Op-ed: Social Security can push the elderly into poverty when a spouse dies

Max Richtman, president and chief executive of the nonprofit National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, has a lengthy opinion piece here stating that survivor benefits are no longer adequate for many 21st century widows and widowers. He describes the problem as threefold– stagnant wages, difficulty saving for retirement, and the disappearance of employer-provided pensions. Women suffer disproportionately because they earn less and live longer. The current benefit formula does not replace both incomes when a spouse dies. Richtman explains several examples and endorses Rep. John Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act, which has one provision (among many) that would ensure that widows and widowers maintain at least 75% of the combined benefits that they received when both spouses were alive. Read full piece here

Note: The Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) also supports this exact provision to raise survivor benefits to 75%, and it is included in the Association’s Social Security Guarantee Act, designed to ensure solvency of the program for the longer term. But AMAC does not support most of the other provisions in Rep. Larson’s bill, as many worsen the financial health of Social Security for short term political appeal in the next election. AMAC believes Social Security must be preserved and modernized to reflect 21st century reality, specifically vastly longer life expectancy than in 1935 and families having far fewer children than in 1935.

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