Lawmakers are looking at ways to shore up Social Security for women, as millions of elderly women depend on their Social Security checks to keep them from tumbling into poverty.
At a Tuesday hearing held by the Senate Finance Committee titled “Social Security: Is a Key Foundation of Economic Security Working for Women?”, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., noted that millions more women than men rely on Social Security for nearly all of their income when they retire, “and because women live longer on average, their savings accounts get squeezed at both ends.”
Given these dire statistics, lawmakers explored whether Social Security is strong enough to keep these elderly women financially afloat. Wyden opined that “the numbers indicate that for many women, the answer is no.”
Wyden noted that retired women are nearly twice as likely as retired men to fall into poverty, with women often “walking an economic tightrope — balancing food and medical costs.”
Wyden offered the following four proposals that lawmakers should consider to help shore up women’s Social Security benefits:
Boost the Social Security benefits for women who outlive their spouses.
Create caregiver credits for people who leave their jobs to take care of children or disabled or elderly family members. With those credits, caring for a loved one would no longer come at the cost of a reduced Social Security benefit later in life.
Close the gap between disabled widows or widowers and others who receive Social Security disability benefits. It would end benefit reductions, time limits and other restrictions.
Include revising student benefit rules and removing gender bias from Social Security so that couples and their children – regardless of gender – would receive equal benefits.
Indeed, Catherine Dodd, chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, told members of the committee during her testimony that a confluence of factors lead to women having smaller Social Security payouts than men.
While women live longer than men, women have also generally worked for lower wages due to “persistent gender wage discrimination,” leading to a smaller Social Security benefit, Dodd said.