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78th Anniversary of Social Security: Work Continues to Protect Program

PHOTO: A majority of older Americans count on Social Security for retirement income. AARP North Carolina says without it, 40% more older North Carolinians would be in poverty. Courtesy AARP NC.
PHOTO: A majority of older Americans count on Social Security for retirement income. AARP North Carolina says without it, 40% more older North Carolinians would be in poverty. Courtesy AARP NC.
August 14, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. - Today marks the 78th anniversary of Social Security, and groups such as AARP North Carolina are using the occasion to remind people of the benefits it provides - and that the program is self-financed.

Every month, 1.2 million older North Carolinians receive an average of $1,200 in Social Security benefits. Helen Savage, associate state director for advocacy with AARP North Carolina, said seniors count on that money to pay for such basic necessities as medicine and food.

"It provides retirement security, economic security for them," she said. "Social Security is a benefit that people pay into all of their life. It's a benefit that they've earned."

Congress and the president are considering changing the way cost-of-living increases are calculated for Social Security, a plan opponents say will reduce benefits.

The proposed new calculation method, known as "chained CPI," makes the assumption that when prices rise or their incomes are reduced, people can find more inexpensive options to get what they need. Savage said that isn't a realistic approach for seniors, with necessities such as utilities or prescription drugs.

"AARP is very concerned," she said, "because some of the changes to the program that are being discussed are going to result in a benefit reduction to people."

In the past five years, she said, Social Security has become even more vital to seniors with the decline in the economy.

"The money that they had counted on being there through their pension, through their 401(k) - the returns on those programs have dwindled," she said, "because of the recession and because of changes in the stock market."

Ten percent of North Carolina seniors live in poverty, she said, adding that without Social Security, an additional 40 percent would fall into poverty.

The AARP-North Carolina report on Social Security is online at aarp.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC