Sen. Reed warns GOP’s proposals to sunset Social Security & Medicare would be disastrous for RI seniors and working families, putting people’s hard-earned retirement benefits at risk
WARWICK, RI – U.S. Senator Jack Reed paid a visit to the Pilgrim Senior Center in Warwick today to discuss the needs of senior citizens and ensure people know assistance is available for a variety of needs, including: food, housing, transportation, health care, utility bills and other essentials, plus Social Security and Medicare.
“Social Security and Medicare have changed countless lives for the better. People work hard and pay into these programs throughout their lives and should be able to receive their checks when they need them. I am committed to strengthening Social Security and Medicare and protecting the promise we have made to our seniors and most vulnerable citizens,” said Senator Reed.
Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, helped deliver a $400 million boost to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the recently enacted continuing resolution that funds the federal government. Senator Reed supported this federal funding to enhance the SSA’s customer service capabilities, hire more staff, and invest in information technology that will reduce wait times for in-person and phone service, and speed up accurate claims processing times. Reed says the additional $400 million is a needed down payment toward ensuring the SSA can serve the American people as Congress completes its work on full-year appropriations bills.
Over 190,000 Rhode Islanders currently receive Social Security benefits. Rhode Island is home to five SSA field offices and one location for the Office of Hearings Operations (Newport, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick, Woonsocket). Senator Reed says it’s imperative that older Americans and individuals with disabilities have access to in-person services and that the SSA do more to enhance and simplify communications with Social Security recipients.
“Rhode Island seniors depend on the Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve been paying into for decades to afford basic necessities and access life-saving care. And for the first time in years, older Americans are seeing their Social Security checks increase and their Medicare premiums drop,” noted Reed.
The SSA recently announced an 8.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to help beneficiaries keep up with rising prices. Eligible Rhode Islanders will receive a COLA notice by mail in a few weeks providing the exact details of their new benefit amount. The SSA estimates the average benefit paid to retired workers will rise by $146 to $1,827 per month in 2023. As a result, the average retiree will see an extra $1,752 over the course of the year, according to AARP. For the first time in a decade, Social Security checks will increase while Medicare premiums will decrease – putting more money in the pockets of thousands of Rhode Islanders on fixed incomes. These benefits, along with the health care savings and lower prescription drug costs made possible by the Inflation Reduction Act, will help protect vulnerable Americans from rising costs.
The increase in Social Security benefits will impact 70 million people across the country, according to the SSA.
“The Social Security raise will direct benefits those who really need it and will help pay the bills, keep utilities on, and help people with the things they need to live their lives,” said Senator Reed.
During the discussion, Senator Reed also warned that leading Congressional Republicans have offered plans to jeopardize Social Security and Medicare, including a “sunset provision” that would force Congress to reauthorize Social Security and Medicare every five years, and let Republicans filibuster attempts to continue the programs. House Republicans have also proposed upending the Social Security and Medicare guarantee as we know it, including privatizing Social Security and raising the retirement age to 70.
“I strongly oppose sunsetting Social Security or privatizing it. That would hurt average Americans. The latest Republican proposal would dismantle and the automatic-funding process that ensures people who have paid into Social Security actually get the benefits they are owed. Instead, Republicans want to subject Social Security to constant Congressional re-approval and potential filibusters,” noted Reed. “Republicans now routinely threaten to shut down the federal government. If they can routinely threaten to hold people’s Social Security checks hostage, it would be a disaster. We need leaders who will prioritize a dignified retirement for all Americans and are committed to protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare.”