Friday, August 29, 2014

Another Myth Spread By The Right

If you listen to the noise out of Washington, the right is once again attacking Social Security! The latest target of the conservatives in Congress are disabled Americans receiving Social Security benefits. I am sure you’ve already heard the messaging: Social Security disability fraud is rampant because it’s so easy to receive benefits and people would rather collect a hefty check from the government than work. It’s the 2014 incarnation of “our nation is full of ‘welfare queens’ and ‘greedy geezers.’” It also suffers from the same basic problem...it’s simply not true. 

The timing of this attack on Social Security’s disability program is not an accident. It’s the cornerstone of Congressional Republicans’ campaign to oppose both President Obama’s nomination of a new Social Security Administration Commissioner and the routine reallocation of the Trust Fund to prevent a 20% disability cut in 2016. Rather than address the disability shortfall head-on, as Congress has done many time before, conservatives hope to hold the disability program hostage in return for cuts throughout the entire Social Security program.

Brothers and Sisters, we are smarter than this. We cannot fall for the old divide and conquer politics that the GOP loves to promote. “Welfare queens and “greedy geezers” are simply villains created by disingenuous politicians to grossly misrepresent the truth. It infuriates the masses and builds support to fix a problem that doesn’t exists. This takes the focus off of the real villains. Those who seek to destroy Social Security. 

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) stated, “There is a quiet, covert war being waged on Social Security. The tactic? Divide and conquer. Today, detractors try to use Social Security Disability Insurance as a back door to cut the program as a whole. And, we will organize and fight back against today’s attacks aimed at some of the most vulnerable Americans: the disabled.” 


Jim Centner, SOAR Director

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 8-29-14


Headlines:
This Labor Day, Let's Raise America's Pay – It Will Help with Retirement Savings
No Surprise: Between 2000 and 2011, the Wealth Gap Widened
“Star” Rating System Fails to Protect Many Seniors in Nursing Homes
AP: GOP Sees Health Care Law’s Advantages More and More
Paul Ryan Hears More from Seniors about his Medicare Cuts during Book Tour
Fiesta Addresses Machinist Retirees, Celebrates Social Security in Rhode Island

This Labor Day, Let's Raise America's Pay – It Will Help with Retirement Saving
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) addresses extremely slow wage growth just in time for Labor Day. Available at http://tinyurl.com/l4duxgm, EPI’s paper shows that wages for most Americans were flat or fell in the first half of 2014, compared to this time last year. The study’s author, Elise Gould, says that wages even fell for top wage earners and those with a college degree. The bottom 10 percent’s wages increased by 2 cents an hour, thanks to state-level minimum wage increases. Use EPI’s calculator to see how much people would make if their wages were to continue growing with productivity, as they did in the past: http://tinyurl.com/p4pkktf. To see the video, “The one obvious way to fix inequality that no one is talking about,” go to http://tinyurl.com/opdbk67
“The impact of stagnant wages is more than just an issue for those currently working,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “The problems increase at retirement, when seniors rely on what they’ve been able to save, as well as the Social Security benefits that are determined by wages earned while working. Income security now equals retirement security later.”

No Surprise: Between 2000 and 2011, the Wealth Gap Widened
New statistics from the Census Bureau show that the gap between rich and poor households only continues to rise. Between 2000 and 2011, net worth increased for the top 40% while declining for the bottom 60% of Americans. The gap has also increased according to demographic breakdowns, including race. For instance, African-Americans saw their overall median net worth decrease by $3,746 (or 37.2%) between 2000 and 2011. According to the Census report, “Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011,” (http://tinyurl.com/p78jhs2), median household net worth decreased by $5,124 for households in the first (bottom) net worth quintile and increased by $61,379 (or 10.8%) for those in the highest (top) quintile between 2000 and 2011. Each quintile represents 20%, or one-fifth, of all households.

“Star” Rating System Fails to Protect Many Seniors in Nursing Homes
In order to provide better information regarding the quality of nursing homes, Medicare has embarked on a five year process to rate every facility on a five star system - comparable to a hotel rating system. However, of the data that factor into the rating, only the results of an annual health inspection are done by an independent entity and reviewed by the government. The other two criteria, staff levels and quality, are self-reported and are not usually investigated. This creates an inherent risk of inconsistencies in the system. A report by The New York Times found that “many…top-ranked nursing homes have been given a seal of approval that is based on incomplete information and that can seriously mislead consumers, investors and others about conditions at the homes.”
“We would like to see improvements to the rating system, such as decreased self-reporting and iHi,
ncreased verification of responses,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. The complete article can be found here: http://nyti.ms/1zpP8dw.

AP: GOP Sees Health Care Law’s Advantages More and More
President Obama’s health care law is less of a political target, as vulnerable Democrats increasingly embrace it on the campaign trail and Republicans talk more about fixing it instead of repealing it. Two-term Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (D), who is in one of the most competitive races in the country, says in an ad this week that he voted for a law that prevents insurers from canceling policies if someone gets sick, as he was 18 years ago when he was diagnosed with cancer. According to the Associated Press (http://tinyurl.com/pjhuewy), “House Republicans have voted some 50 times to repeal, change or scrap the law, and the GOP is betting Americans' opposition will be a great motivator in November's midterm elections.” The Obama administration and many health care policy experts maintain that the law is accomplishing its main goal - providing health care coverage to millions of Americans who lack it, with 8 million enrolled. The law also closes the doughnut hole gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage for seniors and provides seniors with free preventive care for many conditions, cutting Medicare’s costs.
Robert Blendon, a public opinion analyst at the Harvard School of Public Health, says that the law is incredibly popular with “Democrats or more moderate independents” and that Sen. Pryor’s embracing of the law sends a message to Democrats that a law they like could disappear if he loses his seat. Campaign ads have also reflected less use of health care as an issue. Commercials from candidates and the party organizations themselves have focused on veterans, bipartisanship and attendance at committee hearings, while Republican-leaning outside groups such as Americans for Prosperity still use many of their ads to hit Democrats for backing the health care law. In July, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), described exchanges where individuals could shop for coverage as a step in the right direction and told reporters that "there are some things I feel could be built on.”

Paul Ryan Hears More from Seniors about his Medicare Cuts during Book Tour
Last week, seniors with the Pennsylvania Alliance picketed outside House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s speaking engagement and book tour stop in Philadelphia. This week, seniors and other critics of Rep. Ryan’s budget made their feelings known to him in Florida. For a photo of Florida Alliance Recording Secretary Barbara DeVane telling Rep. Ryan her point of view about Medicare in Tallahassee, go to http://tinyurl.com/knjk5jx. For a video of Rep. Ryan saying falsely that he does not plan to cut Medicare, go to http://tinyurl.com/mvuqxaj.
“The video catches Paul Ryan lying,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Medicare cuts are a cornerstone of the Ryan budget plan. He wants to use vouchers to transfer costs to seniors, and he wants to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67, for starters.”
Fiesta Addresses Machinist Retirees, Celebrates Social Security in Rhode Island
Mr. Fiesta was in Placid Harbor, Maryland on Monday at the Machinists Union Retirees Assistance Program. On Friday, he is in Providence, Rhode Island for a Social Security birthday celebration with Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed; Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline; George Nee, President of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO; and Rhode Island Alliance members.


For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/l8eqg4h.
For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org

Friday, August 22, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 8-22-14

Headlines:
Alliance Members Continue Social Security Birthday Celebrations
Alliance Protest Targets Paul Ryan’s Book Tour
Sen. Schumer Introduces Bill to Stop Social Security Office Closures
Stand Up Against Social Security Service Cuts
Sunday Marks 50th Anniversary of Seniors’ Rally for Creation of Medicare Program
Unexpectedly High Medical Bills Often the Result of a Few Common Issues
Fiesta Attends DNC Seniors Council Meeting in Georgia


Alliance Members Continue Social Security Birthday Celebrations
With Social Security celebrating its 79th birthday last week, Alliance members have been holding events across the country honoring the landmark retirement security program. This week’s events included celebrations with cake and balloons in states such as Iowa, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. To view the latest photos from Social Security birthday celebrations, go to http://bit.ly/1tpnf4H.

The North Carolina Alliance hosted a birthday celebration in Charlotte, where members released a report from Alliance partner Social Security Works examining the Social Security system’s importance in the state. The local NBC-TV affiliate, WCNC, covered the event and interviewed North Carolina Alliance President Jim Moore. To view the clip, go to http://bit.ly/1ljAiVf. To see the report for North Carolina and other states, go to http://tinyurl.com/pt4ru5z.

Alliance Protest Targets Paul Ryan’s Book Tour
On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Alliance held a protest in Philadelphia, as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) rolled into town on the first stop of a national tour promoting his new book. The protestors assembled outside Ryan’s event, a speaking engagement at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, and carried signs drawing attention to the House Budget Committee Chairman’s proposals to fast-track cuts to Social Security and turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Alliance member and AFSCME Retiree Dorothea Wilson, who picketed, responded to Ryan’s visit, saying, “For us retirees, he’s done everything he could to mess with our Medicare, our Medicaid, and Social Security. He doesn’t seem to think that older citizens need anything. Everything we have, he wants to take away from us.” To read more on the protests from the Philadelphia Daily News, go to http://bit.ly/1wdAHwX. For photos of the protestors in action, go to http://bit.ly/1mq7aqb.

“The Paul Ryan budget would not only end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a voucher program, but also raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67. In addition, it would gut Medicaid and provide a windfall for millionaires,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Sen. Schumer Introduces Bill to Stop Social Security Office Closures
Since 2010, more than 80 Social Security field offices and more than 500 temporary mobile offices have been shut down – the largest reduction in Social Security field offices in the program’s history. These closings come as the Baby Boomer generation hits retirement age and demand for services is skyrocketing. In response to the closings, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has introduced a new bill, the Improving Access to Social Security Services Act (S.2742), which would require all future Social Security offices closures to go through a period of public review before any action is taken. Communities would have the opportunity to evaluate the impact of any proposed closures and to stand up for their local field offices before they are shut down.

“Social Security field offices are a critical part of ensuring that retirees and other beneficiaries have access to the full benefits they have earned,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Stand Up Against Social Security Service Cuts
This week, as a part of the push to cut face-to-face services and move Social Security to an online service model, the Social Security Administration (SSA) kicked off a campaign to encourage beneficiaries to sign up on their mySocialSecurity website. With nearly 17 million seniors without regular internet access and 43 million annual visitors to Social Security field offices, a coalition of groups, including the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the Alliance, is looking to spread the word that high-quality, face to face services simply can’t be replaced with an online alternative. To get involved, connect with the Alliance on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1z87m3e and Twitter at http://bit.ly/1q39O9a, and share posts opposing in-person service cuts with your friends.

Sunday Marks 50th Anniversary of Seniors’ Rally for Creation of Medicare Program
This Sunday, August 24, will mark the 50th anniversary of a historic rally for Medicare held on the boardwalk outside of the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The rally, organized by the National Council of Senior Citizens, took place on August 24, 1964. During the event, 14,000 seniors marched 10 blocks down the Atlantic City boardwalk to the convention hotel, calling on Congress to pass legislation providing universal health coverage for older Americans. Less than a year later, on July 30th, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law.

“The boardwalk rally is a fantastic example of seniors joining together to spur Congress to action. Today, we can use that same spirit to fight to expand Social Security and protect Medicare from threats like Rep. Ryan’s budget plan,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Unexpectedly High Medical Bills Often the Result of a Few Common Issues
Medical billing can be a complicated process, and when insurance companies fail to cover the full cost of services, patients often find themselves on the hook for more money than they expected. According to a recent article in USA Today, there are a number of reasons why an insurance company might not cover the full cost of a bill.

Common reasons include an error on the part of an insurance company; a doctor being considered “out of network”; and an insurance company missing information following a claim filing. Experts recommend asking plenty of questions ahead of time, documenting all contact with an insurance company, and making sure to follow up if a bill seems higher than it should be. For more on what to look out for, and tips on avoiding unexpectedly high medical bills, go to http://usat.ly/VI24OI.

Fiesta Attends DNC Seniors Council Meeting in Georgia
Mr. Fiesta traveled to Atlanta to speak at the Democratic National Committee Seniors Council Meeting on Thursday.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1mv0Pde.

For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org

Friday, August 15, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 8-15-14

Headlines:
Alliance Members Honor 79th Birthday of Social Security
Reports Detail Critical Importance of Social Security
Great Recession May Have Forced Americans into Retirement
Medicare Advantage Insurers Systematically Overbilling Government
States Refusing Medicaid Expansion Losing Billions in Funding
President Obama Signs VA Reform Bill into Law


Alliance Members Honor 79th Birthday of Social Security
Our nation’s Social Security system celebrated its 79th anniversary on Thursday, and Alliance members commemorated the important event by throwing more than 30 birthday parties across the country with cake and balloons. Celebrations focused on the long term success of the Social Security system and the need to expand the program in order to meet the needs of current and future retirees. The landmark program was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 14th, 1935. “Social Security is one of the most successful programs in America’s history,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “With pensions disappearing, it’s harder than ever for workers to save for retirement. We need to strengthen and expand Social Security, not cut it.”

