By Dan Heyman
For West Virginia’s Social Security recipients, it is the smallest benefit increase in decades, but it could be worse. The government has announced a benefit increase for next year of 1.5 percent. National AARP President Rob Romasco said that’s the smallest amount since 1975, but he warned it would be even lower if there were changes to how the cost of living is calculated, as some in Congress have proposed.
“If the ‘chained CPI’ were in effect, that would be 1.2 percent. That’s a 20 percent decrease in your benefit increase and, over time, that compounds. So, if you retire at 65, by the time you’re 90, you’ll have experienced thousands of dollars’ fewer benefits over that time,” Romasco said.
Current projections have Social Security staying solvent for about 20 more years. Nearly a quarter of West Virginians receive Social Security benefits – one of the highest percentages in the country.
AARP has pushed for a national conversation on how to strengthen the program for the future. Romasco said since American workers are the ones who have funded Social Security, it should be a separate debate, not part of any debt talks. He said he feels the same way about Medicare. Workers and employers also help with funding that program, which has been squeezed by the high cost of medical care in the U.S.
“We spend $2.7 trillion in this country on health care costs. On a per-person basis, we are 50 percent more expensive than any other country in the world. We can do better than that,” Romasco asserted. “However, we still need to look at Medicare. AARP is supporting responsible solutions that don’t affect beneficiaries, but do make the system more efficient.”
According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, nearly one-third of the state’s seniors depend on Social Security for all of their income – and about 120,000 more would be in poverty without the program.
More information is available at www.aarp.org.