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Older Workers Win at General Assembly

The Virginia General Assembly showed its respect for older job seekers by passing both Senate Bill 1113 and House Bill 2357, eliminating the Social Security offset of unemployment benefits. The General Assembly adjourned Feb. 27.

The issue affects more than 34,000 older workers whose unemployment benefits have been reduced because they draw Social Security.

“We are pleased that the Virginia General Assembly took this important step to be fair to older workers,” said AARP Virginia State Director Bill Kallio.

For information on AARP’s other legislative priorities during the session, visit the AARP VA online community.

Senate Bill 1113 was sponsored by Sen. John C. Watkins of Midlothian. House Bill 2357 was sponsored by Del. Jennifer McClellan of Richmond and Del. James Shuler of Blacksburg. Delegates Roslyn Tyler of Jarratt, Jeion Ward of Hampton and R. Lee Ware of Powhatan also signed on to the House bill after it was introduced.

Currently, workers who collect Social Security but are laid off from their jobs don’t collect full unemployment benefits while they look for new employment. Half of the amount of their Social Security benefit is deducted from their unemployment insurance check. AARP Virginia heard from many members in January 2010 when the offset took effect due a little-known portion of the law that permits the offset when the Unemployment Compensation trust fund dips below 50%.

Many AARP Virginia advocates worked hard to encourage lawmakers to repeal the offset. Volunteers were present at the General Assembly nearly every day of the week. Individuals personally affected by the law testified during committee meetings. On our lobby day, 120 advocates gathered at the Capitol to send a unified message. In addition, 2,000 advocates reached legislators by phone or e-mail urging them to be fair to older workers.

“Our goal of repealing the social security offset could not have been accomplished without the passion and energy of our members,” said AARP Virginia State President Warren Stewart.

The law change is expected to take effect on July 1.