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Tennessee

Views Vary on Safety Net Changes

Survey respondents oppose shifts for Social Security, Medicare

Bob Paredes, says people who responded to Medicare and Social Security questionnaires seemed to appreciate the fact that somebody was listening to them

Bob Paredes, 68, president of the AARP Murfreesboro chapter, says people who responded to Medicare and Social Security questionnaires "seemed to appreciate the fact that somebody was listening to them." — Joon Powell

Nearly two of three Tennesseans who weighed in on the future of Medicare and Social Security say changes are needed to ensure the programs will be available for their children and grandchildren.

Seventy percent said they support higher taxes to raise additional Medicare funds.

See also: Coloradans weigh in on the future of Social Security.

But they said changes to the programs shouldn't be made immediately, according to the results of AARP-sponsored questionnaires.

Split about beneficiaries

Respondents are divided about which changes they support. A slight majority (53 percent) said wealthier retirees should get less or nothing from Social Security.

George Osborne, 71, of Erwin, was typical of that view. He said Social Security "was put in place to keep people from being in poverty in old age. It was not meant to supplement someone's [very high] income."

But 47 percent said upper-income workers should get higher Social Security benefits because they paid more into the system.

Osborne is one of about 4,500 Tennesseans who filled out questionnaires about Social Security and about 4,600 who answered questions about Medicare. Responses were collected at AARP Tennessee events, on the website, by phone and from surveys printed in the AARP Bulletin.

The results were presented to congressional candidates, and they will inform AARP's advocacy this year as policymakers consider possible changes to Medicare and Social Security.

"People were talking about how the government took funds out of Social Security, and they want the government to pay back into that fund so Social Security wouldn't be on the brink of bankruptcy," said Bob Paredes, 68, of Murfreesboro. "They seemed to appreciate the fact that somebody was listening to them." Paredes is the AARP chapter president for Murfreesboro and helped collect responses.

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Selena Caldera discusses how Social Security helps older African Americans and Hispanics.

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