Improving Social Security to Enhance Economic Security for Vulnerable Populations

by Amanda Sands | October 30, 2013 6:55 pm

With 82 percent of Americans in agreement that we must increase Social Security benefits even if it means raising taxes, why should we wait any longer to improve our Social Security system?

Community Change in conjunction with the Older Women’s Economic Security Taskforce, a project of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, released a report today that outlines five nuanced proposals to improve Social Security. The policy changes would most significantly benefit women, low-income people, and same-sex couples, three groups that are very likely to experience economic insecurity as they age.

First, the report suggests introducing “caregiver credits,” which would ensure that workers don’t lose retirement security benefits while they take an extended period of time off to care for a loved one. Under the second proposal, students pursuing post-secondary degrees whose parents are deceased, disabled, or retired would be eligible for Social Security benefits through age 24 in order to complete school.

The third policy change would involve raising Social Security benefits across the board for seniors to more accurately reflect the cost of living. This change would also include implementing a Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E) to determine annual cost-of-living and making adjustments in benefits accordingly. Fourth, the paper suggests providing a guaranteed minimum benefit at 125 percent of the poverty line to workers earning the lowest wages with a “significant work and caregiving history.”

Finally, the report proposes ensuring that same-sex couples (and domestic partners in states that don’t allow gay marriage) are eligible for the same Social Security family benefits as married heterosexual couples.

These reforms would be instrumental in combatting economic insecurity among the most vulnerable groups. Four of the above policy suggestions have already been proposed in some capacity in the 112th and 113th Congresses, and there is no reason these reforms should be postponed any longer.

Without changes to Social Security, the most vulnerable among us are at risk of becoming economically insecure at best—and victims of poverty at worst. Let’s not allow anyone else to fall by the wayside as a result of the shortcomings of our Social Security system. Let’s urge our members of Congress to pass these reforms next year to protect everyone’s right to basic economic security.

Click here to read the full report.

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