Braley Calls on Administration to Oppose Cuts to Social Security

Feb 19, 2014

Congressman: ‘slashing benefits isn’t fair to those that have spent decades paying into the system’

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today sent a letter to President Barack Obama calling on him to exclude a budget provision that could recalculate cost of living adjustments for Social Security that would result in cuts to seniors.

“Social Security has drastically improved the lives of seniors and kept tens of millions out of poverty—slashing benefits isn’t fair to those that have spent decades paying into the system,” Braley said. “Reducing our debt is and should remain a top priority, but anyone that’s looked at the federal budget knows there are better places to cut than Social Security benefits to Iowa’s seniors.”

Previous administration budgets have proposed moving to a system that uses the “Chained CPI” formula to make cost of living adjustments for Social Security—a formula which experts agree would significantly reduce those adjustments and result in cuts to Social Security benefits for current and future retirees.

The letter, which included the support of many members of Congress as well as groups such as the Military Officers Association of America, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, describes how a moved to Chained CPI could results in thousands of dollars in lifetime cuts to Social Security beneficiaries.

“Switching to Chained CPI would be devastating for seniors, veterans, federal retirees, (and) disabled individuals,” wrote Braley.

Braley has consistently been a strong supporter of preserving and strengthening Social Security benefits. In April of 2013 Braley became a co-sponsor of House Continuing Resolution 34 which maintains that Chained CPI should not be used to calculate cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security benefits.

A copy of the letter to President Obama is available below:

February 19, 2014


President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

Washington, DC 20500


Dear Mr. President:

We write to urge you to rule out using the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) to calculate cost-of-living and inflation adjustments for federal programs in your Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.

Switching to a chained CPI would be devastating for seniors, veterans, federal retirees, disabled individuals and others.  Under legislation enacted in 1983, Social Security benefits for seniors retiring in the coming years are already scheduled to be reduced.  Today, the average worker earning $43,000 annually who retires at age 65 will find that Social Security replaces 41 percent of their previous earnings.  Soon, this will decline to just 36 percent of previous earnings, as the full retirement age climbs from 66 to 67 over the 2017-2022 period. 

Chained CPI would further reduce those earned benefits over time because it fails to take into account inflation for older Americans.  While the Affordable Care Act has had a positive effect in reducing Medicare spending growth, increased medical costs continue to take a larger and larger share of Social Security earned benefits.  As you know, many seniors already face tight personal budgets, challenges that the recession has only exacerbated.  For many seniors living on a fixed income, any reduction in benefits would have a serious impact on their ability to afford basic necessities. 

While there have been protections proposed to mitigate the impact of chained CPI on the very elderly and certain vulnerable populations, such as the blind, disabled and seniors with limited income, many with limited, modest incomes would still be impacted.  For instance, even with the benefit enhancements that have been proposed, a low-wage retiree receiving $9,600 per year would see their benefits reduced by an average of 1.5 percent between ages 62 and 81, a loss of more than $140 per year.  

Your Budget for Fiscal Year 2014 proposed a comprehensive $1.8 trillion deficit reduction package that sought to replace sequestration and reflected the compromise you offered to House Speaker John Boehner in December 2012.  That plan incorporated a Republican proposal to use chained CPI to reduce cost-of-living increases for Social Security recipients, as well as military veterans, people with disabilities, and beneficiaries of other federal programs.  Since then, however, the Republican majority has consistently refused to discuss a balanced approach that would include increased revenues and the closing of tax loopholes. 

We recognize that additional measures are required to address our nation’s long-term budget challenges, and we appreciate the difficult choices you are wrestling with as you prepare a fiscal blueprint to promote economic growth. But, we respectfully ask that you not place the burden of additional deficit reduction on the backs of seniors, veterans, federal retirees, disabled individuals and others by including chained CPI in your Budget for Fiscal Year 2015.