“All these other people want to cut the hell out of [Social Security]. I’m not going to cut it at all. I’m…going to save it.”
But if last Monday’s Presidential budget proposal demonstrates anything, it’s that saying something and doing something are two different things.
Embedded in the 189-page document are substantial cuts to all three of our nation’s largest social safety net programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. All of which he repeatedly reassured Americans he would leave alone–if not save–if elected.
The most talked about cuts lie in the realm of medical care, with $554 billion coming from Medicare alone. Proposed changes to prescription drug coverage in particular would edge out those just shy of qualifying for “catastrophic” drug coverage, costing those paying some of the highest drug prices as much as $1,000 more. The proposal also limits prescription drug choices and physicians’ abilities to refer patients to new providers.
But Medicare isn’t alone. Despite multiple impassioned campaign speeches saying the complete opposite, Social Security takes a hit, as well.
The proposal unequivocally removes $72 billion over 10 years from Social Security Supplemental Security and Social Security Disability, two of the three branches of Social Security.
The cuts take aim at disability beneficiaries claiming retroactive benefits, multi-recipient SSI families, and others. Social Security retirement benefits go untouched.
But although most retirees can breathe a sigh of relief that their retirement benefits and eligibility won’t be affected by this budget should it go into effect, Congress sinking its teeth into any part of the Social Security Trust Funds should be alarming to all beneficiaries.
For one thing, cuts to SSDI and SSI disproportionately affect seniors and soon-to-be seniors.
According to the Social Security Administration, in 2011, the largest group of disability beneficiaries was between 60 and 64 years of age. Though many might think of a young worker when they think of disability beneficiaries, the reality is the largest number of disability recipients are at or nearing retirement. These might be older workers with demanding or physically taxing careers who became ill or injured just before reaching their retirement year.
Similarly, the SSA notes 86% of those receiving SSI benefits are also living with a disability–many are likely to be older Americans.
With this in mind, it’s impossible to make a distinction between retirement benefits and other types of Social Security. The truth is every branch of Social Security is incredibly vital to seniors.
More importantly, seniors have paid their entire working lives for all three kinds of Social Security benefits. A cut to any part of it is taking American workers’ payroll savings and running away with their benefits. Social Security is Social Security is Social Security.
So what happened? How did we go from no cuts, no changes to billions gone with no explanation?
And should this budget proposal gain traction or pass, why should American seniors trust that their retirement benefits aren’t next on the chopping block?
…Because you said so?