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WA Seniors Weigh In on Nation's Deficit Battle

July 12, 2011

SEATTLE - President Obama isn't the only person sounding off about the nation's budget crisis. Washingtonians over age 50 are packing into meetings being held around the state by AARP to discuss the budget/deficit situation. The organization says its members will not accept any cuts to Social Security or Medicare as part of the negotiations to raise the federal debt limit.

Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director for AARP Washington, says the attendees are asked what they would do to solve the budget crisis. She says most choose closing tax loopholes to raise more money, instead of cutting programs such as Social Security.

"I think people are just fed up with the program that they have paid into all their lives, that they're relying on for a secure retirement, being used like a political football, and by the lack of partisan agreement on where to go forward."

The two top officers of AARP Washington head to the nation's capital this week in solidarity with the group's national leaders. McDonald says some of the proposed changes are being touted as "minor," such as a new way to determine Social Security's cost-of-living increases, or the way federal Medicaid dollars are distributed to states.

She believes the impact of either would be significant.

"And I can tell you, if we have a dramatic reduction in federal funds coming to Washington state for long-term care, we won't be able to maintain our home and community-based services that people rely on to stay in their homes as they age, instead of going to nursing homes."

In Washington state, about half of all people on Social Security rely on it for at least half of their income, and it keeps about one-third of those over age 65 out of poverty.

This week's AARP meeting will be held Thursday morning in Vancouver; and next week, on Wednesday in the Tri-Cities.

The meetings, called "Build Your Best Life," are July 14, 9 a.m.-noon, Red Lion at the Quay, 100 Columbia St., Vancouver; and July 20, 9 a.m.-noon, Three Rivers Convention Center, 7016 Grandridge Blvd., Kennewick.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA