October 31, 2014

Guest Column: Social Security and Medicare – Vermonters deserve their say

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By Jim Leddy

Earlier this spring, the Social Security and Medicare trustees issued their annual evaluation of the programs. According to the trustees, Social Security can pay full benefits until 2033, and roughly three-quarters of promised benefits beyond that time. Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund faces a shorter timeframe for action.

That’s obviously not good enough. It’s past time for our elected national leaders to listen to their constituents about the undeniable importance of Medicare and Social Security. It’s not some abstract numbers game—the reality is that these programs are vital to the well being of thousands of Vermonters. In Vermont, one in four Social Security recipients rely on these benefits for 90 percent of their income. For 56 percent, it makes up more than half their income. As for Medicare, about 113,000 Vermonters count on it to help them afford health care, including guaranteed coverage for doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs. These are real people, not statistics.

The trustees’ reports are a call to action. The longer Washington waits to address the challenges ahead for Medicare and Social Security, the more difficult it will become for workers trying to plan their futures. Now is the time for an open, national conversation focused on strengthening health and retirement security, so today’s seniors and future generations receive the benefits they have earned. That’s why AARP has launched You’ve Earned a Say—to help Americans make their voices heard about the future of Medicare and Social Security and to take the debate out from behind closed doors in Washington. Over the next year, AARP is hosting local meetings, debates, bus tours and informational forums across the nation. In Vermont, we are traveling to senior centers, retirement communities, churches and even colleges in an effort to listen to Vermonters in person. AARP members will also hear from us by phone, by mail and online as part of our plan to help Americans have their voices heard about programs that are critical to their personal and financial health.

Why should residents of The Green Mountain State care about joining this conversation? Because their health and retirement security are both at stake. And while Washington may not be listening yet, we are. AARP wants to hear what Vermonters are thinking and we want to ensure that your voices are heard in the upcoming election and throughout the halls of Congress. The next President and Congress are likely to make decisions about the future of Social Security and Medicare that could affect Vermont seniors today and generations to come. Whatever is proposed, our elected officials need to hear how it would impact you and your family. They need to know that the future of Medicare and Social Security isn’t just a debate about budget numbers—it’s about decisions that will alter people’s lives.

To make your voice heard about Social Security and Medicare, visit www.earnedasay.org.

Jim Leddy is the AARP Vermont state president.

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