Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-29-13

Senate Passes Budget That Protects Social Security and Medicare, Ends Sequester
Early Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate passed a budget crafted by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Unlike the budget plan promoted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), which passed the U.S. House of Representatives last week, the Murray budget does not include any cuts to Social Security or to Medicare benefits, nor does it gut Medicaid by turning it into a block grant program. In addition to keeping vital benefit programs intact, Murray’s budget repeals the harmful sequester cuts, while Ryan’s budget would leave them in place through 2023. To see the Alliance’s chart comparing the Murray budget passed by the Senate with the Ryan budget passed by the House, go to

“The Murray budget is starkly different from Paul Ryan’s budget,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “While Ryan’s plan attempts to balance the budget on the backs of seniors and the middle class, this budget protects Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as well as ending the harmful sequester cuts. It presents a far more positive and retiree friendly alternative to the Ryan plan.”

Senate Budget Also Includes Sanders Amendment Opposing Chained CPI
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) authored an amendment to the Senate budget which opposes switching to the chained CPI method of calculating Social Security benefits. The amendment was included in the final budget which passed the Senate on Saturday. In a statement released after the vote, Sanders stressed that the Senate is clearly opposed to chained CPI and will oppose any bill that includes it. If implemented, chained CPI would cut Social Security benefits for 55 million Americans, including retirees, disabled veterans, and the surviving spouses and children of veterans. Sanders mentioned the Alliance on the Senate floor in conjunction with the vote. The amendment passed by voice vote. To read his statement, go to

“We are very pleased to see the Senate firmly reject chained CPI,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Retirees and veterans paid into the system and they deserve their full Social Security benefits.”

Republican Senator Burr Supports Chained CPI but Wants to Exempt Veterans
Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told The Hill that he supports implementing the chained CPI method of calculating Social Security. However, Burr stated that he did favor exempting veterans from the switch to chained CPI. To read Burr’s statements to The Hill, go to
“Exempting veterans might sound good in theory, but it’s unworkable in practice,” said Mr. Coyle. “The vast majority of beneficiaries, including both veterans and retirees, live on extremely modest means and cannot absorb such a large cut to their benefits. There is no humane way to implement chained CPI.”

Long-Term Care Insurance Increasingly Unaffordable, Especially for Women
Just as many retiring baby boomers are seeking to buy long-term care insurance, the companies that provide it are making it more difficult to purchase by raising premiums, weakening coverage, and charging women higher rates than men. According to data from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, premiums have risen dramatically in just the last year, by an average of 10 percent for couples and 20 percent for singles. Alternatively, more companies are giving customers the option to buy cheaper plans that do not offer inflation protection and will likely result in considerably lower benefits. Companies are also increasingly charging women higher rates than men for long-term care insurance, which did not used to be the case. They justify this because women are more likely to live longer and are less likely to have a caregiver, since they tend to outlive their husbands. To read an article in the New York Times about the issue, go to

“Charging women higher premiums is unjust,” said Ms. Easterling. “The Affordable Care Act made it illegal to charge women to pay steeper rates than men for their health insurance. The government should take steps to give women the same protection when it comes to long term care insurance, and to make long term care insurance more affordable for all retirees.”

Seniors Face Growing Credit Card Debt Crisis
According to two recent studies, seniors are facing an alarming, and growing, debt crisis. A report from AARP’s Public Policy institute and Demos, a research organization, compared the amount of credit card debt held by different age groups. The report found that Americans over the age of 50 carried an average balance of $8,278, while those under the age of 50 had a comparatively lower average balance of $6,258. A second study, from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, found that the percentage of income that Americans over 75 spend on debt payments substantially increased from 4.5 percent to 7.1 percent in just three years between 2007 and 2010. Experts pinpoint medical expenses as one of the primary causes of the increased debt. To read the New York Times write-up on that issue, go to

“Seniors should not be forced to go into debt just to afford health care and basic living expenses,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “This is a clear illustration of why any cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be a disaster for retirees at a time when so many are already struggling to get by.”

Something on Your Mind? Write a Letter to the Editor and Win a Pen!
Is there something you want retirees in your community to know about? Take a moment to write a letter to the editor, and if it is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen. “Letters to the editor are free and are widely read,” said Mr. Burks. “With the wealthy business interests we are up against, it’s nice to have an option that doesn’t cost anything.” Most recently, Don Berry, Leon Burzynski, Robert Carillo, Doug Curler, Bentley Davis, Robert Dougherty, Tony Fransetta, Doug Hart, Judith Jobes, Terry Lochhead, Al Mumm, Valerie Paterson, Gene Roza, Jane Russell, Frank Stella, William Stevens and Charles Urban contributed to their local papers with either a Letter to the Editor or an op-ed. Please e-mail if you have had a letter published.

For a printable version of this document, go to

Friday, March 22, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-22-13

Paul Ryan’s Republican Budget Passes the House, Despite Threats Posed to Seniors
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass Paul Ryan’s Republican Budget for fiscal year 2014 on Thursday, 221-207. It was a mostly party-line vote, with only 10 Republicans voting against it, and no Democrats voting for it. For a full tally, go to Ryan’s plan would fast-track cuts to Social Security, gut Medicaid and dismantle the Medicare program – all while giving $5.7 trillion in new tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. To see the Alliance’s letter to House members listing the ways in which the budget would hurt seniors, go to If you have not done so already, please sign the petition expressing your disapproval of the Paul Ryan budget here:

Diane Fleming, a retired member of the International Association of Machinists who, along with her 92-year-old mother, is a Medicare beneficiary, spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday that drew attention to the many problems with the Republican budget. Because Ryan’s plan also calls for the repeal of health care reform, Ms. Fleming highlighted the imminent three-year anniversary (tomorrow, March 23) of the Affordable Care Act. Members of Congress at the event included Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC), Democratic Caucus Chair Xavier Becerra (CA), Caucus Vice Chair Joseph Crowley (NY), and Rep. John Dingell (MI).

In separate action, the House and Senate reached agreement on Thursday to fund the federal government through September, avoiding a government shutdown. However, the bill leaves in place the machinery of sequestration cuts that took effect on March 1, and the bill does not add funding that many Democrats wanted to implement health care and Wall Street reforms.

Wednesday, March 20: A Day of Action Against the Sequester
Wednesday was a national Day of Action to protest the effects of sequestration – including a growing backlog for new claims, headed toward 1,000,000 - for the Social Security Administration. Alliance members were out in full force, and the evidence was found at State Capitols, in print and on television screens. The day was “Senior Day” at the Capitol in Denver for Colorado State Alliance President Frank Lay, state chapter members and their allies. Joining the Colorado Alliance were the Central Presbyterian Church, the Colorado Commission on Aging, and others. See video from the Pennsylvania Alliance’s presence in Lebanon, PA at

In addition, Arizona Alliance President Doug Hart was interviewed by the Phoenix ABC affiliate on Wednesday. The New Mexico Alliance joined up with AFSCME, AFGE, the Sierra Club, and other coalition partners to protest both sequestration and the Ryan budget in Albuquerque. In Omaha, Fox's Channel 42 and ABC's Channel 7 covered the Nebraska Alliance's protest. In Dallas, Texas Alliance President Gene Lantz was interviewed by the local CBS affiliate. Go to to see video from Dallas; go to for more.

“So many of our states were active on Wednesday – this list is not meant to be exhaustive,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “I want to thank everyone who joined together to make such a strong statement about sequestration, the Paul Ryan budget, and the impact that combination will have on seniors.”

Alliance Supports Nomination of Thomas E. Perez for Labor Secretary 
President Barack Obama announced on Monday that he is nominating Thomas E. Perez to be his next Secretary of the Department of Labor. Mr. Perez, currently the head of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, is a longtime champion of labor causes. During his time as head of the Maryland Department of Labor, he championed legislation that stopped bosses from cheating their workers out of full pay and benefits by classifying them as “independent contractors.” The bill was signed into law in 2009, earning Perez high praise from union leaders. Perez has also been an advocate for many other causes, including protecting the rights of domestic workers and fighting back against restrictive voter ID laws. For more, go to Mother Jones’s take on the nomination at

“Thomas Perez’s record clearly shows that he will promote policies that help workers achieve stable retirements,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.  “We are also encouraged by his strong opposition to voter ID laws, which discriminate against seniors.”

Wisconsin Alliance Holds Its State Convention, Elects a New President
The Wisconsin Alliance held its State Convention in Madison on Monday, drawing more than 130 delegates. Those in attendance also held a press conference protesting sequestration, with two local television stations and several radio stations covering the event. Ms. Easterling and Rich Fiesta, Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs for the Alliance, spoke at the convention. Outgoing State President Leon Burzynski was honored and given a framed resolution for his years of service. See the video from Wisconsin at

“Thank you, Leon, for your devotion to the Wisconsin Alliance, and to seniors everywhere,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Your colleagues have all enjoyed working with you immensely, and it is because of you that the state chapter is so strong.”

Mike Pyne, a Steelworkers retiree, was elected to serve as the new President. “I am pleased to be the state President at a time when this state’s retirees have so much on the line. I will work tirelessly to make sure that Wisconsin’s workers, both in the public and private sector, do not have their rights and benefits further threatened,” said Mr. Pyne.

Florida, Iowa Alliance State Presidents Make the Local TV News – Watch the Video
After organizing three press events in the last week, Florida Alliance President Tony Fransetta was interviewed by West Palm Beach’s local NBC affiliate last Friday regarding the affordable housing crisis for seniors in the state. Check out the story here: Iowa President Janice Laue’s interview concerning the Iowa Governor’s unsavory alternative to Medicaid expansion, which aired on Des Moines’ local ABC affiliate, is here:

Editor’s Note: Due to Good Friday, the next Friday Alert will be published on Thursday, March 28.

For a printable version of this document, go to

Thursday, March 21, 2013

SOAR Alert

SOAR request - Please phone your U.S. Senators and ask them to vote for the Sanders-Harken-Hirono Amendment 198. This has to do with the infamous Chained CPI. The COLA for disabled veterans is determined by the Social Security COLA. Thanks very much.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

USW Supports Perez as New Labor Secretary

(PITTSBURGH) – The United Steelworkers (USW) released this statement today from International President Leo W. Gerard in support of President Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez as the administration’s new Secretary of Labor:

“All workers should be thrilled with President Obama’s nomination of Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor. Mr. Perez has a long and distinguished record of standing up and fighting for the rights of his fellow Americans. He has worked hard to protect some of our nation’s most vulnerable workers from discrimination and exploitation.

“Whether the issue was civil rights, immigration, education, health and safety, wages, health care or veterans’ affairs, Mr. Perez has been on the side of working people every step of the way throughout his career.

“Most of all, Thomas Perez understands the challenges that working families face in this country and he has proven that he will be an aggressive champion for them. He’s exactly the kind of advocate Americans deserve as their Labor Secretary, and we look forward to his swift confirmation.”

The USW represents about 850,000 workers in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glassmaking to mining, steel, oil, paper, tire and rubber to the public sector, service and health care industries.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-15-13

Paul Ryan’s Latest Budget: Not New and Not Improved!
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled a Republican budget on Tuesday that once again proposes privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher system, while lowering tax rates on corporations and the wealthy.  The vouchers would replace the guaranteed benefits of Medicare but would not keep up with costs, and seniors would be out more and more money every year. The plan would also turn Medicaid into a block-grant program.  “This budget - Ryan’s 3rd edition - is not new and it’s not improved,” said Ohio Alliance President Norm Wernet.
Please sign the petition expressing your disapproval of the Paul Ryan budget here:

Alliance member Diane Fleming spoke out about the budget on Wednesday at a Capitol Hill event with the House Progressive Caucus. The United Airlines retiree, who worked for 39 years as a reservations agent and in ticket sales as a member of the International Association of Machinists, spelled out what the Ryan budget would mean for seniors. Members of the House in attendance included Reps. Keith Ellison (MN), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Jim McDermott (WA), Barbara Lee (CA), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Mark Pocan (WI) and Maxine Waters (CA).

“Moving to a voucher system for Medicare, as the Ryan plan outlines, is just a way of cutting Medicare. It shifts health care costs onto retirees, most of whom absolutely cannot afford it and wouldn’t get the health care they need,” said Ms. Fleming.

The plan once again calls for the repeal of Obamacare, something Republicans have tried and failed to do more than 30 times. For more on what it does, go to

Two Social Security Bills Favorable for Seniors
The Alliance sent two letters to the Hill this week in support of Social Security bills that would improve seniors' lives. Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D-IA) Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, S. 567, is similar to Harkin’s Rebuild America Act, but NOT identical. It extends the Social Security Trust Fund through 2049; lifts the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax over a 5-year period beginning in 2014 (the previous legislation removed it over 10 years); and immediately applies the CPI-E. The changes would increase average benefits by about $65 per month, or $800 per year. As before, those now contributing beyond the 2013 cap would get an increase in benefits - though that formula has changed. The Alliance letter is at

Rep. Peter DeFazio’s (D-OR) Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers Act, H.R. 1030, calls for adoption of the CPI-E, a more accurate measure of inflation for seniors. That letter is at

“These are two great pieces of Social Security legislation that benefit seniors, and they come in an environment where we are so used to hearing the calls of  ‘cut, cut, cut!’” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Income Inequality, Tied to Lower Life Expectancy, Has Policy Implications
Those who make less tend to live shorter lives. Therefore, raising the Medicare and Social Security eligibility ages — currently 65 for Medicare and moving toward 67 for full Social Security benefits — means fewer benefits for lower-income workers. The Washington Post elaborated on this fact on Sunday in a story analyzing data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that compares county health rankings by focusing on two Florida counties of varying wealth: Putnam and St. Johns. Read more at “It is important to know the facts, so that our political foes don’t use misinformation as a way of raising the retirement age,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

New York Times Features Wisconsin Alliance President Leon Burzynski
The New York Times, in a piece about working after retirement, focused on Leon Burzynski, President of the Wisconsin Alliance. To read about Burzynski's own retirement experience and see his quote and picture, go to

Florida Alliance (FLARA) Hosts its Legislative Conference
The FLARA Legislative Conference, held in Tallahassee this week, included two press conferences on Monday – one highlighting the “silent crisis” in affordable housing for seniors, and the other rejecting House Bill 7011, which would strip away Florida public workers’ defined benefit pension plan. Speakers at these events included State Sens. Joe Abruzzo, Maria Sachs, and Dwight Bullard; State Reps. Mark Pafford, Dave Kerner, and Ricardo Rangel; Steve Protulis, Executive Director of the Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corp. (EHDOC); Tom Randle of Leading Age Florida; Doug Martin, President of Florida AFSCME; former State Sen. Ron Silver of Miami; and Daneen Regna, a member of FLARA and a retired Florida educator. In addition, the two-day conference featured Eva Dominguez from the Alliance’s Department of Government and Political Affairs; State Sen. Jeff Clemens; and State Reps. Joe Gibbons and Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda.

Obituary: Stephen Skvara, SOAR and Alliance Member, 1947-2013
Alliance member Stephen Skvara of Valparaiso, Indiana, age 65, passed away on Tuesday, February 19. Mr. Skvara retired from LTV Steel Mill and was an active member of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees (S.O.A.R.). Quoting USW District 7’s statement, “His voice was loudest in Chicago when he stood up at a 2007 AFL-CIO Presidential Candidates Debate Forum to ask a question that was nationally televised to more than one-million, plus thousands who were seated at the event to say: ‘Every day of my life, I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can’t afford her health care. What’s wrong with America and what will you do to change it?’” More at the blog of fellow SOAR member Charlie Averill ( Memorial donations may be made to Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees, 5 Gateway Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15222.

For a printable version of this document, go to

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Watch The Ed Show

Watch the Ed Show tonight on MSNBC at 7pm CST. See the person who filmed the 47% speech speak out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

USW Opposes TSA Plan to Allow Knives on Planes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                            CONTACT:  R.J. Hufnagel, 412-562-2450
Monday, March 11, 2013                                                         
USW Opposes TSA Plan to
Allow Knives on Planes

PITTSBURGH (March 11) – United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard today pledged the USW’s full support for the Flight Attendants Union Coalition, a group representing nearly 90,000 flight attendants campaigning to reverse the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) decision to allow knives in aircraft cabins for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001.

“The decision to allow knives on planes flies in the face of logic and puts our dedicated flight attendants, as well as countless innocent passengers, needlessly in harm’s way,” Gerard said. “There is simply no good reason to do this, and there are a million reasons not to do it.”

The TSA announced last week that air passengers would be allowed to carry knives with blades up to 2.36 inches. The decision is scheduled to go into effect on April 25. The flight attendants coalition is planning a series of actions to increase pressure on the TSA to reverse the decision, beginning with an online petition to the White House at

“One of the most important jobs our leaders have is to stand up for the safety and health of the people in our workplaces and our communities,” Gerard said. “We fully support our hard-working brothers and sisters whose workplaces are in our aircraft, and we join them in urging the TSA to put a stop to this ridiculous and unsafe plan.”

The USW represents about 850,000 workers in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glassmaking to mining, steel, oil, paper, tire and rubber to the public sector, service and health care industries.

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Saturday, March 09, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-8-13

Alliance, AFGE, Acting SSA Commissioner Detail Sequester Effect on Social Security
Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling co-authored an op-ed in Huffington Post last week with Witold Skwierczynski, President of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of Social Security Administration (SSA) Field Operations Locals, on the impact of the sequester on the SSA. The Locals represent about 25,000 Social Security employees in field offices and telephone centers nationwide. 

“Two straight years of budget cuts and hiring freezes have crippled Social Security's ability to handle dramatic workload increases, and the additional cuts required under sequestration will cause further erosion,” the two stress. “Office hours nationwide have been slashed by 23 percent, which has had a detrimental effect on processing new claims. In most offices, citizens have to wait more than 30 days to get an in-person meeting or telephone interview to file benefit applications or complete appeal requests. The odds of getting a busy signal when calling the toll-free number have tripled in the past six months alone, with 16 percent of citizens unable to reach even the automated menu when they call.” To see the whole piece, go to To see a letter from Acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin detailing what the cuts would mean – including longer waits and shorter hours - go to

An article in The Los Angeles Times recently specified the ways in which the sequester would seriously affect health care. According to the article, “Although the Medicare program will account for the largest chunk of dollars cut from health care simply because of its great size, the scheduled 2% reduction in its payments to doctors and hospitals is significantly smaller than what many public health and research programs face.” To read more, go to

Senator Bernie Sanders Reintroduces “Keeping Our Social Security Promises” Act
On Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) reintroduced S. 500, the “Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act” in the Senate. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 1029. This legislation would require those making incomes over $250,000 to contribute their fair share to Social Security. Currently, Americans who make over $113,700 do not have to pay Social Security payroll contributions on any income exceeding that amount. The result is that ordinary Americans pay a much larger share of their incomes into Social Security than the wealthiest Americans do.  Rectifying this unequal pay rate will strengthen Social Security by ensuring its solvency for the next 50 years – all without cutting Social Security benefits.

“The Alliance strongly endorses this important legislation,” said Edward F. Coyle, the Alliance’s Executive Director. “At a time when far too many are trying to weaken Social Security by pushing misguided benefit cuts, it is encouraging to see lawmakers introduce a bill that instead takes the positive step of increasing contributions into Social Security so that the program will be sure to remain strong for our children and grandchildren.” To see the Alliance letter supporting the legislation, go to

Health Insurers Launch Ad Campaign over Medicare Advantage Cuts
The health insurance industry is escalating its lobbying battle against a proposed Medicare Advantage pay cut to insurers by launching a television and online advertising campaign to garner public support among the program's 14 million beneficiaries. According to Reuters, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a leading Washington-based trade group, said a 30-second commercial titled "Too Much" would be shown in a dozen states and the Washington, D.C., area in hopes of dissuading the Obama administration from imposing a 2.3 percent cut in government payments next year. The ad buy was launched on Wednesday on cable TV in the Washington, D.C., area. Ads with state-specific Medicare Advantage enrollment numbers will also air in New York, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, where the plans are popular.

“The cuts are justified,” said Mr. Coyle. “We had been bestowing government subsidies on insurance companies for too long, and we cannot afford to do that anymore.”

Viral Video Shows the Shocking Reality of Wealth Inequality in the United States
A web video that demonstrates the extent of wealth inequality in the United States went viral this week, as sequester cuts began to take effect. The video, uploaded by an anonymous YouTube member last December, has been viewed nearly four million times. The narrator presents a series of charts that illustrate wealth inequality. Viewers learn that the top 1% of Americans control 40% of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 80% has only 7% of the wealth. The narrator explains that when Americans are surveyed, they believe that the wealth distribution is far more equal than it actually is, but 92% still want an even more equal distribution. Go to to see the video. The Mother Jones article the video was based on is at

“This video illustrates why the sequester is a bad idea,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “The sequester is forcing cuts to many vital programs for the needy, including Meals on Wheels for impoverished seniors. If House Republican Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan gets his way and Medicare and Social Security are cut instead of raising taxes on the top 1%, ordinary Americans would wind up with an even smaller share of the country’s wealth.”

California Senior Dies after Nurse Refuses to Perform CPR 
Lorraine Bayless, an 87-year-old woman from California, died on February 26th after collapsing in the dining room of a retirement home. She lived in the home’s independent living facility. After she collapsed, a bystander called 911 and passed the phone to a woman claiming to be a nurse, who was instructed to perform CPR. The woman responded that the facility’s policies prevented her from performing CPR on a resident. California lawmakers are considering passing legislation to ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again. To read the Huffington Post’s write up of the story, go to

“We can learn from this tragedy,” said Ms. Easterling. “When you are searching for a new place to live, take into account not just the amenities, but also what their policies are in a health emergency situation such as this one.” 

For a printable version of this document, go to

Friday, March 08, 2013

USW Supports 'Keep Social Security Promises Act'

For Immediate Use:  March 7, 2013
Contact:    Gary Hubbard, 202-256-8125,

USW Announces Support of ‘Keep Social Security Promises Act’
U.S. Sen. Sanders, Rep. Peter DeFazio introduce bills to strengthen benefits

              Washington, D.C. (Mar. 7) – Leo W. Gerard, President of the United Steelworkers (USW) today released a letter supporting today’s introduction of legislation by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) cosponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to strengthen Social Security by making the wealthiest Americans pay the same payroll tax that nearly everyone else already pays.

              Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) introduced the companion bill in the House. The legislation is titled: ‘Keeping Our Social Security Promises Act of 2013.’

              “The United Steelworkers is proud to stand with you and support this vital legislation to protect the integrity and longevity of our nation’s retirement system,” Gerard wrote. “Your bill will make Social Security fully solvent for the next 75 years and do so without having to take the damaging actions some have so callously called for; such as raising the retirement age, or cutting modest benefits that often are the difference between a retirement lived in dignity, or one lived in fear and poverty.”

              Sen. Sanders announced the bill at a press event in the U.S. Capitol, saying: “Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation's history. Through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American.” He added: “The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the future is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on income above $250,000 so millionaires and billionaires pay the same share as everyone else.”

              Reid said of Sen. Sanders’ legislation: “His legislation should make people think twice before assuming that the only way to strengthen Social Security is to take away benefits that seniors have earned, or raise taxes on the middle class.”

