Beware potential changes to Social Security

February 21, 2013

One of the worst ideas to surface in Washington lately - and that is saying something - is the proposal to cut Social Security benefits by changing the way the cost-of-living is calculated.

This plan, the so called “chained CPI,” is often portrayed as just a technical fix. In fact, it would cut our hard-earned Social Security benefits substantially, leaving us seniors with less protection against increasingly expensive health care, prescription drugs and utilities. The only thing that is “cheap” is the talk of all the politicians who promised they would not cut Social Security benefits for current recipients.

The chained CPI breaks that pledge, cutting benefits for current seniors, and does it in a way that the longer we live, the more we lose.

Social Security benefits do their part to keep Delaware’s economy going. The numbers speak for themselves: 92.5 percent of Delaware seniors, or 119,800, received Social Security in 2010. The average annual benefit was only $14,600.  What’s more, Social Security accounted for 57.4 percent of the typical older Delawareans’ own income.

When I tried AARP’s new online tool to learn how the Chained CPI would affect me, I learned that my benefits would be cut by $1,953.22 over 10 years and $7385.99 over 20 years.  Social Security is my only source of income and I’m currently below poverty level.  I can’t afford to lose a penny!  You can calculate what you will lose too at

The CPI already fails to take into account that seniors spend more on health care, which is rising much faster than overall prices.  And this proposal assumes, wrongly, that when prices go up, seniors can simply plug in a less expensive substitute.  But seniors spend much of our money on basics such as drugs, utilities, and health care, which don’t have lower cost substitutes.

A chained CPI is out-of-touch with our daily lives.  Let’s keep it out of the law.

Bobbie Hemmerich
AARP advocate

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