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NRLN Works to Protect Your Retirement Security

The National Retiree Legislative Network (NRLN) works to enact federal legislation to protect employer-sponsored pensions, health care benefits and keep Social Security and Medicare strong.

With support from more than 2 million members and Washington, D.C. staff, the NRLN identifies and rallies support for federal legislation that will guarantee fair and equitable treatment of retirees from the private and public sectors. Learn more about the NRLN and legislation important to retirees by clicking on the "About Us" and "Legislative" links above.

The NRLN recently created the American Retirees Education Foundation (AREF) with a mission is to research, educate and inform retirees, future retirees and the general public on how best to protect and promote retirement income security and retiree health care. Contributions to AREF are tax deductible.

To learn more about the AREF, go to www.SeniorsAREF.org .

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PRESIDENT'S
 FORUM

Pain Around The Corner – Social Security

Pain Around The Corner – Social Security. This is a continuation of my four-part series. The first installment was on Pensions in an email to you and a posting on www.nrln.org on May 5. I wrote about the coming pain on Medicare in my column in the summer NRLN FOCUS newsletter that you were sent a notice to read on June 22 on the NRLN website.

Before I begin writing about the pain that is ahead for Social Security if action is not taken soon, I want to first cite a few facts on the program that began in 1935:

The Pain of Lost Buying Power

The news media reported last month that Social Security beneficiaries would get less than a $2.50 increase in monthly payments in 2017 and this will be more than taken away from some Medicare beneficiaries who will face sharply higher "Part B" monthly premiums next year. This projected 0.2 percent increase in Social Security payments would come after beneficiaries received no increase this year. By law, increases are based on a government measure of inflation, which has been low. The official 2017 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) won't be determined until this fall, but the speculation is it will be in the range of $2.50.

Congress decided in 1975 that automatic COLA calculations for Social Security should be done each year so in theory beneficiaries' buying power could keep pace with inflation. But since 2000, Social Security beneficiaries have lost 23 percent of their buying power according to a 2016 senior cost survey by The Senior Citizens League. This is based on the cost of key items in a typical retiree's budget, particularly influenced heavily by higher medical and prescription drug costs.

The NRLN has been advocating legislation to reduce the cost of health care and prescription drugs. There are now bills in the House and Senate that would do this and the NRLN is lobbying for the passage of the bills. If you haven’t sent the NRLN’s sample letters to your members of Congress to urge them to pass these bills, go to http://nrln.org/congress.html#/38 to send your letters.

The Pain of Social Security Going Broke

“Social Security is going broke,” says U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul D. Ryan. And there are facts to back up his statement.

Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system in which current workers pay payroll taxes that fund payments to current Social Security recipients. The amount that is collected in payroll taxes has fallen short of Social Security's annual costs since 2010, and as a result the program is making up the difference between taxes and spending by tapping its trust funds.

The trust fund represents the surplus tax revenues that Social Security collected from 1984 to 2009. While the government spent those funds, it recorded a debt payable to Social Security plus interest. Thus, the trust fund provides authority for Social Security to spend more than it takes in, as it’s been doing since 2010.

Social Security Paying Out More Than Taking In

In 2016, Social Security will pay out about $70 billion more in benefits than it will generate in tax revenue. As the population ages, that gap will only widen. By 2026, an extra 18 million people will collect benefits. In that year alone, Social Security will run a $395 billion deficit, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The government must increase its public borrowing by an amount equal to the cost overruns. When the trust fund runs out, so does the authority to run Social Security deficits.

Last month the Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report stating that trust funds will fall short of supporting Social Security payments to recipients beginning in 2034, resulting in an across-the-board cut of about 25 percent in Social Security benefits. But the CBO sees the Social Security trust fund collapsing to zero by 2029, necessitating an immediate 29 percent cut in benefits.

Although 2029 or 2034 seems to be far away, many of today’s newest retirees would likely still be in the program. This has led some in Washington, DC to claim Social Security reform can be put off well into the future. They are wrong.

Pain Gets Worst While Washington Waits

The annual report from the Social Security trustees warned that politically gridlocked Washington needs to act sooner, rather than later, to shore up finances and avoid negatively impacting the lives of millions of retirees and their families. If Washington fails to take action to close the gap between tax revenue and Social Security spending, then a big cut in benefits will push millions of seniors into poverty.

The cost of waiting to avoid this cut in benefits is high. The longer lawmakers wait to enact Social Security reform, the more abrupt and less targeted changes will have to be. In addition, the less time workers will have to plan and adjust, and policymakers will have fewer options. Perhaps more importantly, the size of the gets problem bigger and bigger over time.

Stop the Pain for Retirees – Fix Social Security

U.S. Representative Kevin Brady (TX-08), Chairman, House Ways and Means Committee, spoke on February 25, 2016 at an Urban-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center event in Washington, DC about his plans to address the impending Social Security crisis. Rep. Brady described his plans as (1) gradually raise the retirement age to 70 over the next three and a half decades; (2) do means testing of wealthy Americans on their need to receive Social Security and (3) “creating a true cost of living for seniors.” He said doing these three things would “solidify Social Security for 75 years or more”.

To restore the program’s solvency, some want to raise or remove the ceiling on earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax. Currently, Social Security’s 12.4 percent payroll tax applies to a worker’s first $118,500 of wage income, and benefits are calculated based on that income. Though this “taxable maximum” is indexed to wage growth, it currently only covers about 83 percent of all wages. This means 17 percent remains tax free.

However, taxing all earnings would fill only 41% of Social Security’s long-term deficit. Fixing the rest would require either cutting benefits or raising taxes on lower-earning households.

According to the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, eliminating the taxable maximum would extend the life of the trust to 2048 instead of 2034.

Studies Are Presenting Proposals

For the past two years, a commission made up of 19 high-profile people from the academic, political, business, and investment worlds has been busy devising a bipartisan plan to strengthen the retirement security and personal savings of Americans. The result, a comprehensive 146-page report packed with ideas from the Bipartisan Policy Center, came out on June 9, 2016. One of the report's many proposals would raise the taxable level of Social Security earnings to $195,000 from the current $118,500 by 2020.

According to a report by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI), none of the following would fix 100% of the problem. In decreasing order of potential impact, the study found:

Presidential Candidates Views on Social Security

President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democrat nominee for President, and other Democrats are rallying around proposals to expand Social Security and increase benefits. This is certainly a major change after three decades dominated by concern over the program’s rising costs.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for President, has promised not to cut Social Security. His campaign has suggested he'd revisit government benefit programs - known as entitlements - after his tax-cut plan boosts economic growth.

NRLN’s Proposals to Fix Social Security

The NRLN’s position is that there is a straight-forward solution to ensuring Social Security for current and future retirees, but from the outset elected officials must be clear that, first and foremost, Social Security is not a welfare program paid for by the U.S. Government.

When some members of Congress, such as Chairman Brady, talk about “creating a true cost of living for seniors” they are referring to changing the current way of calculating COLA for Social Security to the “Chained Consumer Price Index”. The NRLN opposes any changes in the way the annual COLA is calculated. Changing from the current Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers to the chained CPI would be less accurate and less-generous to Social Security beneficiaries. Seniors spend far more on health care than younger people. Health care inflation has been outpacing general inflation by a wide margin. Health care, particularly the cost of prescription drugs, is eating away a growing portion of seniors' COLAs—when one is given. Over the next 10 years alone, the Chained CPI would take approximately $112 billion directly out of the pockets of Social Security beneficiaries.

Don’t Raise Eligibility Age for Social Security

The NRLN opposes the recommendations by some members of Congress to raise Social Security's full and early retirement ages. This comes on the heels of the increases already made in 1983 by the Greenspan Commission which moved full retirement age to 67 by 2022, in essence spreading out benefits.

The 1983 change in retirement age cut benefits an average of 13%. A further extension to possibly age 69 or 70 would cut benefits another 20% or more. Moreover, longevity gains that proponents cite for increasing the eligibility age have been concentrated among more affluent Americans. A higher retirement age will require Americans to attempt to remain employed when hiring trends in the private sector favor younger rather than older workers. A recent report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research shows that 10.2 million workers ages 58 and older (43.8 percent of workers in that age range) are employed in either physically demanding jobs or jobs with difficult working conditions. Future retirees cannot physically or financially afford for Social Security’s retirement age to be raised once again. Indeed, a projected longer life span does not translate to a longer employment career or a sustained guarantee for the same quality of life.

