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For Immediate Release

November 29, 2010

Diverse Elders Challenges Recommendations to Reduce Social Security Benefits

Recommendations by the Debt Reduction Task Force, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility Proposals Seek to Reduce Social Security Benefits

[New York, NY] In response to recently released recommendations to reduce our nation's deficit that include cuts to the Social Security program, a coalition of organizations representing millions of diverse elders is asking Congress to instead consider responsible fiscal reform that will strengthen Social Security—a vital program that protects older adults vulnerable to poverty.

Despite the fact that Social Security is outside the scope of federal deficit discussions, two national groups have called for cuts to the program. On November 17, the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force released its report, "Restoring America's Future," advocating reductions to Social Security benefits that would affect millions of older Americans. This report comes one week after the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility Chairmen Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles released their preliminary deficit reduction recommendations, which also includes measures to cut Social Security benefits.

"The Social Security program is fully funded by payroll tax revenues, and therefore has not contributed to our nation's deficit," said Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE. "It is critical that our country's leaders propose substantive solutions to reduce our national debt, but not at the expense of a crucial program like Social Security that serves as a lifeline for millions of our country's diverse elders."

Nearly 54 million people, or one in four households, receive Social Security benefits, which provide economic support to American workers and their families who have lost income due to retirement, disability or death. Social Security is a critical source of income for many older adults, especially elders of color and LGBT elders, who are more likely to face financial insecurity due to lifetimes of discrimination, racial segregation and persistent, present-day inequalities.

For example, LGBT older adults are not eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, survivor benefits or death benefits, which can contribute to higher poverty rates among LGBT older adults and significantly reduce retirement income.

These benefits will become increasingly important as the number of Americans aged 65 and older, many of them people of color and LGBT, surges over the next two decades.

Recommendations from the two reports that are ultimately harmful to current and future Social Security beneficiaries include: raising the retirement and early retirement age, reducing cost of living adjustments, changing the benefit formula so that retirees will receive smaller monthly benefits, and cutting benefits to middle-income workers.

Both proposals advocate for an increase in the payroll tax cap, which is currently at $106,800 of wages and covers only 86% of total national wages. The Diverse Elders Coalition supports the recommendation to gradually cover 90% of total wages, as this will result in a more progressive payroll tax.

The Bipartisan Policy Center is a non-profit organization established in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell. The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, established by President Obama last February, is scheduled to release its final report on December 1.

The Diverse Elders Coalition is dedicated to promoting federal policy solutions that enhance the quality of life for our country's diverse aging communities and will continue to monitor the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. For more information about the Diverse Elders Coalition and its members, please refer to:

For information on Social Security Works:

SAGE is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT older people. SAGE also offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older adults and their caregivers, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competence training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE coordinates a growing network of affiliates across the country. Learn more at

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