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Trick or Treat? Social Security Benefits Increase by 1.5 Percent in 2014

October 31, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. – Social Security benefits will go up by 1.5 percent next year, the government announced Wednesday.

The smallest increase since 1975 is no treat, say beneficiaries, but organizations such as AARP say don't be tricked into thinking a new calculation method on the negotiation table in Washingoton – Chained CPI – would be better.

The proposed change to the way the cost-of-living adjustment is calculated assumes that if prices rise, people will choose a lower-cost option.

Charmaine Fuller Cooper, associate state director for advocacy for AARP North Carolina, says it doesn't add up for older Americans with fixed costs such as utility bills and medicine.

"It's basically a bargaining chip,” she says. “Social Security is an earned benefit. It is not an entitlement. People work all their lives and they contribute their money, their hard-earned dollars, to the Social Security system."

According to AARP, if Chained CPI were put into place, the total benefit cut for the average retiree would be more than $14,000 by the time he or she is 90.

Supporters of the move, including President Barack Obama, say the economic calculator is a more accurate indicator of inflation.

Many congressional Democrats are opposed to the change.

Chained CPI also would impact veterans benefits. And with more than 770,000 veterans living in North Carolina, Fuller Cooper says that would impact the men and women who served as well as the state's economy overall.

"North Carolina has a huge military population,” she points out. “Their benefits would actually be slashed twice. Both their Social Security check and also their veterans benefits would be affected."

Payments and services to veterans in North Carolina total $2.4 billion annually, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

A 62-year-old veteran receiving Social Security and veterans benefits would lose $32,00 in total benefits by his or her 90th birthday.


Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC