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Where We Stand

Social Security: We're Listening

Giving the people who pay into the Social Security and Medicare system a voice

En español | After watching months of haggling over the debt ceiling and the federal deficit and seeing the supercommittee's failure to reach an agreement, older Americans who rely on Social Security and Medicare for their health and economic security now know that their benefits will not be cut in a package to reduce the deficit. For now.

See also: Older Americans need health care and retirement security.

Throughout this debate, we have heard from our members and people 50-plus urging us not to let negotiators in Congress touch Social Security and Medicare benefits. They recognize that these programs need to be strengthened, but they are tired of politicians in Washington trading away the benefits they have earned and paid for throughout their working lives. They want a voice in that discussion, and they feel like they've earned it. It's time to bring this debate out from behind the closed doors of congressional caucuses and a supercommittee and give the people who pay into Medicare and Social Security a voice.

Protest against Social Security cuts - AARP CEO Barry Rand speaks to members about Social Security cuts

Judy Moses prepares to be arrested during a protest in Chicago, Illinois. — Scott Olsen/Getty Images

Together, we need to start a national discussion on strengthening health and retirement security for hard-working Americans. Let's start by recognizing the role of Social Security.

Social Security is the cornerstone of retirement security for the vast majority of Americans. Without any changes, it can pay all promised benefits until 2036 and roughly 75 percent of benefits after that. Social Security is not in crisis, but as you have told us, we need to do something — the sooner the better — to extend its life for generations to come. Social Security does not need a radical overhaul. And we can restore it to long-term solvency without making damaging benefit cuts, especially for current recipients.

A national conversation on Social Security should be guided by some basic principles. For starters, any changes to Social Security should be considered as part of a broader challenge of helping Americans prepare for a secure retirement, especially as other sources of retirement income — such as pensions, savings and home equity — crumble. If you pay into Social Security, you should receive the benefits you've earned over a lifetime of hard work. Your Social Security benefits should keep up with inflation for as long as you live. You should continue to be covered in case you become disabled and can no longer work, and your family should continue to be protected if you die.

Tell us your ideas for strengthening the program, or email me. We want to hear what you think about options already being discussed, especially what they would mean to you and your family. We want to hear your new ideas. With your ideas, input and engagement, we can take the initiative in assuring Social Security's long-term solvency and adequacy.

Let the conversation begin.

Also of interest: Latinos rely on Social Security. >>

Share your ideas on how to strengthen Social Security. Go to www.aarp.org/protectseniors or send A. Barry Rand an email at CEO@aarp.org.

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