“Social Security is my lifeblood,” says Tia Murphy.
“It’s not a gift. We’ve earned it,” says Alfred Mason.
“We use a lot of that money to run our house,” says Ronald Hartman.
Video messages from these three Social Security recipients and AARP volunteers kicked off a Sept. 21 AARP-sponsored bipartisan discussion about the program’s future. These Connecticut, Louisiana and Washington, D.C., residents made clear how a reduction of 20 percent or more in their monthly payments would affect their daily lives. That’s what could be coming in about a decade, unless Congress acts to stabilize the program’s finances.
According to the latest estimate from Social Security’s trustees, the trust funds that pay out retirement, survivor and disability benefits will exhaust their cash reserves by 2034. Absent federal action by then, monthly payments would drop to 77 percent of scheduled benefits.
“We certainly don’t want that to happen,” AARP Chief Executive Officer Jo Ann Jenkins said in opening remarks. “It is critical for Congress and the president to work together to protect the benefits of those who rely on this crucial lifeline.”
The AARP event at the organization’s Washington headquarters was livestreamed to watch parties nationwide. The session featured congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle who have ideas and plans to shore up Social Security: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.).
The stakes, as Jenkins laid them out, are high. More than 66 million Americans receive Social Security payments, she noted, and 40 percent of U.S. households age 65 and over rely on the program as their most significant source of income.
“Failure is not an option,” Jenkins said. “Americans work hard to earn their Social Security, and it’s only fair for them to get the money they deserve.” Any solution to achieve that, she added, “must win the support of elected officials in both parties.”