U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) Wednesday voiced his strong support for two new efforts in Congress aimed at protecting Social Security benefits for seniors and working families in southern West Virginia and throughout the nation.
"There are those in Washington who believe the Social Security program should be done away with," said Rahall. "They are hoping to privatize it, to defund it, to chip away at it any way they can. You better believe I am going to be fighting against them."
Rahall is a cosponsor of the Consumer Price Index for Elderly Consumers Act of 2011, a bill that would create a new inflation index to help ensure that Social Security beneficiaries receive an annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) that keeps pace with rising prices incurred by seniors. Currently, to compensate for the effects of inflation, Social Security recipients receive COLAs based on a broad inflation index for wage earners calculated by the Department of Labor. The index reflected no increase in prices in 2009 and 2010, and, as a result, Social Security beneficiaries did not receive a COLA this year or last. The new index would indicate changes over time in expenditures that are typical for individuals aged 62 years or older, such as rising health care costs.
"Anyone who thinks that seniors have not incurred higher expenses in the last two years must have their heads buried in the sand. Seniors are hurting because they have been denied their annual COLA. I want to ensure that these citizens receive fair and appropriate increases in benefits to help them keep up with the rising cost of living," Rahall said.
Rahall also joined his colleagues in petitioning the Speaker of the House to reject a $1.7 billion cut in the operating budget for the Social Security Administration. The House passed the cut last month as part of its comprehensive spending bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. This is the funding that is used to hire staff to process benefit applications for retirees, widows, disabled workers, and children, and to operate offices and staff phone lines in southern West Virginia.
"If the new majority in the House is successful in cutting the Social Security operating budget, things are going to get worse for seniors who rely on the program, slowing the processing of benefit applications and perhaps resulting in the closure of some offices. The Social Security Administration already runs a tight ship, and these proposed cuts will throw their service way off course. The budget cannot be balanced on the backs of our seniors," Rahall said.
The House is negotiating with the Senate on the House-passed budget measure and is expected to consider an amended version in the coming weeks.