If Social Security was a taxpaying citizen, it would be beginning its eighth year of collecting benefits.
The New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans held a 75th birthday party for the government program Monday at Waldron Towers, where residents heard from speakers that included U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter and Social Security Administration Public Affairs Specialist Steve Richardson.
The event was both celebratory -- with birthday cake and balloons -- and serious, as residents and officials discussed what some called threats to senior citizens as politicians look to find ways to amend the program.
"As we celebrate that 75th, it's also a good time to say as a society that we should have Society Security for the next 75 years," Shea-Porter said.
One idea being floated by some in Washington D.C., Shea-Porter said, is increasing the age that senior citizens can begin collecting from 67 years old to 70 or 73 years old -- a proposal Shea-Porter said she cannot support.
"If you started working at 18 and worked 50 years, you might be a little tired," Shea-Porter said. "That's no time to say 'Oh, by the way, we want you to keep working another five years.'"
If no changes are made to Society Security now, the program is expected to be able to maintain delivery of full benefits until 2037, said both Shea-Porter and Terry Lochhead, of the New Hampshire Alliance for Retired Americans.
However, Shea-Porter added she understands some changes must be made in the near future to ensure the program continues beyond that time, while at the same time emphasizing to the group of residents at Waldron Towers that their own benefits are not in jeopardy.
"Is that fair to our young people to say 'Keep paying for your parents, but we're not going to pay for you'," Shea-Porter said.
But rather than reducing the amount of benefits that are paid out, Shea-Porter said the federal government needs to reconsider the amount of revenue the program brings in, specifically from those who earn more than $100,000 annually.
Currently, taxpayers pay into Social Security on each dollar they earn up to $106,800. Shea-Porter suggested, however, that the cap be removed and taxpayers who earn more than that amount continue to pay into the program on earnings above $106,800.
Shea-Porter admitted that her proposal is not a popular one on Capitol Hill, but she added that she thinks it is the only "fair" way to alter Social Security.
"If we did that, we could fix a huge part of this problem," Shea-Porter said.
Richardson did not speak about the political aspect of Social Security, but instead focused on the scope of its benefits -- paying checks to 54 million beneficiaries nationwide, with only 33 million of those retirees.
The rest represent disabled workers or spouse or child beneficiaries following the death of a wage-earner.
Richardson also explained the formula that uses a Consumer Price Index as a cost-of-living indicator to determine annual increases in Social Security benefits.
When one resident asked of she could expect an increase to her benefits next year, Shea-Porter said she doesn't expect one, although it is too soon to know for sure.