Several celebrations featured members of Congress with track records of working to protect and defend Social Security, including Reps. Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Patrick Murphy (FL), Cheri Bustos (IL), Marc Veasey (TX), Nick Rahall (WV), and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH). Mr. Fiesta spoke at the Shaheen event in Manchester, New Hampshire. Both he and Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling spoke at the Rahall event in Beckley, WV. To view a sampling of pictures from the birthday events, go to http://tinyurl.com/pb6n36w. To mark Social Security’s birthday and pledge to redouble efforts to strengthen and expand the program, sign a birthday card to Social Security at http://bit.ly/1lYsDq6.

Reports Detail Critical Importance of Social Security
In honor of Social Security’s anniversary, the Alliance released a series of reports assembled by coalition partner Social Security Works that examine the critical role Social Security plays in states across the country. The reports, available at http://bit.ly/1t3TDJR, provide background information on the Social Security System as well as details about the vital role Social Security serves in the lives of individuals and families in each state. The reports also highlight the economic impact of Social Security benefits, with data carefully broken down by demographic category.

“Our Social Security system is the foundation of retirement security in this country and keeps nearly 22 million Americans out of poverty,” said Ms. Easterling. “Almost 65% of elderly couples and unmarried beneficiaries relied on Social Security for half or more of their income in 2012.”

Great Recession May Have Forced Americans into Retirement
New data from the Federal Reserve suggests that since 2008, a significant number of Americans have been retiring earlier than they expected. This trend comes despite polling suggesting that an increasing number of workers approaching retirement age intend to delay retirement and stay on the job longer in order to make ends meet. The conflicting data suggests that thousands of older workers who lost jobs in the Great Recession may have simply retired instead of continuing to look for work or settle for low paying jobs. Coupled with recent polling in which nearly 1 in 5 workers between the ages of 55 and 64 said they had nothing saved for retirement, the new Fed data points to an increasingly difficult environment for American retirees. Read more on the Great Recession’s impact on retirement at http://ti.me/1sYuYpc.

Medicare Advantage Insurers Systematically Overbilling Government
According to a study from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Medicare Advantage health plans have been overbilling the government by exaggerating how sick patients are and how much these patients cost to treat. Under the program, Medicare pays private insurance (Advantage) plans higher rates for covering sicker patients, with rates tied to “risk scores” based on patient medical histories. According to HHS officials, insurers have been exaggerating the rates of certain medical conditions in order to artificially raise these scores and inflate Medicare payments. The Medicare Advantage program currently insures around 16 million older and disabled Americans.

The HHS study follows a previous report in June that revealed $70 billion in “improper” payments made to Medicare Advantage plans between 2008 and 2013 – primarily a result of overbillings. For more information, read the article from the Center for Public Integrity at http://bit.ly/1paYCI6.

States Refusing Medicaid Expansion Losing Billions in Funding
According to a new report, the 24 states that have refused to expand the Medicaid program under the terms of the Affordable Care Act may be missing out on a staggering amount of federal dollars. A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute suggests that over the next 10 years, these states will lose a total of $423.6 billion in potential federal funding, along with $167.8 billion in increased hospital reimbursement payments. The Medicaid expansion is fully funded by the federal government for the first three years of the program, with states picking up 10% of the tab after that.

Some politicians opposed to the expansion have argued that taking on the task would be a drain on state finances. The study suggests that while it would cost non-expansion states around $31 billion to participate, associated cost savings and enhanced tax revenues resulting from federal financed hospital spending will actually lead to improved finances for state budgets. “Millions of American workers and their families are being denied health coverage under the false claim that these states can’t afford to expand Medicaid. By refusing to expand the program, all these politicians are doing is hurting their constituents and their state economies,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary Treasurer for the Alliance. Read more on the Medicaid studies at http://slate.me/1pur9Zq.

President Obama Signs VA Reform Bill into Law
Late last week, President Obama signed into law a $16.3 billion overhaul of our nation’s Veterans Affairs (VA) health system. Thousands of veterans who have faced extended waits for medical care at VA facilities are now almost immediately eligible to seek government funded treatment from private physicians. Implementing other changes, including the expansion of VA staff through the hiring of thousands of health care providers, and the opening of 27 new VA clinics across the country, is expected to take at least 2 years. The new law also includes new rules making it easier to fire senior VA officials for poor performance. The reforms come in response to revelations of long wait times at VA facilities and attempts by administrators to cover up the problems. To read more on the law from the The Washington Post, go to http://wapo.st/1nTFLg2.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1uBIBi1.

For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Interesting Stuff About Social Media

Interesting Fact About Social Media

Whatever you might think of “Social Media”, believe me, it’s here to stay. My Grandma didn’t like to use the telephone. It was like she was afraid of that newest technology and would much rather just yell across the corn field to her neighbors. Please don’t be like Grandma. Don’t be afraid of new technology. Try it, you might like it.

  • Social Media is not about technology. Social Media is about People.
  • Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30 years old. To them, Dracula is a cereal character and Vampires live in high schools.
  • In 10 years over 40% of the Fortune 500 will no longer be here.
  • Social Media has overtaken pornography as the #1 activity on the Web.
  • Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. It even impacts our offline behavior.
  • 1 in 5 couples meet online
  • 3 in 5 gay couples meet online.
  • 1 in 5 divorces are blamed on Facebook
  • What happens in Vegas stays on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flickr
  • An education study revealed that online students out performed those receiving face-to-face instruction.
  • Kindergartens are learning on iPads, not chalkboards.
  • If Facebook were a country it’d be the world’s 3rd largest, yet Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google are not welcomed in China.
  • 95% of companies using social media for recruitment use LinkedIn.
  • A new member joins LinkedIn every second.
  • “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media. The question is how well we DO it.” Erik Qualman
  • Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers than the entire populations of Sweden, Israel, Greece, Chile, North Korea,  Australia.
  • 50% of the mobile Internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook. Imagine what this means for bad customer experiences.
  • Over 37 million people watched the VW Darth Vadar Super Bowl Ad on YouTube. The child actor had never seen Star Wars.
  • The ford Explorer Launch on Facebook generated more traffic than a Super Bowl Ad.
  • Generation Y and Z consider e-mail passé. (Y are those born 1977-1994) (Z are those born 1995-2012)
  • Some universities have stopped distributing e-mail accounts.
  • John Doe is now friends with John Doe Jr.
  • 69% of parents are “friends” with their children on social media.
  • eReaders have surpassed traditional book sales.
  • GROUPON will reach $1 billion in sales faster than any company in history.
  • 1.5 Million Real Farmers......80 Million Farmville Farmers.
  • social gamers will buy $6 billion in virtual goods by 2013.
  • movie goers buy only $2.5 billion in real goods.
  • YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world.
  • Every minute 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.
  • If Wikipedia were made into a book, it would be 2.25 MILLION pages long and would take you over 123 years to read.
  • Word of Mouth is on DIGITAL STEROIDS......World of mouth.
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions about products & brands. Do you like what they are saying about your brand? You better....
  • Socialnomics is here to stay...
  • 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations. Only 14% trust advertisements.
  • 93% of marketers use social media for business.
  • The ROI (return on investment) of Social Media is Your Business Will Still Exist in 5 years.
  • Babies in Egypt have been named Facebook. Now that’s revolutionary.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 8-1-14

Headlines:
Alliance Kicks Off Medicare Turns 50 Campaign With Events Across the Country
Trustees Report Shows Improved Outlook for Medicare Finances
Social Security Nominee Carolyn Colvin Begins Confirmation Process
Lawmakers Announce VA Deal, Confirm New Secretary
American Companies Dodging Taxes by Moving Addresses Overseas


Alliance Kicks Off Medicare Turns 50 Campaign With Events Across the Country
On Wednesday, Alliance members held more than 50 events in cities across the country in honor of Medicare’s 49th anniversary. The celebrations kicked off the Medicare Turns 50 Campaign leading up to next year’s 50th anniversary. The landmark health care program was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30th, 1965. An Alliance-sponsored event on Capitol Hill saw speeches by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) along with Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Marcy Katpur (D-OH), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), and Mike Michaud (D-ME). Diane Fleming, a member of the Maryland/DC Alliance, also spoke at the event. In her remarks, she described the importance of Medicare and Social Security in her life after United Airlines, which had employed her for nearly four decades, declared bankruptcy and she lost much of her pension. To view photos from the event, go to http://bit.ly/1xFTcWq.

