MARIETTA - If some members of Congress want to raise the Social Security retirement age, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown thinks they ought to be willing to wait the same amount of time to start collecting their own pensions.
In Marietta Wednesday for a forum with residents of Glenwood Retirement Community, Brown discussed his sponsorship of the Shared Retirement Sacrifice Act of 2011. The bill would tie current and future congressional representatives' access to their federal retirement benefits to the Social Security retirement age.
Prior to speaking to more than 30 Glenwood residents, Brown said the measure would produce cost-savings but was more about fairness.
"I just don't think it's right that we can retire at a younger age than they can," he said.
Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at age 62, if they have served a minimum of five years, or at age 50, if they've served at least 20 years, according to www.senate.gov. After 25 years of service, they are eligible at any age.
The amount is determined by years of service and the average of the highest three years' salaries.
There has been discussion in Washington lately about raising the Social Security retirement age to 69. Brown opposes that and said Social Security shouldn't even be a part of recent discussions about cutting the national debt since it is self-contained.
"Social Security's got nothing to do with the deficit," he said.
Glenwood resident Betty Dils, 93, suggested raising the retirement age might be a good idea, not for people getting close now, but in the future.
"How much money could you save if you raised it to 67?" she asked Brown. "Everybody's living longer. Look at us."
Brown agreed some money would be saved and noted that legislation passed in the Reagan administration is gradually raising the retirement threshold to 67 for people born after 1959. But he opposes raising it more because it would be hard on people who work in physically demanding jobs like construction or occupations where they have to remain on their feet.
"The human body can't work 'til 70" in some cases, he said.
Brown told residents he is opposed to plans to privatize Medicare, which he said would lead to higher out-of-pocket costs for seniors. He said there are other ways to reform the program, including negotiating directly with drug companies and addressing "dual-eligibles," people who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.
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