Retirement Security resolution passes Seattle City Council
On June 13, the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution calling for the expansion of Social Security and Medicare and the scrapping of the payroll cap. Two Grassroots Ambassadors from Washington CAN! told their stories and testified at the hearing of the full council about the retirement security crisis and the need to expand benefits. Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez introduced the resolution and spoke eloquently about the importance of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Leaders and staff from various organizations – including Washington CAN, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, the MLK County Labor Council, the Economic Opportunities Institute, UFCW local 21 and NOW –met with the nine council members about the issue in the lead up to the vote. The resolution is attached, and we’re working to get other cities in Washington state, and around the country, to pass similar resolutions.
Below are some pictures, including a shot of Grassroots Ambassador Joselito Lopez sharing his testimony, and attached here is the full resolution.
Washington legislator becomes latest signer on Social Security expansion bills
In mid-February, Grassroots Ambassadors from the Washington Community Action Network joined other members of the Social Security Works Washington coalition at a meeting with the office of Representative Derek Kilmer in Tacoma, Wa. Mykle Ann Mora, an Ambassador whose story was featured last year in the Huffington Post, talked about her health challenges following a stroke and how benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance were barely enough to get by. At the conclusion of the meeting, Kilmer’s staff announced that he would become a co-sponsor of two important bills that our retirement security field partners have been advocating for: the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act (H.R. 3377) and the Save Benefits Act (H.R. 4144), the latter of which would provide a cost-of-living increase in 2016 for all recipients of Social Security, SSDI, and veterans benefits.
Washington Ambassador Kathy Pugh featured in TV story on COLA bill
Social Security recipients hopeful Congress will pass extra payment
By Essex Porter
More than million people in Washington State will get a boost in Social Security benefits next year, but only if Congress acts.
Under the plan someone on Social Security would get a lump-sum payment of more than $500.
This doesn’t affect only people who rely on Social Security, it also affects younger family members who often have to step in to help when the government announces there will be is no cost of living increase for recipients.
At Kathy Pugh’s home peanut butter is a mainstay and there is not much red meat in the diet.
“When I buy hamburger, it was like $5-$6 a pound. I was raised on a farm in Idaho and I’m not used to prices like that,” she said.
Kathy and her husband Clarence are both retired teachers from Oregon who moved here to be closer to grandchildren. They’re supporters of the progressive Washington Community Action Network.
They say, between rising medical costs and the rising cost of housing, don’t tell them seniors aren’t hit by inflation.
“That doesn’t reflect on daily cost of living by most people,” said Clarence Pugh
The Pughs are thrilled that Washington Sen. Patty Murray is part of the fight to add a one-time boost to Social Security benefits this year, $581 per recipient.
“I thought, oh that’s four months of health insurance, that would be really great,” Kathy Pugh responded.
Murray wants to get the money by asking Congress to eliminate the tax break on big executive bonuses.
“We’re just saying you are going to give a little bit, not be able to receive so much money at the top end in order to take care of the people who are most vulnerable,” Murray said.
This plan would have to get through a Republican Congress that rarely supports any kind to tax increase.
But Murray believes pressure from Social Security recipients and their families might persuade Republicans to support this one.
Washington and Montana Ambassadors at August training and rally
Thanks to Washington CAN! member and Grassroots Ambassador Maureen Caputo for putting this together:
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid Rally in Seattle
After months of planning, August 8 arrived with the promise of a celebration to mark two great anniversaries in our nation.
Medicare has been providing coverage for the elderly and disabled for 50 years. Social Security, which turns 80 on August 14, secures the promise of retirement for Americans who are not able to put away money in their working years.
We heard from a bevy of engaging speakers who rallied in defense of these programs which face acute crisis. Talk of fiscal cliffs, trust fund shortfalls and the constant threat of cutting benefits are stressful scenarios for beneficiaries. These programs are vital to the survival and quality of life of our nation’s low-income population. Rally speakers called to protect and expand these measures which have protected millions from living in poverty for decades.
Although the rally did not end as planned, its message was delivered and received well.
We thank all of the speakers and performers.
We heard another, unexpected message at the rally, that of the Black Lives Matter movement. Washington CAN! has been and will continue to support the rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation. Although the interruption by two Black Lives Matter protesters was unexpected, we embrace the teaching moment it has created.
Thanks to Garet Munger, Clay Showalter and Randall Smith for taking pictures
Grassroots Ambassador Mykle Ann Mora in the Huffington Post
By Mykle Ann Mora, Washington Community Action Network
Today, Americans celebrate the 80th anniversary of Social Security, the nation’s most successful anti-poverty program in its history. Social Security is crucial to many people of color, such as Native Americans like myself. Almost half of elderly, unmarried Native people rely on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income. Even though Social Security is keeping about 27 million people out of poverty, several presidential candidates want to build their platform around dismantling Social Security, often targeting Social Security Disability Insurance.
The SSDI Trust Fund is facing a funding shortfall — which would cut benefits by 20 percent — because the Republican-controlled House passed a rule change making it more difficult for Congress to shift resources to the SSDI trust fund. Many political leaders seek to undermine SSDI as a way to force more fundamental changes to the Social Security system.
Sen. Rand Paul has openly mocked SSDI recipients, saying that “Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts.” (He’s wrong by the way) Gov. Chris Christie implies that SSDI recipients just need a push to get back to work. They are perpetuating a false narrative about SSDI recipients being freeloaders. Many recipients suffer with severe impairments and illnesses while navigating a difficult system with requirements that are among the most stringent in the world. I know because I am one of these recipients.
I have epilepsy and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and in 2012, I had a stroke that left me permanently disabled and unable to work. I applied for SSDI and was initially denied. I embarked on the long, arduous process to appeal the decision.
During this time, my husband and I relied on his Social Security retirement of $291 and the little amount he picked up from odd jobs. Every month we found ourselves worried that we would not make it through the month. The constant stress exacerbating both my epilepsy and PTSD.
Two years after I applied for SSDI, my application was finally approved. I now receive $733 a month, but even with my husband’s retirement, his income from odd jobs and selling aluminum cans, we are barely able to pay our rent.
So no, I’m not living in the lap of luxury with a fake injury. My story is not unique: young workers today have a one-in-three chance of either dying or needing SSDI before reaching the Social Security Retirement age of 67. I’m barely getting by with a benefit I have earned – not an entitlement.
Social Security is often talked about by candidates on both sides of the fence as an ‘entitlement’ but the fact of the matter is that Social Security Retirement and SSDI is coverage that workers like myself have earned. Workers and employers pay 6.2% of their pay into the system with 5.3% going to the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and 0.9% going to the Disability Trust Fund. A simple reallocation of that rate – as Congress has done 11 times in recent decades – would prevent a devastating 20% benefit cut next year, but Congress so far has refused to make this change.
Another policy that would strengthen both Social Security Retirement and SSDI programs would be scrapping the cap on the payroll tax. Currently, any income above $118,500 is exempt from the Social Security payroll tax, meaning billionaires are not paying their fair share. If this cap was eliminated, Social Security would be solvent for decades to come.
As we celebrate the upcoming anniversary of Social Security, be wary of the “sky-is-falling” rhetoric about Social Security you will inevitably hear from presidential candidates, many of whom are courting donors with deep pockets and little interest in supporting Social Security.
We need all of our presidential candidates to say clearly how they stand on Social Security. At the very least both Sen. Paul and Gov. Christie have made their contempt for Social Security clear. Former Secretary Hillary Clinton has only said that she supports enhancing Social Security, but while a senator, she voted against scrapping the cap. Americans need clear Social Security policy proposals from all presidential candidates.
Remember, both Social Security Retirement and SSDI are lifelines for millions of Americans and any cuts to the already meager benefits would be devastating. SSDI benefits average $1,140 a month, just over the federal poverty level for a single person. While the program’s benefits are modest, it keeps more than four million people with disabilities out of poverty each year. For 80 percent of beneficiaries, SSDI is their main source of income.
I do agree with Gov. Christie and Sen. Paul on one point: Social Security needs reform. But, that reform should take place in the form of expansion not cuts. Like millions of other Americans, Social Security is a lifeline for my family, but without an expansion, it is an increasingly fraying one.
MykleAnn Mora is from Tacoma, WA. She is a member of Washington Community Action Network, a grassroots organization fighting for racial, social, and economic justice on the local, state, and federal level.
Social Security Disability Insurance: A lifeline for many
(from Grassroots Ambassador Joelle Craft)
I am a 37-year-old mother of three and I receive Social Security Disability Insurance. As Gina Owens wrote in her guest column “A story from the front line of the Social Security fight” [Opinion, March 2], Social Security Insurance is a lifeline for my family. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In 2012, my disease progressed dramatically, rendering me unable to work. I am saddled with extensive medical bills from Providence-Swedish while trying to provide for my children. The insurance is essential for my family’s well being.
If my benefits are cut by 20 percent because of political posturing in Congress, I do not know how I will feed my children, how I could afford to pay for my housing nor the medications I need just to get by.The prospect of losing such a large portion of my income is terrifying and stressful. Social Security is a crucial program for people of all ages. I agree with Owens: Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell need to step up and protect and expand Social Security, both for retirees and people with disabilities.
Joelle L. Craft, Seattle
The Seattle Times Op-Ed by Grassroots Ambassador Gina Owens
A story from the front line of the Social Security fight
Monday, March 2, 2015
Congress must not sacrifice the Social Security Disability benefit.
SOCIAL Security Disability Insurance is a lifeline that millions of people, including myself, have paid into in order to have financial security if we were to become disabled. I have been on disability due to a car accident that severely damaged my spine and knee.
I waited for two years to get on disability following the accident. I had to scrimp and save to hire an attorney to help me navigate the extensive and expensive administrative process individuals seeking disability must go through. A judge, after hearing medical evidence, accident reports and my own testimony, made the final determination that I qualify for disability. The idea that it is easy to get on disability is flat-out wrong.
After my daughter passed away of pulmonary hypertension in 2007, I began raising my three grandkids on my meager Disability Insurance check with a modest amount of help from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Together, these two amounts equal roughly $1,482 per month. Disability benefits are directly calculated from the taxes people have paid into Social Security while working, therefore SSDI is an earned benefit.
The Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund will exhaust its reserves in late 2016, and could lead to a roughly 20 percent reduction in benefits if Congress does not take corrective action. Unfortunately, on the first day of the session, the U.S. House passed a rule change that precludes an introduction of any bill that would shift revenues from Social Security’s retirement fund to Social Security Disability Insurance. Republicans in Congress have made their intentions to dismantle Social Security, the nation’s most successful and popular anti-poverty program, very clear.
I appreciate that U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., recently signed a letter to the U.S. Senate leadership denouncing the House’s rule change. When the Strengthening Social Security Act is reintroduced later this year, I encourage both Sens. Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., to sign on and become champions for Social Security.
I do not know what I would do if my benefits were cut by 20 percent due to a congressional rule change. I spend about $300 of my current monthly benefits on food and I already only take about half of the medications I am supposed to in order to reduce expenses. I have nothing else to cut back on. If I lost hundreds of dollars because Congress is out of touch with their constituents’ needs, then my family would suffer immensely.
Social Security Disability Insurance is a vital part of our overall retirement security system. Efforts like the new House rule to drive a wedge between Social Security Disability recipients and Social Security retirement recipients are just a mean-spirited tactic to destroy the entire Social Security system.
For far too long, Republicans in Congress have attempted to obfuscate their true desire to dismantle Social Security by manufacturing crises, such as the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund shortfall. The fact of the matter is that the projected Social Security Disability Insurance shortfall in 2016 can be fixed with small, modest changes.
If left depleted, the trust fund would only be able to pay for about 80 percent of benefits. To prevent this, Congress should temporarily reallocate the share of payroll taxes going to the fund. (Congress has passed reallocations 11 times in the past with bipartisan support.) To further strengthen Social Security, Congress also should scrap the cap on taxable income so that the wealthy pay their fair share into the system.
In a time of growing economic inequality, our country cannot afford to have the most successful anti-poverty program dismantled. I urge my fellow Washingtonians to hold their elected official accountable. We need our congressional leaders to be out in front of the fight to strengthen and expand Social Security, for retirees and for people with disabilities.
Gina Owens is a leader of Washington Community Action Network, a nonprofit group that fights for racial, social and economic justice. She is an advocate on issues including the Affordable Care Act and retirement security.
Two Washington CAN Grassroots Ambassadors receive award
Grassroots Ambassadors Joseito Lopez and Bonnie Roberts received awards at the Washington Community Action Network Annual event
Washington Community Action Network honored a Mountlake Terrace man and four other community leaders at its annual Social Justice Awards Breakfast.
Mountlake Terrace’s Joselito Lopez received an award for his work with health care reform. Here are the individuals honored:
Josélito Lopez was dropped by his health insurance company while he was recovering from open heart surgery. The fight for health care reform was a calling to Lopez and he immediately lent his voice and energy to the movement for quality, affordable health care for all. He has shared his story in local and national media, and has been instrumental in bringing together Washington CAN!’s Statewide Leadership Council – a dedicated group of Washington CAN! members who have made a commitment to guide and drive the work of our organization.
Chettie McAfee is a Seattle homeowner who struggled with inflated payments after losing her job in the economic crisis and is battling against foreclosure. She has shared her story with the Seattle City Council and helped to organize a bus tour of Seattle neighborhoods that have been hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. But Chettie’s commitment goes beyond the issues that hit home for her personally. She has been an advocate for higher education and stemming the tide of student debt, as well as standing with other community members as they’ve fought against unfair medical debt.
Betsy Andrews is another honoree. Andrews was an active member in an anti-foreclosure protest Washington D.C., the first in more than a decade that resulted in arrests. She has appeared in news stories and gone door to door to talk with underwater homeowners and build a base of support. She has fought to keep her own home too. Betsy faced off with local politicians when she attended candidate forums and asked them directly about their priorities regarding foreclosure.
From Spokane, Bonnie Roberts got her start as an activist in the 1960’s when she marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the civil rights movement. She is a grassroots advocate for retirement security, and is passionate about the need to protect and strengthen social security and pass legislation to establish a care-giver’s tax credit. She has battled cancer and won three times in her life; she is a fighter and a survivor. She has been called on to testify on many issues, and is always ready to lend her voice in the service of justice.
Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream Shop was part of a coalition of small businesses led by the Main Street Alliance Washington. Together, small business leaders organized in support of the effort to pass Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, as well as ensuring small business owners had a place at the negotiating table. Moon worked tirelessly to serve as a negotiator and spokesperson for the $15 for Seattle campaign. At a citywide victory celebration, her ice cream truck rolled up curbside with 200 scoops of donated ice cream. Molly Moon Neitzel received the Main Street Hero award.
“These five leaders demonstrate what people can accomplish when they come together with others and take collective action,” said Washington CAN! Executive Director Will Pittz. “It was our honor to recognize each of them for their leadership.”
Honorees were recognized by other local leaders and each received a plaque for their dedication to social justice.
Meeting with Murray and Cantwell offices and SS bday party in Seattle
On the 79th birthday of Social Security, grassroots leaders from the Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN!) and CASA Latina met with representatives from the offices of Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to tell their Social Security stories and discuss how and why our Social Security system needs to be expanded. Following the meeting, the leaders participated in a birthday party for Social Security that included balloons and a specially designed Social Security cake.
Four Grassroots Ambassadors from Washington CAN participated in the meeting and made a strong case for supporting existing legislation – in particular the Strengthening Social Security Act or S. 567 – that would greatly improve and expand Social Security. They also asked both offices to introduce a companion bill in the Senate to H.R. 5024, the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey.
The meeting included a good discussion around the coming battle over attacks in Congress against Disability Insurance and the need for grassroots advocacy, personal stories, and making connections to the overall health of the broader Social Security system. The other area they were interested in collaborating was around women’s economic security.
August 14 also marked the release of a new report showing the dramatic positive impact of Social Security in the state of Washington and leaders took the opportunity to present that report to both offices as well. You can download the full report here.