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a project of the Center for Community Change Action

Virginia Organizing

Groups praise President Obama for Social Security expansion shift

Groups praise President Obama for Social Security expansion shift

from the Augusta Free Press

President Obama’s declaration that Social Security should be expanded, and not cut, has been applauded with great enthusiasm by groups nationwide which work to protect Social Security for everyone.

Among the groups praising Obama’s stance were the Center for Community Change (CCC), ONE Northside, Virginia Organizing, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, The Contact Center, and Grassroots Ambassadors affiliated with CCC.

“The wealthy should have been paying their fair share from the get go but I’m glad to see President Obama take a stand on this urgent issue,” said Grassroots Ambassador Edward Williams with the Contact Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Getting an increase in Social Security would help make it easier to pay the monthly bills. I’m a Vietnam veteran and turning 69 this August. I’m proud to be part of this movement to expand Social Security!”

“As someone who would benefit greatly from increased Social Security benefits I applaud President Obama’s shift to expand Social Security. Six years ago, I quit my job to become a full-time unpaid caregiver,” said Grassroots Ambassador Jeannie Brown of Bozeman, Montana. “Social Security will be my lifeline in 15 years when it is my time to retire and it needs to be expanded. I also know that this shift is a direct result of all the work that grassroots leaders, like myself, have done to educate elected officials to the need for this expansion because of our stories. Thank you President Obama in seeing the wisdom to make this happen.”

“When a person like me spends the day on his feet, working with his hands or back in a classroom or hospital, on a roof or knee-deep in cement, raising the age of retirement and/or cutting benefits is simply untenable,” said Grassroots Ambassador Kenn Bowen, a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement in Iowa City, Iowa. “If everyone pays their fair share, Social Security not only becomes solvent, it becomes stronger and can pay for more and better benefits for those who have given their lives in working service to their families and their country. President Obama is right when he says ‘we should strengthen Social Security by asking the wealthy to pay more.’ We should do this now, sooner not later for the benefit of all Americans. “

“President Obama’s new position to strengthen and expand Social Security will help a lot of people achieve financial stability. It’s high time the wealthy paid their fair share into Social Security. Social Security Disability Benefits were there for me when I was disabled, unable to work, and homeless. Without SSDI, I would still be homeless today,” said Carlos Cardenas, Vice President of the board of ONE Northside in Chicago.

“Virginia Organizing strongly supports ending the cap for Social Security deductions,” said Virginia Organizing leader Eunice Haigler. “As an organization, many of our members rely on Social Security to provide basic living expenses and we are encouraged by the President’s change in position. For me personally, an increase in Social Security means that I can feel my many years of work means something and will give me dignity. Virginia Organizing calls on U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to support this proposal and move forward to protect and strengthen Social Security for all people, especially those of us who rely on this program for our survival.”

“We are encouraged that President Obama is joining with other lawmakers to expand Social Security and we will continue our efforts to protect this essential program so that everyone will benefit,” said Mary Lassen, CCC”s Managing Director.

Virginia Organizing Celebrates Social Security Anniversary

Virginia Organizing Celebrates Social Security Anniversary


Woodbridge, Va.—Virginia Organizing released the following statement from Bruce Smith, a member of Virginia Organizing’s statewide Social Security Strategy Committee:

“Today, Virginia Organizing celebrates with the rest of the U.S. the protections and benefits of Social Security that hard working Americans have enjoyed for 80 years. Without Social Security, retirement would be completely insecure for so many people, people with disabilities would be left out of our system, and children who lose a parent would experience greater financial hardships.  Social Security makes a tremendous difference in the lives of so many Americans and we must work to protect and strengthen this vital program. Virginia Organizing asks that U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine commit to making Social Security stronger without reducing any benefits for the millions of people who rely on this successful program.”

To interview a spokesperson for Virginia Organizing, please contact Amanda Pohl at 804-337-1912 or

Virginia Op-Ed: Don’t fall short on Social Security

Virginia Op-Ed: Don’t fall short on Social Security

From the Roanoke Times

Don’t fall short on Social Security

Sandra A. Cook is the Chairperson for Virginia Organizing, a non-partisan statewide grassroots organization.

By Sandra A. Cook
On Jan. 31, 1940, Ida M. Fuller became the first person to receive monthly Social Security retirement benefits. Since that time, American citizens have been working hard to pay into the Social Security system knowing that when they retire, or if they become physically unable to work, money will be there for them.

This program is so popular because it provides economic security among people working jobs that are not set up to provide that security. When individuals are working long hours or multiple jobs to make ends meet, there is not a lot of room for saving for retirement.

Thankfully, Social Security allows elderly people to stop working after many years of contributing to our society.

But Social Security is not just for those who have struggled to survive on limited income. In the early 2000’s when the United States hit a recession, millions of people lost economic security in the private market. Banks gambled with their retirements — and lost their money. We, the American people, are still recovering from the devastating losses in the stock market during that time. (On the other hand, the banks that played fast and loose with our investments are doing fine and their executives who made those decisions are still among the nation’s wealthiest).

Because we have Social Security, many Americans were protected from absolute financial ruin due to the unscrupulous practices of banks taking advantage of limited government oversight and regulation. Contrary to the private-sector retirement market that shifts and is not guaranteed, Social Security has a public accountability mechanism through our electoral system.

Since we are a government of, by and for the people, we, as a people, oversee Social Security and make sure it is working in our best interests. To take something like Social Security that is in the hands of the public and put it in the hands of those with a singular goal of profiting off the system would be negligent.

This is why we must call on lawmakers to protect and expand Social Security in the public trust. Americans cannot afford to be at the mercy of banks with no safety net. Americans cannot achieve economic security placing bets in a market that does not consider our interests or our needs.

We need our elected officials in Washington, D.C. to take a stand and support the hard-working Americans trying to provide for our families. We need them to fight for the American dream for all of us, not just the wealthiest.

When U.S. Sen.Mark Warner voted against a budget amendment that would have required a more careful review from senators before the Social Security program could be altered, it was a vote that got my attention. It also got my attention that he later voted to expand the program during a budget hearing that same night. I’m proud that Warner wants to expand Social Security, but concerned that he might not be doing everything within his power to protect the program and make sure that Virginia’s families won’t suffer as a result.

I know there are a lot of really smart economists working on Social Security, but everyone should realize that it’s a program that is working for Americans and might not need as much fixing as some think. If we are going to make changes, let’s focus on increasing benefits to keep seniors and people with disabilities out of poverty.

We fought so hard to gain some kind of economic security that came in the form of Social Security and Medicare. Let’s not go back to a time when corporations and the private stock market dictated whether our seniors could afford to eat. Living on Social Security is hard enough; let’s not make it harder.

Sen. Warner, what will you do to ensure our seniors are protected and won’t have their benefits reduced?

[Photo: Ida Fuller, of Ludlow, Vermont, received the first Old Age Insurance check from the government in 1940. She’s seen here on Oct. 4, 1950, when the retired bookkeeper showed off her check for $41.30. She died in 1975 at age 100.]

Supporters for Medicaid Expansion Hold Rally in Charlottesville

Supporters for Medicaid Expansion Hold Rally in Charlottesville


Posted: Apr 01, 2015 2:53 PM PDT Updated: Apr 15, 2015 3:03 PM PDT

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va (WVIR) – Virginia Organizing held a rally at the Albemarle County Office Building on Wednesday afternoon.The group was showing their support for expanding Medicaid, as well as celebrating the five year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, which is sometimes referred to as “Obamacare.”

The non-partisan group also pointed to a new report that says Medicaid expansion is needed.

“It really is very widespread, the problem with not getting Medicaid money. Not just the individuals, but it does impacts our hospitals. It affects our entire economy,” said Susan Perry with Virginia Organizing.

The Medicaid report comes from a group called the Alliance for a Just Society.

LTE from Virginia Organizing Ambassador on Medicaid, Social Security

LTE from Virginia Organizing Ambassador on Medicaid, Social Security

From the Free Lance Daily

Letter: ‘Entitled’ reader takes issue with Howell

Speaker Howell is my representative to the House of Delegates. I was disheartened to read his Jan. 10 commentary titled “A strong economy is facing rough headwinds.”

He touts how strong Virginia’s economy is then says we cannot afford Medicaid expansion, even though all reports say it would help our economy, and the federal government is paying for the program for the first few years.

He must think his constituents are uninformed. Speaker Howell consistently talks about Medicaid as a broken system. I attended the Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission meetings in Richmond (Howell was not on the panel, nor did I see him there), where our own Virginia officials debunked the idea that it was broken and presented statistics on successes with fighting fraud and the positive effect Medicaid has on citizens.

Strange that Speaker Howell does not value the information from Virginia employees working with the program.

Lastly, he categorizes Medicaid expansion as “a vast new entitlement system.” What a huge put-down.

The majority if not all of the people covered by expansion would be the working poor. They pay taxes.

When Howell mentioned expansion as a “new” entitlement, I wondered what the “old” ones were. Could it be Social Security and Medicare? Well, I’m on both. I’ve worked for more than 40 years, still work part time and paid into them and continue to pay. Don’t degrade me by saying I think I’m entitled.

As a matter of fact, I’m a contributor; I’ve been on Medicare for three years and haven’t been sick.

My ex-husband was a contributor to Social Security; he worked from age 16 until he passed away at age 64. So, Mr. Speaker, you’re welcome.

Jacqueline W. Lewis


Virginia Organizing talks Social Security with partners from other states in Harrisonburg

Virginia Organizing talks Social Security with partners from other states in Harrisonburg

virginia-organizing new2re-posted from Augusta Free Press

Virginia Organizing hosted a gathering in Harrisonburg over Memorial Day weekend to bring together leaders from Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. to develop plans to protect and strengthen Social Security.

Virginia Organizing Treasurer Jay Johnson helped lead the events of the weekend. Johnson said, “It was great to meet with other people from this region to strategize how to build power and make sure Social Security is not only protected, but also made stronger, for generations to come.”

Over the weekend, the group discussed ways to improve Social Security without cutting benefits or changing the way that cost of living adjustments are made.

“Virginia Organizing wants Congress to ‘Scrap the Cap’ on Social Security taxes to make sure those who earn more than $117,000 are paying into Social Security based on their actual earnings, not just the first part of their income,” said Johnson. “We also support providing a caregiver credit to ensure that those who take time off work to care for a loved one aren’t penalized for this in Social Security earning calculations.”

Virginia Organizing has repeatedly requested commitments from U.S. Senator Mark Warner to protect and strengthen the program and protect those receiving Social Security from any cuts.

Groups from across US participate in successful Retirement Security convening

Groups from across US participate in successful Retirement Security convening

From December 9-11 nearly 90 people — primarily grassroots leaders but also staff from CCC and partner organizations — came together in Washington DC to advance our retirement security campaign.  Approximately 20 organizations from 16 states took part in the national convening which included some dynamic panel discussions, multiple protest actions, a press conference with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and a meeting with one of our biggest Social Security champions, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.  In addition to the many state-based organizations — from Washington CAN in the Northwest to the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama in the Southeast — seven leaders from the Manufactured Homeowner project also participated in the training, coming from Utah, Pennsylvania and Florida.

RS Meeting 1The gathering kicked off on Monday night with an exercise led by Akiba Bird, director of North Carolina Fair Share, that included drumming and chants and allowed participants to get to know each other and our shared values.  We were then joined by Sarita Gupta, the ED of Jobs with Justice and a leader of the Caring Across Generations campaign, who talked about ways to better connect our respective struggles.

The next morning, it was the Grassroots Ambassadors themselves who took center stage, speaking at two separate panels about the successes and challenges over the course of the 2013 campaign to strengthen Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  IMG_20131210_094144We were also joined by various leaders from national partner organizations: Alex Lawson of Social Security Works; Terry O’Neil of the National Organization of Women; Maya Rockeymoore of Global Policy Solutions; and John Adler of SEIU.  We wrapped up the day by digging into our 2014 program and strategy and preparing ourselves for the next year of battle.

December 11 was our day to hit the streets. The full group arrived early to the Capital Visitors Center for a meeting with Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio.  It was an opportunity to thank one of the emerging Social Security champions as well as share stories and strategies.  Next up was a protest action outside the office of the think tank Third Way which has been on the attack against Social Security and progressive Democrats like Brown and Elizabeth Warren who have called for expanding the system (watch video of the action here.)

IMG_20131211_145959Throughout the afternoon leaders met with their respective Representatives and Senators on Capital Hill, and the gathering culminated with a successful press conference organized by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  Members Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison and Jan Schakowsky stood alongside leaders from Illinois, Washington, North Carolina and Montana to talk about the need to hold the line against cuts to social programs and continue the fight for a better budget deal.  Check out pictures of the press conference as well as the rest of the convening here.

Senator Brown with leaders from Ohio
Senator Brown with leaders from Ohio


Virginia Organizing Danville rally

Virginia Organizing Danville rally

10317540285_47226d3290_bA group of nine Virginia Organizing members from Danville, Martinsville and Henry County held a press conference and letter delivery at Congressman Robert Hurt’s Danville office on October 16. Several speakers shared how the shutdown was affecting their lives. A HeadStart parent highlighted the importance of that program for her children.

A senior citizen talked about Social Security and health care reform. And a retired local elected official spoke as a “taxpayer” about why Congress should be spending the money she sent them on Tax Day. After everyone spoke, they went into his office and delivered the letter and shared these stories with his field representative.


Grassroots Ambassadors from Four States Lead Human Chain with Progressive Caucus

Grassroots Ambassadors from Four States Lead Human Chain with Progressive Caucus

Grassroots Ambassadors from Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia and Washington DC joined leaders from the Campaign for Community Change, Social Security Works, the Alliance for Retired Americans at the Congressional “Human Chain” against the Chained CPI today. The event was sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and speakers rallied the crowd in opposition to all attempts to use a manufactured crisis to make cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Representative Keith Ellison, co-chair of the CPC, led the charge: “Folks are scurrying around here, trying to figure out how to end the shutdown. And sometimes I’ve heard [Democrats] say ‘You know, maybe we should give them something… Some folks say ‘We’ll give you Chained-CPI.’”

“No way! No way!” Ellison shouted into the microphones. “Open up the government. Put a clean CR on. Stop this austerity….The way we hang together here is we make sure nobody, but nobody, gets sold out in exchange for Republicans doing their job, which is funding the government.” (See more from the Nation.)

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland spoke strongly for seniors and retirement security: “They give their blood, their sweat, their tears, and they sacrifice and they expect certain things at the end of their retirement. One of the things that definitely expect is to live in dignity.”

Many other members of congress stood with community leaders against cuts to these critical programs. Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL) denounced the chained CPI, listing off all the ways it would hurt families, and later then linked arms with grassroots leaders as part of the human chain across the Capital plaza.

With the U.S. government shutdown, organizers worry that the President and some members of Congress may see this as an opportunity to press ahead with the chained CPI – a cut to Social Security benefits – in order bring about a deal that would re-open the government and avert a crisis around the debt ceiling. Grassroots leaders linked arms with nearly 20 Members of Congress to strongly denounce such a move (for more on what the CPI would do, go to this Social Security Works Fact sheet.)

Watch video of the event:

Illinois Grassroots Leaders with Rep. Jan Schakosky at the rally

Illinois Grassroots Leaders with Rep. Jan Schakosky at the rally


Conyers- “If [Republicans] think they’re going to wear us out on this, they are dead wrong.”


Members of TakeAction Minnesota with Rep. Keith Ellison

Members of TakeAction Minnesota with Rep. Keith Ellison

photo 2

“We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of seniors!”

“We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of seniors!”



VO Pressures State Legislator to leave Fix the Debt

VO Pressures State Legislator to leave Fix the Debt

From ‘Volunteers’ Try To Find Fix The Debt Group Chapter In Virginia, End Up At House

The group Social Security Works released a video showing a group of “volunteers” trying to find the Virginia headquarters of Fix The Debt. They ended up at what appears to be a private home. The video suggests that the group does not have a physical presence in the state.

In addition, Fix The Debt Virginia lost a member of its steering committee, Delegate Ken Plum (D-Fairax), after hearing concerns about the potential impacts of the group’s spending cut proposals, according to an email shared with The Huffington Post.

The group, co-created by Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, advocates for a bipartisan solution for debt reduction, and lists chapters in 23 states. Simpson and Bowles chaired a commission created by President Barack Obama on deficit reduction, but the commission fell short of a supermajority needed to send its proposal to Congress.

Many of its biggest backers are Republicans or allied with Republicans. Members of the campaign’s CEO Fiscal Leadership Council have argued in favor of cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to close the deficit.