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AARP President W. Lee Hammond answers your questions

En español | Q: What does it mean to call Social Security and Medicare "entitlement" programs?

AARP President W. Lee Hammond

W. Lee Hammond

A: The truth is, Social Security and Medicare should be called "earned benefits," not "entitlement" programs. You don't get these benefits as a birthright. They are based on a lifetime of payroll contributions from your work (as well as, for Medicare, your ongoing premium payments). The word "entitlement" makes these benefits sound like something you didn't earn and don't deserve. Maybe that's why lawmakers who demand cuts in Social Security and Medicare use the term so often. We must never let our leaders forget the beneficial impact these programs have had on the quality of life for older Americans and for people with disabilities. They have reduced poverty, enabled better health, and played a vital role in protecting the health and economic security not only ofthe most vulnerable but also of America's middle class.

Q: Kids who need tutors, retired teachers who want to volunteer: Any AARP connections?

A: I'm a retired teacher myself, so I'm especially proud that AARP has just joined forces with Experience Corps, a national leader in engaging older adult tutors to improve literacy for students in kindergarten through third grade. Experience Corps currently serves 20,000 students in disadvantaged schools. The AARP – Experience Corps team is on the path to reaching 50,000 to 100,000 students in five years, thereby becoming the largest tutoring program in the country for young children. And it works! Students who have Experience Corps tutors achieve more than 60 percent gains in two critical literacy skills — sounding out new words and reading comprehension — compared with their peers. To learn more about participating in the program, call 1-888-687-2277, go to aarp.org/experiencecorps, or e-mail experiencecorps@aarp.org.

Q: I see that Sprint Cup driver Jeff Gordon's car is sporting an AARP logo. Please remind me why AARP money is going to NASCAR?

A: AARP and AARP Foundation (AARP's affiliated charity) teamed up with four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports about a year ago in NASCAR's first-ever cause-based sponsorship. Drive to End Hunger (DTEH) is a three-year initiative to address the problem of hunger among older Americans, which affects nearly 9 million people 50 or older. DTEH is getting the NASCAR fan base, corporations, and charitable organizations involved to help raise awareness and funds. It's also focusing on developing long-term solutions to senior hunger through collaboration, innovative grants at the community level, and research. So far this year DTEH has raised more than $12 million to combat senior hunger and donated more than 3.6 million meals through local hunger-relief organizations (855-383-4669; drivetoendhunger.org).

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