              Under their legislation, those with yearly incomes of $250,000 or more would pay the same 6.2 percent payroll tax already assessed on those who earn up to $113,700 a year. Applying the Social Security payroll tax on income above $250,000 would only affect the wealthiest 1.3 percent of Americans, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

              Since it was signed into law 77 years ago, Social Security has kept millions of senior citizens, widows, widowers, orphans, and the disabled out of poverty.  According to Sen. Sanders, it is the most successful government program in our nation's history and has not contributed to the federal deficit. Read the full bill here. For a fact sheet, click here. The USW support letter is at:

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Saturday, March 02, 2013

Harkin-Miller Minimum Wage Bill Endorsement

 Alliance for Retired Americans endorses Harkin-Miller minimum wage bill

Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013

The Fair Minimum Wage Act will raise the minimum wage back to its historic level and index it to inflation in the future so that low-wage workers do not continue to fall behind.  The Act will also raise the minimum wage for tipped workers for the first time in more than 20 years, raising it to a level that is 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.

“Regular” Minimum Wage
Background:  The current wage of $7.25 was implemented in July 2009, the final of three increases resulting from 2007 legislation signed by President George W. Bush.
  • Under the bill, the minimum wage will increase to $10.10 in three 95-cent increments: about three months after enactment ($8.20), 1 year later ($9.15), 1 year later ($10.10).
  • The wage will be indexed to inflation thereafter, to keep up with rising cost of living.

“Tipped” Minimum Wage
Background:  Workers who regularly receive tips (at least $30 per month) may be paid a subminimum wage.  That wage, $2.13 per hour, has been frozen since 1991. 
  • The tipped minimum wage will increase 95 cents per year until it reaches 70 percent of the regular minimum wage.
  • This will require at least 6 increases and will end at $7.10 (or more if the regular wage has risen above $10.10 because of inflation).
  • The wage will be pegged to 70 percent of the regular minimum wage thereafter as the regular wage increases with inflation.

Why we must raise the minimum wage
  • The American Dream is supposed to be about building a better life.  If you work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to support your family, join the middle class, and provide a brighter future for your children.
  • Unfortunately, this dream is nothing more than an illusion for millions of hardworking people who are trying to get by working in low-wage jobs.  They are working hard and playing by the rules, but even working full-time, all year round, they can’t make ends meet, much less join the middle class.
  • That’s not what America is supposed to be about.  People who work hard for a living shouldn’t have to live in poverty. 
  • Raising the minimum wage will help make the promise of the American dream a reality again for hardworking people across the country. 
  • At the same time, putting money in people’s pockets will help businesses, improve our economy, and help struggling local communities thrive again.  When low-wage workers get a raise, they spend that money in their local communities.  This boost to consumer demand has a ripple effect benefiting the economy as a whole—businesses see increased sales and hire more workers, and GDP gets a boost as well.  A fair minimum wage truly benefits everyone.

Minimum Wage Facts
  • The minimum wage today is at a historic low.  The minimum wage has lost more than 30 percent of its buying power since its peak in 1968.  If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be worth more than $10.50 per hour today. 
  • More than 30 million American workers will get a raise under the bill.  More than half of these are women, and 17 million women would get a raise. The vast majority (88 percent) are adult workers, not teenagers.  Twenty-three million children (30 percent of American children) have parents who will get a raise.
  • The minimum wage today pays only $15,000 per year, which is $3,000 below the poverty level for a family of 3.  The Fair Minimum Wage Act will boost the minimum wage to $21,000, lifting families above the poverty line.
  • Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will give $51.5 billion in raises to millions of workers over the course of three increases, and increase GDP by nearly $33 billion as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities.  This economic activity will generate 140,000 new jobs over the course of three increases.
  • Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have minimum wage rates above the federal level.  Ten states already have indexing in place to ensure that minimum wage workers do not fall behind.  Thirty states have already acted to increase their minimum wage for tipped workers above $2.13 an hour.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-1-13

