"Don't let Washington decide the future of Medicare and Social Security without you."
That's the message that AARP, the non-profit organization representing people 50 and older, is sending to its roughly 37 million members in a new program aimed at fighting potential cuts in both Social Security benefits and Medicare.
Titled "You've Earned a Say," the nationwide program includes town hall meetings from state to state, online member surveys and national advertising. The goal is not only to mobilize AARP members, but also to develop a record of public opinion regarding possible cuts.
According to U.S. News & World Report's Philip Moeller, "Cuts to both [Social Security and Medicare] have been called for in a series of budget deficit proposals, including the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Since its report more than a year ago, several other sets of proposals have been introduced but sidetracked by the increasingly partisan political divide in Congress."
The AARP program comes less than a year after the organization took heat from members for indicating that it would no longer oppose all future Social Security benefits cuts. In July, the group clarified its position, stating "AARP is as committed as we've ever been to fighting to protect Social Security for today's seniors and strengthening it for future generations."
Nearly 55 million Americans received Social Security benefits last year. The Social Security retirement program offers partial benefits to persons who retire at age 62 and full benefits to those who work until reaching full retirement age (which varies based on date of birth). The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, on the other hand, provides benefits to persons who, due to a physical or mental impairment, either have been unable, or are expected to be unable to work for at least 12 months or more .
As a result of a wave of baby-boomer retirees and a steady increase in disability claims, the assets that support Social Security programs - the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund - are expected to be drained by 2036. Last year, the programs started paying out more money in benefits than were collected in payroll taxes. In a May press release, the Social Security Administration (SSA) lobbied for congressional action on the matter, stating "legislative action will be needed soon."
AARP wants its members to have a say in what exactly that action will be. "With so much at stake, the debate and decisions about Social Security's future deserve close attention and active participation from the people who are receiving Social Security today, as well as by those who will count on it in the future," the organization writes on its website.
A person interested in obtaining Social Security disability benefits must file a claim with the SSA, the federal agency that operates both the disability and retirement benefits programs. The disability claims process is often long and complicated. Unfortunately, the SSA initially denies the majority of claims filed, including many with merit. An experienced Social Security disability lawyer can help guide a client through the process from application to the highest level of federal appeal, if necessary, presenting the client's claim in the most compelling and effective manner.
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