WASHINGTON, D.C.— Following yesterday’s release of a budget proposal that would dismantle Medicare and leave the door open for raising the retirement age on Social Security to age 69 or higher, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a news conference call today to outline new legislation he is introducing that would require Members of Congress to “walk in the same shoes” as working Americans.
Brown’s bill, the Shared Retirement Sacrifice Act of 2011, would amend the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) to directly tie the Social Security retirement age to current and future Members of Congress’ access to their federal retirement benefits. On the call, Brown released a county-by-county estimate showing the number of Ohio senior citizens that receive Social Security benefits.
“Raising the Social Security retirement age might sound fair to politicians who come to work every day in a suit and tie, but it’s a nonstarter for working Ohioans who stand on their feet all day long in a restaurant or on a factory floor,” Brown said. “Social Security is under attack by those who falsely think it adds to the federal deficit. These same politicians want to give extra tax cuts to the wealthiest two percent of Americans and tax breaks for big corporations and Big Oil while dismantling Medicare. It’s time for Washington politicians to make the same sacrifices that they’re proposing for millions of Americans.”
“That’s why I’m introducing legislation that would require Members of Congress to ‘walk in the same shoes’ as working Americans by tying their pension and retirement benefits to the Social Security retirement age. If these politicians want to ask Americans to continue working into their late 60s and early 70s before receiving critical retirement benefits, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have to make the same sacrifices as well,” Brown continued.
Currently, Members of Congress can begin collecting pensions as early as age 50, while working Americans cannot collect full Social Security benefits until age 66. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), retirement with an immediate, full pension is available to Members of Congress covered under FERS at age 62 or older with at least five years of federal service; at age 50 or older with at least 20 years of service; and at any age to Members with at least 25 years of service. For Members covered by CSRS, retirement with an immediate, full pension is available to Members age 60 or older with 10 years of service in Congress, or age 62 with five years of civilian federal service, including service in Congress.
Brown strongly opposes raising the retirement age for Social Security due to the high number of Ohioans who are engaged in physically demanding work—on a shop floor, production line, or farmland. Brown has long been active in efforts to protect Social Security from privatization, and has worked to ensure that seniors can continue to afford necessities like prescription drugs despite the lack of cost-of-living-adjustments (COLA) that Social Security recipients have faced for the past two years.
Brown, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), has introduced legislation that would require a supermajority (two-thirds) vote in Congress to make any significant changes to Social Security. Brown also strongly pushed for legislation to give a one-time, $250 check to Social Security recipients to help offset the rising cost of prescription drugs and other necessities.
As of 2009, the median retiree Social Security benefit is $14,000. Social Security lifts more than half a million Ohio seniors out of poverty.