Sequester Cuts Will Be Harmful to Seniors
On Thursday, the U.S. Senate blocked a plan to avert the sequester without harming Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. As a result, the cuts imposed by sequestration will be in place as of today and will be gradually implemented. S. 388, the American Family Economic Protection Act - the Democratic alternative to the sequester - would have replaced the cuts and raised revenue by requiring millionaires and corporations to pay their fair share in taxes, including a minimum tax.  It would have eliminated tax breaks for corporations that send jobs overseas, recognized savings from scaling back the war in Afghanistan, and cut unnecessary farm subsidy payments. The Alliance supported the measure, but it failed 51-49, with 60 votes needed to cut off debate. For a tally of that vote, go to

“It is vital that these cuts be reversed as quickly as possible.  Among the many crucial programs affected by the sequester are several that are of particular importance to seniors,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

While Social Security benefits are exempted from the sequester, the Social Security Administration (SSA), which administers the benefits, is not. Cuts to the SSA budget will weaken program oversight and could make it more difficult to pay benefits accurately and for mistakes to be promptly corrected. Cuts to the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research will lead to delays in approving new prescription drugs that could help seniors suffering from chronic illnesses. The National Institutes of Health will also suffer sharp cuts, handicapping important medical research. Additionally, as discussed in last week’s Friday Alert, Meals on Wheels will lose a significant portion of its funding, putting homebound and disabled seniors who rely on Meals on Wheels as a vital source of food at risk.

To see the Alliance web page devoted to the sequester, go to To see the Alliance statement on the sequester, go to Finally, to see a state-by-state breakdown on what the sequester means for you, go to

What You Can Do Regarding Sequestration
Alliance members have sent 4,700 letters to their Senators this week trying to prevent the cuts by encouraging the Senate to pass the American Family Economic Protection Act. If you have not yet sent a letter, it is not too late to act – the Senate may vote again on Monday. Go to

“I would like to thank all of the Alliance activists who have contacted their Senators,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “It is great to have members who are so engaged.”

Alliance Submits Testimony for House Ways and Means Hearing
On Tuesday, February 26th, the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on “Examining Traditional Medicare’s Benefit Design.” The Alliance submitted written testimony to the hearing.  In the testimony, the Alliance explains why several proposed changes to Medicare, would be harmful to beneficiaries. To view the testimony, go to

One of the proposed changes, charging a combined deductible, would shift the cost of hospital visits to relatively healthy retirees who do not use hospital services. Millions of beneficiaries would see their out-of-pocket spending increase by $250 a year. Another proposed change, implementing a Medigap supplemental policy surcharge, would impose higher costs on retirees that could lead them to forego necessary treatment. A third proposed change, the establishment of a tiered co-payment for services, would require beneficiaries to pay part of the cost for services that they were not previously charged for.

“Restructuring Medicare could be a positive step if it is done in a way that does not shift costs to beneficiaries, such as allowing Medicare to use its bulk purchasing power to buy prescription drugs at a cheaper rate,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “However, these proposed changes would all represent a step in the wrong direction. They try to shift costs to Medicare beneficiaries who already paid into the program for their entire working lives.”

Impress Your Friends, Learn what the Health Insurance Exchange is!
To view a link from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, go to It explains the Health Insurance Exchange, an important part of health care reform that takes effect in 2014. It will be a new way for individuals, families and small businesses to get health insurance. Whether you’re uninsured, or just want to explore new options, the Marketplace will give you more choice and control over your health insurance options.

Small Business Owners Oppose Cuts to Social Security and Medicare
Small business owners are adamantly opposed to benefit cuts. Eighty percent of small business owners oppose cutting Social Security benefits, and seventy five percent oppose any cuts to Medicare, according to a recent poll by Small Business Majority.  Business owners realize that if these vital programs are cut, their customers will no longer have money to spend, which would hurt their businesses and by extension the entire economy. Respondents said that instead of cutting benefit programs, the government should raise money by closing tax loopholes for large corporations and ending subsidies to oil and gas companies. To see the Washington Post’s write up of the poll, go to

“These numbers show that small business owners are keenly aware that any cuts to Medicare and Social security would not just be a disaster for seniors,” said Mr. Coyle. “By leaving beneficiaries without a substantial portion of their income, these cuts would also cause great harm to the economy as whole by forcing seniors to sharply reduce their spending.”

For a printable version of this document, go to