State events included celebrations at Social Security field offices in California and protests in Florida at the offices of representatives, such as Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), who have voted to cut the program. The Medicare celebration in Texas coincided with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)’s annual meeting in Dallas. ALEC is a corporate funded group that provides state politicians with corporate-authored draft legislation that is then introduced, often verbatim, into state legislatures across the country. As part of an anti-ALEC coalition, the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans staged a protest at the meeting site.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance, traveled to Dallas to meet with the Texas Alliance and took part in the protests. “Corporate front groups like ALEC are working behind the scenes to cut and privatize Medicare,” said Mr. Fiesta. “We are here to preserve and protect it, and make sure proposals such as those contained in the Paul Ryan budget – which would cut Medicare funding by turning it into a voucher program – never become law,” he added. To view photos from the protests, go to http://bit.ly/1u4ixZT.

Trustees Report Shows Improved Outlook for Medicare Finances
Earlier this week, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees issued their annual report on the financial health of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. According to this year’s projections, the Medicare trust fund is fully solvent until 2030, 4 years longer than predicted in last year’s report and 13 years longer than in 2009, the year before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed. Analysts attribute the improvement to efficiency gains resulting from the Affordable Care Act along with slow wage and price growth during the Great Recession. Though average spending per Medicare beneficiary is expected to remain flat for the next few years, it is projected to rise in the coming decade, due in part to rapidly rising prescription drug costs. “The improved financial outlook for the Medicare trust fund is a sign that the Affordable Care Act is doing its job to bring down health costs. Congress can further strengthen Medicare by passing the Medicare Drug Savings Act to stop big drug makers from price gauging and allow Medicare to negotiate the lowest, discounted rate for prescription drugs,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

The Social Security trust fund ran a $32 billion surplus last year and is on track to remain solvent through 2033, the same as expected last year. The trust fund reserves for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are projected to be exhausted in 2016. While Congress has previously reallocated funds a number of times to extend the life of the program, Republicans are expected to use attacks on SSDI as a tool to undermine support for the entire Social Security system. For more on the report, go to http://nyti.ms/1s6JMT0. Read about GOP plans to attack SSDI at http://bit.ly/1oeYFhh.

Social Security Nominee Carolyn Colvin Begins Confirmation Process
On Thursday, Carolyn Colvin, President Obama’s nominee to lead the Social Security Administration (SSA), had her confirmation hearing at the Senate Finance Committee. Colvin has served as Acting Commissioner of the SSA since February 14th, 2014 when the term of her predecessor, Bush appointee Michael J. Astrue, expired. Colvin’s nomination begins her confirmation process at a time in which the SSA has faced questions from members of Congress over Social Security field office closures and service cuts. To read Acting Commissioner Colvin’s remarks before the committee, go to http://1.usa.gov/1pugfSi.

Lawmakers Announce VA Deal, Confirm New Secretary
On Monday, House and Senate negotiators announced they had reached an agreement to overhaul the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. The overhaul comes in response to revelations earlier this year of long wait times at VA facilities and efforts by VA administrators to cover up the problems. The bipartisan agreement was brokered by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), head of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), head of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. The $17 billion agreement scales back separate plans previously passed by the House and the Senate after lawmakers expressed concerns about the $35 billion cost. For more on the overhaul, go to http://on.msnbc.com/1xFLiMw.

The Senate also voted 97-0 this week to confirm Robert McDonald to lead the Veterans Affairs Department. A former US Army Captain, McDonald previously headed the consumer products company Proctor & Gamble. McDonald’s confirmation follows the resignation of former Secretary Eric Shinseki in May. More on the confirmation at http://wapo.st/1pIZ6By.

American Companies Dodging Taxes by Moving Addresses Overseas
In a process known as “inversion”, American corporations are purchasing smaller firms in low tax countries in order to avoid taxes by simply switching to an overseas address. The drug makers Mylan and AbbVie recently began dodging taxes through inversion, and the retailer Walgreens is currently considering following suit. “At a time when families are being hurt by steep budget cuts in Washington, these American corporations are skipping out on their tax responsibilities by simply changing their address. Congress needs to take action to put an end to this practice and make sure American companies pay their fair share,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer for the Alliance. Read more on corporate tax dodging on the AFL-CIO NOW blog at http://bit.ly/1txUHZ1.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1nSs45w.

For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org