
Rep. Jim McDermott
Rep. James P. McGovern
Rep. Grace Meng
Rep. Michael H. Michaud
Rep. Gwen Moore
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod
Rep. Richard M. Nolan
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton
Rep. Beto O’Rourke
Rep. Frank Pallone
Rep. Bill Pascrell
Rep. Gary C. Peters
Rep. Collin C. Peterson
Rep. Chellie Pingree
Rep. Mark Pocan
Rep. Mike Quigley
Rep. Nick J. Rahall
Rep. Charles B. Rangel
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard
Rep. Raul Ruiz
Rep. Bobby L. Rush
Rep. Tim Ryan
Rep. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan
Rep. Linda T. Sanchez
Rep. John P. Sarbanes
Rep. Adam B. Schiff
Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
Rep. Jose E. Serrano
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter
Rep. Albio Sires
Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter
Rep. Eric Swalwell
Rep. Mark Takano
Rep. Dina Titus
Rep. Bennie G. Thompson
Rep. Paul Tonko
Rep. Juan Vargas
Rep. Marc A. Veasey
Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. Peter Welch
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson
Rep. John A. Yarmuth

SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS

Social Security Works; Strengthen Social Security Coalition; International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW); National Organization for Women (NOW); American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO); National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM); Main Street Alliance; Alliance for a Just Society; Campaign for Community Change; National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE); Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO); Military Officers Association of America (MOAA); Fleet Reserve Association (FRA); Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA); United States Army Warrant Officers Association (USAWOA); Marine Corps Reserve Association (MCRA); Air Force Women Officers Associated (AFWOA); Chief Warrant & Warrant Officers Association, USCG; B’nai B’rith International; Alliance for Retired Americans