The Debt Ceiling Plan: How Will it Affect Vulnerable Seniors?
After months of negotiations, Congress and President Obama have agreed on a package to increase the nation’s debt ceiling and cut the federal budget.
What does the plan mean for seniors who are struggling to make ends meet? As with any compromise, there’s both good news and bad news.
First, the good news: Your voice made a difference!
Thanks to advocates like you, there will be no immediate cuts to benefits for people with Medicare. Also, low-income programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will not be cut now and are exempt from potential automatic cuts later.
President Obama now has the authority to increase the debt ceiling, which means there will be no disruption in sending out Social Security and veterans’ benefits checks.
And, although the plan calls for trillions in spending cuts, the first $10 billion over the first two years must be split evenly between domestic programs and defense programs.
Now, the bad news: Vital programs are still at risk.
Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security could still be cut. As part of the plan, Congress will appoint a new, 12-member bipartisan “super committee” that will be charged with finding another $1.2 to $1.5 trillion in cuts. If Congress does not approve the committee’s plan by Dec. 23, automatic across-the-board cuts will start by Jan. 1, 2013.
Older Americans Act (OAA) and other domestic programs that millions of seniors depend on—for basic needs such as meals, transportation, employment, and housing—are at great risk for multiple and significant cuts at every point in this budget-cutting process.
What happens next?
While we’ve protected vulnerable seniors from an immediate threat, we still have lots of work to convince Congress to protect them from future cuts.
Your Senators and Representatives need to hear from you about why these programs matter. Here’s how you can help:
- Share successes and challenges—In the comment space below, tell us about a senior program in your community that makes a real difference in helping older adults remain economically secure. Share the program’s successes, but also the challenges it faces with limited funding and increased demand.
- Talk to your members of Congress during the August recess—Your lawmakers are coming home to their districts this month through Labor Day. Many will be holding town halls and community events—and they want to hear from you. Attend an event, ask questions, and talk about what you’re seeing in your community. Explain the One Away campaign and what it means to you. Use our 9 Tips for Town Hall Meetings to make the most of your visit.
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Marci Phillips is the Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at the National Council on Aging. She is responsible for federal advocacy efforts regarding legislation and appropriations affecting the Older Americans Act, economic security, older workers, and other community services for older Americans.