Dear Mr. President, Members of Congress and Members of the Fiscal Commission,
Today, at the second meeting of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, you continue to grapple with the question of how to shore up the nation's debt and balance America's budget. Through the Commission's deliberations, you will consider changes to benefit programs that support Americans of all ages, including Social Security.
I write to ask that your recommendations take into consideration three simple facts:
Research shows that Social Security is a lifeline. The Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), a tool that measures the real cost-of-living in retirement, demonstrates that Social Security alone is not enough to make ends meet for our nation's seniors. But more than 30% of seniors rely on Social Security for more than 90% of total income. And this is not only true of retirees. Social Security provides for Americans of all ages, including persons with disabilities and children.
In retirement, older women disproportionately rely on Social Security. On average, they receive a smaller benefit and live longer (on less) than older men. For older women renters, the Elder Index shows that Social Security provides only 50% of what's needed to be economically secure in late life.
In rural Wisconsin, I know an older woman who periodically turns off her prescribed oxygen tank to conserve on energy costs. She worked and raised three children. All she has is Social Security. In her home state, an average older woman's benefit amounts to only $12,800. Her health costs have eaten away at the income that was available to supplement her Social Security benefits.
She is not alone. Everyday Americans are making sacrifices - choosing among basic needs - and struggling to make ends meet. As you make your recommendations, will you ask America to sacrifice further? Or will you seek solutions that strengthen Social Security - both ensuring program solvency and protecting benefits? Will you make recommendations with the well-being of Americans - young and old - in mind?
I ask you, Uncle Sam, to keep the promise of Social Security. To keep Americans economically secure, there's no other choice.
Stacy Sanders, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW)