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Gillibrand pushes for improved Social Security benefits for retirees

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Manuel Balce Ceneta
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) aims to change the formula for calculating Social Security payments, which could raise the amount of money many retirees receive.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Gillibrand said the reasoning for introducing legislation was to help negate the effects that the increased cost of living has had on Social Security payments.

Under federal law, these payments already increase every year to account for inflation. But the rate at which the payments increase has so far not kept pace with the increasing cost of healthcare, Gillibrand said — an expense that affects retirees far more than younger individuals on average.

“The majority of older adults have already spent a lifetime working, saving, and contributing to Social Security,” Gillibrand said. “They deserve to retire in comfort and with funding. We can’t force Americans to choose between housing, financial security and healthcare.”

Currently, Social Security retirement benefits are calculated using the Consumer Price Index. The legislation Gillibrand is pushing would switch the formula to align more with today’s cost of living for seniors.

“Social Security is a lifeline for older adults,” Gillibrand said. “For many, it’s their main source of income.”

However, the legislation faces opposition from Republicans, who have been pushing back against federal benefit programs.

In his State of the Union address last month, President Biden accused Republicans of wanting to take away Social Security benefits. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has floated bills to require the "sunsetting" of all federal programs every five years, unless Congress votes to renew them.

Gillibrand accused Republicans of trying to go against a service that many retirees see as crucial for maintaining their financial well-being.

“Despite this, Republicans in Congress have pushed for cutting Social Security, a crucial program that helps millions of older adults out of poverty,” Gillibrand said. “Just last week, former president Donald Trump voiced what many Republicans have avoided saying publicly — that their goal is to cut Social Security, leaving millions of older Americans in a lurch.”

Sky Crabtree is a news intern at WSHU for the spring of 2024.