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During my time in Washington, I have been a strong supporter of Social Security and Medicare because they represent a promise made by our country to ensure basic security and dignity for our seniors. It says something important about our country when we commit to protecting those who have spent a lifetime working and making our country great.
Last week, the Social Security Administration announced that there would be no automatic Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) for 2011, the second year in row that retirees, veterans, and people with disabilities will see no boost in their monthly benefits. I strongly opposed this denial of a COLA increase. This outrage is exactly why I have been fighting hard to change the formula used to calculate the inflation felt by our seniors.
The COLA is automatically calculated based on a formula tied to the Consumer Price Index. I reject this formula that clearly fails to reflect the reality of costs seniors are facing in this brutal economy, particularly with our region’s skyrocketing electricity costs and the increasing necessity of phone and internet access. I have been building momentum in Congress to replace this outdated formula with one that more accurately reflects the modern expenses of seniors.
But I have never been satisfied to merely identify a problem, I want to find solutions. That is why I have signed on as a cosponsor of the Seniors Protection Act of 2010, a bill that will provide seniors, veterans, and disabled Americans who are beneficiaries of Social Security with a one-time economic recovery payment of $250. This will make it just a little bit easier for the 150,000 citizens of the 5th district who count on Social Security to make ends meet. Once the Social Security Administration made the official announcement that there would be no COLA, leadership in Congress committed to a vote on this important bill when we return in November, meaning this relief could reach seniors before the end of this year.
It is important to me that this fix also protects veterans. I sponsored a bill, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, which would have ensured that any COLA given to Social Security beneficiaries also apply to our veterans’ benefits. But in the absence of the Social Security COLA, we must find other ways to ensure those who served us in uniform are ensured some economic relief in these tough times.
Medical expenses continue to be a serious concern for many seniors, which is why a solvent and strong Medicare system is more important than ever. When I came into office, Medicare was scheduled to start going bankrupt in just six years and doctors were scheduled for a 21% pay cut. But because of reforms we implemented, the solvency of Medicare has been extended to the year 2029 and the scheduled pay cut has been eliminated. We accomplished this by going after those who were cheating and abusing the system, not by cutting any benefits for current or future participants.
Finally, we are getting seniors long overdue relief from the ever-rising costs of prescription drugs. As part of the health care reform law, over 25,000 seniors who hit the prescription coverage “donut hole” have automatically received a $250 check to help with their out of pocket expenses. Beginning next year, seniors who fall into the coverage gap will get a 50% discount on name-brand prescription drugs and a 75% discount on generics. These measures part of the health care reform law’s plan to completely eliminate the “doughnut hole” by 2020. This plan also eliminates the costly out of pocket expenses for seniors of co-pays for wellness checkups so they can get checked out when they feel ill instead of worrying about finding the money for a co-pay.
Please feel free to contact me to share your concerns and ideas. You may call 1-888-4-TOM4US (1-888-486-6487); write to 1520 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515; or visit www.perriello.house.gov to sign up for my weekly e-newsletter.