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Retirement Planning > Social Security

Former Officials Plead With Senate to Fill Social Security, Medicare Board Vacancies

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After President Donald Trump proposed a federal budget that makes big cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance along with cuts in some Medicare programs, 100 former lawmakers, cabinet secretaries, White House officials and Congressional Budget Office directors urged the Senate to act on Trump’s nominees to fill vacancies for the public members on the board of trustees for Social Security and Medicare.

There are two: one Democratic and one Republican. Trump has nominated Democrat William G. Dauster, a lawyer and economist who was a key aide to Senate leader Harry Reid and deputy director of the White House National Economic Council in the Clinton administration, and Republican James Lockhart III, who is vice chairman of WL Ross & Co. — the company founded by Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross — and a former chairman of the Federal Housing Finance Oversight Board and officer of other federal agencies.

“These positions have been vacant since 2015, violating the intent of federal law and depriving Congress and the public of key objective insights into the health of the [Social Security and Medicare] Trust Funds,” according to the letter, which was sponsored by the Bipartisan Policy Committee (Lockhart is a senior fellow at BDP and co-chair of its Commission on Retirement Security and Personal Savings) and National Academy of Social Insurance.

“It is imperative that the vacancies are filled expeditiously to ensure the proper monitoring and safeguarding of the funds that help provide a secure financial foundation for millions of Americans,” the letter states, noting that both Social Security and Medicare face financial difficulties.

The Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted in 2034, and the Medicare Hospital Insurance Fund, which funds inpatient care, in 2026 if no changes are made to the financing of benefits of the programs. Benefits will still be dispensed after the funds are depleted, but they will be reduced.

“We urge the United States Senate to act as soon as possible to provide independent and bipartisan oversight of the programs’ finances,” the letter states.

Its signatories include former Democratic and Republican congressional members; Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College; Former U.S. Treasury Secretaries Paul O’Neill and Jacob Lew; and former public trustees of the Social Security and Medicare boards.

The BPC has published its own proposal to save Social Security and Medicare including increases in the full retirement age and Social Security payroll tax, raising the income level subject to the payroll tax, taxing 100% of Social Security benefits for recipients with incomes above $250,000 and linking Social Security cost-of-living adjustments to the chained Consumer Price Index, which would effectively reduce them.

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