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Monday, April 13, 2009

Improving Benefits for Widowed Spouses of Low-Earning Couples

Joan Entmacher
Vice President for Family Economic Security, National Women’s Law Center

Social Security is especially important to older women, particularly widows. Most poor elderly women are widows. Social Security survivor benefits help to bridge the transition to widowhood, but the benefits are less adequate when both the husband and wife had worked at low pay. Strengthening Social Security Benefits for Widow(er) s: The 75 Percent Combined Worker Benefit Alternative proposes to increase benefits for widowed spouses of low-earning dual-earner couples. The new widowed-spouse benefit would be 75 percent of the combined retired-worker benefits of the husband and the wife, but would be capped to not exceed the benefit for one person who had earned the average wage over a career.
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Posted on April 13, 2009  |  3 comments  |  Add your comment
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Friday, April 10, 2009

Increasing Social Security Benefits at Advanced Ages

John Turner
Director, Pension Policy Center

People who live into their 80s and 90s face a growing risk of becoming poor. They rely more and more on Social Security because their other sources of income decline as they age: private pensions, if received, are eroded by inflation; income from work is very rarely an option; and financial assets may have been spent. Longevity Insurance, Strengthening Social Security at Advanced Ages proposes increasing benefits at age 82 (about the average life expectancy at age 65) for beneficiaries with low Social Security benefits and long work histories. This longevity insurance would improve financial security for individuals who live longer than the average life span.
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Posted on April 10, 2009  |  Write the first comment
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easing the Impact of Increasing the Retirement Age: Occupational Disability

Eric Klieber
Director, Retirement Actuary, Buck Consultants

Legislation in 1983 increased from 65 to 67 the age at which Social Security pays full retirement benefits. The change lowers retirement benefits at each age they are claimed. Disabled-worker benefits remain unreduced, but are not available to individuals who fail to meet a strict test – “inability to engage in any gainful activity” – yet are unable to continue in their jobs. Strengthening Social Security for Workers in Physically Demanding Occupations proposes a benefit for such individuals based on an occupational disability test – “inability to perform the essential duties of one’s current occupation.” Making such an occupational disability benefit available at age 62 could protect recipients from retired-worker benefit reductions (or part of such reductions) due to increasing the full benefit age.

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Posted on April 8, 2009  |  Write the first comment
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Increasing Social Security Benefits for Family Elder Caregivers

Shelley White-Means
Professor of Health Economics, University of Tennessee Health Science Center

Rose Rubin
Professor, Department of Economics, University of Memphis

Informal care provided by family members improves quality of life for frail elders, allows them to remain in the community instead of in nursing homes, and saves Medicaid dollars. Providing the care also imposes opportunity costs on caregivers that weaken their own retirement security. Retirement Security for Family Elder Care Givers with Labor Force Employment proposes to provide up to four years of Social Security credit to individuals who provide care to elders. The elders must be certified to need levels of care that would qualify for Medicaid coverage. The value of the credit would be the caregiver’s average wage in the three years before care giving interrupted earnings. The authors suggest the credit could be financed based on the reduction in public spending for nursing home care.

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Posted on April 6, 2009  |  Write the first comment
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Helping Homeless Individuals with Serious Mental Illness Get Disability Benefits

Yvonne Perret
Executive Director, Advocacy and Training Center

Deborah Dennis
Vice President, Policy Research Associates, Inc

Margaret Lassiter
Senior Project Associate, Policy Research Associates, Inc

Social Security and SSI disability benefits are often the main sources of stable income for people who have serious mental illness. Individuals who are homeless face particular barriers in navigating the application process. They typically lack a mailing address, transportation, and a treatment history from accepted medical sources (physicians or licensed psychologists).

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