2004-12-09 / Seniors

Says S.S. Privatization Could Reduce Some Members’ Benefits

During the past several years, the discussion over introducing private investment accounts for some workers into the Social Security system always raised fears and charges that the innovation would lead to lower benefits for current and future beneficiaries who were part of the present system.

Last week, a top economic advisor to President George W. Bush stated that any major change in the system would mean there would have to be major cuts in guaranteed benefits for future retirees.

In a story appearing in last Friday’s editions of the New York Times, N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, stated at a conference on tax policy and Social Security in Washington: “The benefits now scheduled for future generations under current law are not sustainable, given the projected path of payroll tax revenue. They are empty promises.”

Bush has been advocating privatizing part of the Social Security program since his first successful campaign for president and is still pushing the same proposal. When asked about cuts in future benefits for those who would not opt for investment accounts, the president has said privatization would involve costs, but never indicated what they might be.

Several sources, defeated presidential candidate John Kerry among them, have said the cost the president refers to could come to between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

HIRE SOCIAL WORKERS FOR SENIOR CENTERS? The City Council Sub-Committee on Senior Centers is taking a look at past efforts to hire social workers with master’s degrees to work in senior centers. In 2001, $2.5 million was allocated for a program to create those jobs, and in 2002, $3.5 million was allocated, but none of the money was spent and a functioning program was never instituted, a committee release said.

The release added that advocates for the program seek to revise it to help nearly 20 percent of people 55 and older who experience mental disorders that are not part of normal aging. It’s estimated that only half of the older adults who acknowledge mental health problems receive treatment.

APPLY FOR HEAP: Councilmember John Liu (D–Flushing) and representatives of several community organizations assisted some 85 applicants, seniors among them, to apply for the federal Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), last weekend. HEAP provides money for low-income households to help pay heating costs and energy bills during the winter.

Organizations which pitched in to help Liu were CPC Nan Shan Senior Center, the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York (KCS) and Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE).

Liu urged anyone wishing to apply for HEAP assistance to contact his office at 646-879-3728, or KCS at (718) 886-8203, CPC at (718) 358-3030, or AAFE at (347) 438-0062.

This past Monday, Liu secured 200 flu shots for seniors and other eligible recipients in his district. The shots were given on a first-come, first-served basis free of charge by the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

Liu said he is trying to secure more flu vaccine for those who were not able to get the shots on Monday. Only people aged 65 or over are eligible for the service, Liu said. He advised that anyone coming in for a vaccination should bring in their Medicare card or some form of identification showing date of birth and their yellow immunization record card, if they have one.

STILL TIME TO GET $1,200 CREDIT: There’s still time for Medicare members in low income brackets to get a Medicare drug discount card and the $1,200 credit that goes with it. Applicants have until December 31 to apply for a drug discount card. Income must be below $12,569 if single or $16,862 if married to qualify for the discount.

One way to get the discount card and the subsidy is to enroll in the New York State EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage) program. Enrollees will receive $600 for 2005 and an equal amount for 2006.

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