Unless Congress intends to compel companies to retain older workers until they reach the age of Social Security eligibility, the proposal to increase the retirement age will fail, harming retirees as well as the U.S. economy at the same time.

The number of Social Security beneficiaries will increase by 18 million in the next 10 years. Current and past Administrations and Congresses have known these facts and have done nothing to effectively prepare for them since the last round of changes in 1983.

Adjust the Social Security Payroll Tax

The NRLN believes a small increase in the combination of tax rate (possibly between 0.5% and 1.5%) and the maximum earnings subject to the payroll tax would go a long way to toward Social Security's solvency. This should be done until such time as the Social Security Trust is again adequately funded actuarially. This commitment should also require that once the Trust is adequately funded, tax rates and maximum wages taxed should be lowered to maintain actuarial funding only. The NRLN maintains that this is the only practical and ethical solution, and one that keeps faith with the American public.

Social Security Can’t Be Congress’ Piggybank

One last point that the NRLN believe is very important. The Social Security Trust in the future should be insulated from access by Congress and its funds should never again be a piggybank to cover other government spending.

Bill Kadereit, President
National Retiree Legislative Network

NRLN IS WORKING FOR YOU

The NRLN regularly informs members by email about important information. If you did not receive an email with the NRLN President’s Forum message or an Action Alert posted on this home page, possibly you mistakenly “unsubscribed” on one of our emails or you have a new email address that is not in the NRLN’s database. You will no longer hear from us unless you “re-subscribe”. To “re-subscribe”, click here.


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Click here to read the SUMMER 2016 issue of the NRLN FOCUS Newsletter


action alert

NRLN Action Alert – Fiduciary Rule Is Good for Retirees and Workers

The NRLN believes the Department of Labor’s announced fiduciary rule is a good idea because it would require retirement investment advisers to meet a fiduciary standard to put their clients’ best interest before their own profits. Email the NRLN’s sample letters to your Representative and Senators to tell them that you believe the fiduciary rule is in the best interest of retirees and workers and efforts to eliminate it should cease.


NRLN 2016 Survey Results

Between May 2 and June 5, 2016, there were 6,737 NRLN grassroots advocates who participated in all or parts of the 2016 NRLN Future Directions Survey. The data in the survey will help the NRLN and its retiree associations and chapters gain a better understanding of what is important to retirees and future retirees plus indicating whether the right priorities are set. The responses to questions where personal comments were given or personal contact information was provided are not included. Click here to view survey results.


Pain around the Corner – Pensions

(May 5, 2016) When the NRLN issues an Action Alert we can tell from statistics produced in our database that some do not open the email and a number of those who do don’t follow up and send a letter to their members of Congress. It is regrettable that some individuals are insulated and unconcerned about the need to advocate legislation for important retirement issues. This message, Pain around the Corner – Pensions, is the first in a series of emails from me to address the need to protect pensions, Social Security, Medicare, and reduce the cost of health care, particularly the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs.

Only legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by the President can address the need to protect pensions. Legislation is needed to force pension plan sponsors to obtain federal agency approval before merging a well-funded pension plan with one or more lower-funded plans to avoid having to contribute money to shore up the lower funded plans. Read more...


PENSION FUND RALLY

rally
action alert
report card

NRLN Provides New “Report Card” Feature on Members of Congress

NRLN has introduced a “report card” for each state that shows whether the U.S. Representatives and Senators have supported bills in Congress advocated by the NRLN. Read all about it here.


NRLN members are saving big with the Free Health Savings Rx Card℠

The NRLN has arranged to offer you a Health Savings Rx Card™, at NO COST, that offers you and your family savings on prescription drugs, plus vision and hearing services and products.Click here to access the Rx Savings Card℠ website.If you do not already have a Health Savings Rx Card℠ you will need to create your personal login and then printout your free card. Savings information for prescription drugs, vision and hearing services and products is available through the links under the Savings Plus tab.


MEMBERS COMMENTS

Bonnie Gatewood, Livonia, MI...Thank you and the NRLN for all the work you do to help protect pension plans for so many. Your steady watch gives us hope that what we worked long and hard for (41 years in my case) will not be taken away.

Heather Ward, Canandaigua, NY...You [NRLN President Bill Kadereit] are one of our country’s most sincere and hardest working leaders. I am so impressed that you have chosen this arduous task at this time in your life. As a recent widow of a Kodak retiree, and one who has lost ALL of her husband’s Kodak Survivor benefits due to its bankruptcy, I feel that at least someone is in my corner, fighting the good fight. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

more members comments here.

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By Peter Sullivan ; The Hill ~ Jun 16, 2016

Spiraling drug costs prompt call for major Medicare changes
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar; The Associated Press ~ Jun 15, 2016

Feeling guilty about spending savings in retirement
By Walter Updegrave; CNNMoney ~ Jun 15, 2016

Advisory Panel Targets Rising Medicare Drug Costs In Its Latest Report To Congress
By Julie Appleby; Kaiser Health News ~ Jun 15, 2016

Report: New evidence of rising 'Obamacare' premiums
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar; The Associated Press ~ Jun 15, 2016

Backlog in Medicare Claims Appeals Growing Worse
By Ken Terry; Medscape ~ Jun 15, 2016

GOP Clears Hurdle In Process TO Oust IRS Commissioner
By Juliegrace Brufke; The Daily Caller ~ Jun 15, 2016

Coffee struck from list of possible cancer-causing agents
By Maria Cheng; The Associated Press ~ Jun 15, 2016

Senators Introduce Bill Aimed at Getting Generic Drugs to Market
By REUTERS; The New York Times ~ Jun 14, 2016

ObamaCare: 25% Average Premium Hike Sought In 30 States
By Jed Graham; Investor’s Business Daily ~ Jun 13, 2016

Study: Repealing ObamaCare would increase uninsured by 24M
By Peter Sullivan; The Hill ~ Jun 13, 2016

What Just Happened to This Key Social Security Strategy?
By Dan Caplinger; The Motley Fool ~ Jun 13, 2016

How Senior Living Providers Can Crash the Health Care Party
By Tim Mullaney; Senior Housing News ~ Jun 13, 2016

Proposed premium hikes rattle consumers paying their own way
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar & Tom Murphy; The Associated Press ~ Jun 12, 2016

Democrats hope Social Security plans will win over voters
By Naomi Jagoda; The Hill ~ Jun 12, 2016

Alaska scrambles to prevent Obamacare collapse
By Rachana Pradhan; Politico ~ Jun 11, 2016

Drug companies continue to raise prices despite public backlash
By Beth Mole; Ars Technica ~ Jun 10, 2016 - Jun 10, 2016 1:39pm EDT

GOP surprises with push for smaller ObamaCare changes
By Peter Sullivan; The Hill ~ Jun 10, 2016

Prescription Drug Abuse Among Older Adults Is Harder to Detect
By Constance Gustke; The New York Times ~ Jun 10, 2016

GOP slams Obama administration response on Medicare proposal
By Peter Sullivan; The Hill ~ Jun 10, 2016

Obamacare Isn't Stopping Doctors' Incomes From Soaring
By Shawn Tully; Fortune ~ Jun 10, 2016

Health insurers seeking huge increases for ACA-compliant policies
By Matt Olberding; Lincoln Journal Star ~ Jun 10, 2016

Fight over U.S. retirement investment advice rule moves to courts
By Lisa Lambert; Reuters ~ Jun 10, 2016

76 million Americans are struggling financially or just getting by
By Tami Luhby; CNNMoney ~ Jun 10, 2016

Drug companies play offense to justify high price tags
By Beth Kutscher; Crain’s Chicago Business ~ Jun 09, 2016

HHS Unveils Rules To Limit Short-Term Health Policies, Strengthen Marketplaces
From KHN Morning Briefing; Kaiser Health News ~ Jun 09, 2016

High Earners Are Going to Hate These Retirement Proposals
By Suzanne Woolley; Bloomberg ~ Jun 09, 2016

Column: Push to expand Social Security gains momentum
By Mark Miller; Reuters ~ Jun 09, 2016

Obamacare Exchange Left Customer Info Vulnerable To ‘Exploitation’
By Kathryn Watson; The Daily Caller ~ Jun 08, 2016

To lower high drug prices, bust monopolies and monitor price increases
From Jonathan Gavras; Orlando Sentinel ~ Jun 08, 2016

New Rules on Retirement Advice Challenged in Another Lawsuit
By Leslie Scism; The Wall Street Journal ~ Jun 08, 2016

HHS Announces Plans To Curtail Consumers’ Use Of Short-Term Insurance Policies
By Jordan Rau; Kaiser Health News ~ Jun 08, 2016

Goldman Sachs: Obamacare Is Leading To A Rise In Involuntary Part-Time Jobs
By Juliegrace Brufke; The Daily Caller ~ Jun 08, 2016

Obama vetoes attempt to undo retirement savings rule
By Gregory Korte; USA TODAY ~ Jun 08, 2016

IRS computer hack was worse than agency admitted
By Stephen Dinan; The Washington Times ~ Jun 08, 2016

How to do a background check on financial advisers
The Associated Press ~ Jun 07, 2016

No retirement income plan satisfies all retirees' goals, paper says
By Marlene Y. Satter: BenefitsPRO ~ Jun 07, 2016

States Step Up Efforts on Drug Pricing Initiatives
By Carrie A. Roll; The National Law Review ~ Jun 06, 2016

Nonprofit’s Flawed Drug Pricing Calculations Could Mean Major Issues For Seniors
By Juliegrace Brufke; The Daily Caller ~ Jun 06, 2016

Rising Drug Costs Attract Seniors to Illegal Online Pharmacies
By “Staff Editor”; HealthNewsDigest ~ Jun 06, 2016

UnitedHealth to compete in just three ACA exchanges in 2017
By Caroline Wall; FierceHealthPayer ~ Jun 06, 2016

Retirees face investing dilemma of longevity, sequence risks
By Gardner Sherrill; Bradenton Herald ~ Jun 06, 2016

Retirees face investing dilemma of longevity, sequence risks
By Gardner Sherrill; Bradenton Herald ~ Jun 06, 2016

The Dueling Myths of Social Security
By Brenton Smith, FedSmith.Com – June 6, 2016

3 ETFs to Keep You Invested After Retirement
By Jason Hall; The Motley Fool ~ Jun 05, 2016

Missing Pensions Costly to Retirees
By Eleanor Laise, From Kiplinger's Retirement Report, June 2016

Insurer sues feds over shortfall in ObamaCare payments
By Peter Sullivan; The Hill ~ Jun 03, 2016

Money Tips: Social Security isn’t just about retirement
From Moneytips.com; WRIC ~ Jun 03, 2016

Obamacare Is Draining Medicare Advantage Of Funding, Study Finds
By Juliegrace Brufke; The Daily Caller ~ Jun 02, 2016

Study: Most insurers not looking to exit ObamaCare
By Peter Sullivan; The Hill ~ Jun 02, 2016

PBGC Proposes Rule to Facilitate Mergers of Multiemployer Pension Plans
PBGC Press Release - June 02, 2016

Will the Obamacare marketplace stabilize and if so will anyone be able to afford it?
By John Sexton; Hot Air ~ Jun 01, 2016

UnitedHealth Is Ditching Obamacare's California Market
By Sy Mukherjee; Fortune ~ Jun 01, 2016

Obama Proposes Expanding Social Security Benefits for Elderly
By Sahil Kapur; Bloomberg ~ Jun 01, 2016

Poll: A third of people have done no long-term care planning
By Alejandra Cancino; The Associated Press ~ Jun 01, 2016

Insurance rates going up: New concerns for Obamacare
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar; The Associated Press ~ Jun 01, 2016

House Republicans Voice Frustration Over HHS’ Response To Health Law Subpoenas
From KHN Morning Briefing; Kaiser Health News ~ Jun 01, 2016

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