Leslie Siphers is an Advocacy Specialist for AARP Massachusetts
Every day, but especially on Veterans Day, this past Monday, we honor all veterans and thank them for their faithful service and sacrifice.
Read below to see what the first two weeks of November had in store for AARP Massachusetts in the national legislative arena.
AARP Foundation Establishes Relief Fund for Victims of Typhoon Haiyan
Last week Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and Southeast Asia. As one of the largest and strongest storms to make landfall in recorded history, Typhoon Haiyan left thousands of people dead and hundreds homeless. And it is estimated that 1.3 million people aged 50+ could be affected.
AARP Foundation has created a relief fund to help the victims of this disaster. To respond to the immediate needs of people in the region, AARP and its affiliates will match dollar-for-dollar contributions up to $500,000. This could mean up to $1,000,000 in aid.
Working with organizations such as HelpAge, CARE and others, AARP Foundation will provide relief to the victims of this disaster in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. 100 percent of all funds raised will go to organizations directly helping the victims of this typhoon.
Every dollar will make a difference. An immediate response to this urgent appeal will allow AARP Foundation to expedite support to those who need it now. Donate now to the typhoon relief efforts.
House-Senate Budget Conference Update
On Capitol Hill this Wednesday, a small group of lawmakers met to make decisions about the budget. Rep. Paul Ryan (R) and Sen. Patty Murray (D) co-chair the new congressional debt committee that has been tasked with finding a way to pay the government’s bills. The committee’s decisions could include cuts to Medicare and Social Security benefits, which would directly impact millions of Americans and make it harder for seniors to make ends meet.
Last Friday AARP sent a letter to Chairmen Ryan and Murray urging the budget conference to reject harmful cuts to Social Security and Medicare. AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond urged the committee to “reject harmful cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits for the purpose of achieving deficit reduction or as a tradeoff for scheduled sequestration cuts or other government spending.”
Currently, the average Social Security benefit is approximately $15,000 a year. For millions of seniors, that $15,000 represents almost all they have to live on. For these seniors and their families—and others who count on Social Security to help make ends meet—cuts to these benefits would be devastating. Medicare benefits are also at risk. Many in Congress want to shift more health care expenses onto Medicare beneficiaries, instead of looking to improve care and lower overall costs. This shift could make prescription drugs and care much less affordable.
LeaMond’s letter continued, stating that AARP agrees that “sequestration cuts will have a growing impact on critical discretionary programs and should be revisited, we remain steadfast in our commitment to protect the earned benefits upon which millions of Americans rely daily, and we oppose cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits to replace sequestration cuts.”
According to an article in TIME magazine by reporter Alex Rogers, about the struggle to find common ground between the parties, “... the sides are stuck: Democrats want to replace the across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester, which will chop $109 billion off the top of nearly all defense and non-defense programs in 2014, with a mix of targeted spending cuts and tax revenue generated through closing some tax deductions. Republicans believe that closing tax loopholes should take place in a broader tax reform discussion.”
Ryan and Murray indicated to TheHill.com, an online news site about Congress, that there has been “no concrete progress” as “there is a big gap between our two budgets.” The same article reports that many lawmakers are expressing concern about the slow speed of the budget conference. “We need to step up the pace. We need to accelerate things. Things are moving far too slowly,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D).
The deadline to submit a plan is December 13, less than a month away. The government could enter a second shutdown in January if a deal is not reached. “We are running out of time,” Rep. Ken Calvert (R) told The Hill.com on Wednesday. Rep. Nita Lowey (D) added that there is “concern among all of us that we won’t be able to complete our work.”
The highly influential budget conference committee has an opportunity to protect Social Security and Medicare for current and future generations.
We urge you to contact your member of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation and ask your senators and representatives to pass on this message to the budget conference committee. Let your congressmen and women know how critical Social Security and Medicare are to the health and well-being of Bay State seniors.
Here's to a happy and healthy weekend for all.