12/13/2013 06:57 am ET Updated Feb 12, 2014

Don't Bargain Away Benefits

As part of the deal to end the government shutdown, continue funding the government until Jan. 15 and extend the debt ceiling until Feb. 7, Congress convened a budget conference committee between the House and Senate with a goal of reaching agreement on a budget by Dec. 13.

The future of Social Security and Medicare are at stake in this new round of budget negotiations. Some lawmakers want to trade cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits to pay for other government spending. Others propose cutting them to reduce the deficit. The American people, on the other hand, across all ages and party lines, strongly oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.

Older Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to these types of political deals, having earned their benefits after a lifetime of hard work and their own tax contributions. A large majority of 50-plus voters (84 percent) oppose reducing Social Security benefits in order to reduce the deficit (91 percent Democrat, 80 percent Republican, 78 percent independent). In fact, 73 percent of voters 50-plus strongly oppose these cuts.

Harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security will not only hurt individuals, they will hurt businesses and our economy as a whole. That's why we need a separate debate about how to strengthen these programs.

People 50-plus agree. For the last two years, AARP has been running a national campaign, called You've Earned a Say, to engage our members and the public in a conversation about the future of Medicare and Social Security. Whether it is cutting programs to reduce the deficit or using them as a piggy bank to pay for other government spending, the message from older Americans to the president and Congress is clear: "Don't bargain away my Medicare and Social Security benefits."

Carol Varner of Buckhannon, W.Va., put it this way: "Americans have worked long and hard to secure their future in their golden years. I do believe Medicare and Social Security should be protected and strengthened. That should be a number one priority." And Cynthia Hysell, of Oak Hill, W.Va., said, "I worry about my children and grandchildren; what's the future going to be for them if we don't strengthen Medicare and Social Security now?"

AARP is calling on the president and Congress to leave Social Security and Medicare out of any budget deal. Washington needs to understand that Social Security and Medicare are not just numbers in a budget. They are vital programs that older people depend on for their health and retirement security. And future generations of retirees will rely on them even more.

AARP will continue to fight against harmful cuts to Medicare and Social Security, such as the chained CPI, which would lower the Social Security cost-of-living increase. This would hurt seniors stretched by the rising costs of utilities, prescription drugs and health care; it would also hurt veterans who have sacrificed so much for this great country.

Moreover, proposals to reduce Medicare benefits or force people to pay more fail to address the real problem of rising health care costs. Americans deserve responsible solutions, like lowering drug costs, improving care coordination and cracking down on waste, fraud and inefficiency.

We urge the president and Congress to find responsible solutions to our nation's financial challenges. That means protecting the hard-earned benefits of today's Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries and strengthening these programs for future generations.

What You Can Do:

Tell Washington to leave cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits out of any budget deals. Go to and make your voice heard.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

8 Ways To Prepare For Retirement