By Brett Dunlap
In order to move the country forward, elected officials must find common ground and work together, a U.S. senator told a group of residents in Parkersburg Tuesday.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., attended a roundtable discussion at the Wood County Senior Citizens Association with more than 50 people in attendance to discuss issues facing the country and seniors.
The discussion covered health care, tax fairness, the economy, immigration laws, the solvency of Social Security, issues facing caregivers for seniors, how prescriptions are filled, how seniors can navigate the government bureaucracy to get services and other issues.
"It has been very informative, listening to people's real problems, real conditions and real concerns," Manchin said. "There is something you learn at every meeting."
Medicare and Social Security were concerns for many area seniors at the meeting.
Marie Cutright of Lubeck talked about how Social Security is overextended and cannot maintain its current pace to meet the needs of future generations.
"It can't go on forever," she said. "Our kids and grandkids and grand, grand grandkids cannot afford this."
Many of the people present agreed with Manchin when he said changes would have to be made to Social Security for it to continue.
Manchin asked everyone if they knew someone who was getting some kind of government benefits illegally; a majority of the people present raised their hands.
"Everywhere I go that is the case," he said. "I want people to know that we are going to fight for the core values of these programs, what has been paid into it and what has been promised."
People said they are afraid any proposed cuts will penalize them while those who abuse the system continue to benefit.
Manchin said something needs to be done to cut down on fraud and run programs more efficiently so these programs can fulfill their mandates to the people they serve.
"We are going to fix it and run it better," he said. "I know enough of my colleagues and friends, Republicans and Democrats, who are as committed as I am.
"Unfortunately, we are in a tough election cycle. When we get through this election cycle, I am hoping cooler heads will prevail and we can sit down and put in some fixes that need to be done and get this country back on track."
Many nationwide have complained about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as 'Obamacare,' with politicians vowing to repeal it if elected.
Manchin said many seniors are getting preventative care under the program.
"There is a lot of good to the program," he said. "There are a lot of things that need to be changed (in taxes, mandates and offsets).
"I am for repairing it. (If people vote to repeal it,) what are you going to replace it with? No one has ever come to the table with another system to replace it. They want to do away with it. I want to repair it. Republicans and Democrats agree on a lot of what is in there. Let's keep the things we agree on and get rid of the stuff we don't agree with."