Sunday, December 17, 2017
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Issue Briefs
Parents Depend on Social Security Benefits for Their Children

Social Security is among the nation’s largest programs serving children.  About 4.4 million American children receive approximately $2.billion in Social Security benefits each month because at least one of their parents is disabled, retired or deceased. Although Social Security is well known as an essential source of retirement security for older Americans, there is less awareness of the critical income protection it has provided for survivors since 1939, and for the disabled since 1956. Social Security is a safety net for millions of working parents who may have no other resources to fall back on when tragedy strikes and they are no longer able to earn an income to support their family. From clothing and feeding their children to buying needed supplies, paying healthcare costs and saving for college, parents and grandparents understand that Social Security benefits are a stabilizing source of income for children ages birth to eighteen.

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Women and the Retirement Savings Gap

Americans today are increasingly concerned that they will not have saved enough money to provide for a reasonable standard of living in retirement. This uncertainty is the result of a number of different  factors. Few companies today offer their workers traditional pensions, which leaves most Americans relying on Social Security along with any personal savings they manage to accumulate for their retirement. Stagnant wage growth over the past decade, combined with the lingering effects of the recession, have made it very difficult for most American workers to put aside savings for retirement, and instead have led many to dip into what retirement savings they have accumulated to cover daily expenses. 

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Medicare and Women

Medicare, combined with Social Security, has improved the economic status of older Americans and younger people with disabilities.  Prior to Medicare, one-half of older Americans were uninsured and one-third were living in poverty.  Today, with access to health care coverage, the poverty rate for  seniors is nine percent.

Although the economic security of seniors has improved, it remains fragile.  Forty percent of seniors depend on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.  In 2013, over half of Medicare beneficiaries had annual incomes of less than $23,500, less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. More older women than older men are living at or near the federal poverty level.  The average income for older women is less than for men ($21,800 compared to $25,850 in 2013) because women have low average Social Security and retirement benefits. This is due to lower-paying or part-time jobs and time away from the workforce for family caregiving. 

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A Legislative Update

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has a long history of defending the Social Security program from attempts to cut benefits and erode its value as a universal program that enjoys the support of millions of Americans.  At the same time, we have fought to improve the program by strengthening and modernizing it for future generations.  In May 2012, the National Committee released “Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling:  A Proposal to Modernize Women’s Benefits.”  The report stressed the importance of Social Security to women, how the role of women in society has evolved since the inception of Social Security in the 1930’s, and offered proposals improving the program to meet the needs of today’s women.

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Medicaid and Women

Over 67 million low-income people in the U.S. rely on Medicaid for their health coverage.i Medicaid provides health care services to multiple populations, including low-income seniors, people with disabilities, children and some adults. It also provides assistance to low-income Medicare beneficiaries, long-term services and supports (LTSS) to seniors and people with disabilities, and support to safety-net hospitals and health centers. Medicaid is the primary payer for LTSS (not Medicare), and covers 61 percent of LTSS spending.

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Women and Social Security
While Social Security is a program that is vitally important to all Americans, it is especially important to the financial security of women. There are a number of reasons why this is so. First of all, women live longer than men. On average, women today who reach age 65 outlive men by two years. These additional years of longevity increase the risk that women may outlive their savings or that their pensions may lose their purchasing power.

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“I am fifty years old and the 27 years I have been working have been a combination of full-time and part-time employment, with several years of no employment so that I could stay home with my baby. I am back to work full-time now but want to know how all of this will affect my Social Security benefit when I am retired?”

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