What You Need to Know
- Sens. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced legislation to expand eligibility for Social Security survivor benefits.
- Expanding benefits would boost college enrollment among recipients, who tend to have low incomes, the senators say.
- Several Social Security advocates support the bill.
Expanding Social Security survivor benefits to age 26 for qualifying students is the goal of new legislation introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on Tuesday.
The expansion would aid students who are survivors, children of disabled workers and eligible grandchildren of retired workers, according to the senators. The current age cutoff for these benefits is 18, or 19 for full-time students in secondary school.
Beneficiaries of this legislation, the Helping Students Successfully Overcome Adversity and Rise (SOAR) with Social Security Act, said Van Hollen, face “unique and challenging hardships — like loss of a parent. For these young people, the financial burdens are real — often requiring them to work in order to compensate for their limited family income — and stand in the way of their continued education.”
The hope is that this legislation would remove these barriers and “provide greater opportunity and access to college for over one million of these young Americans,” he said.
The program currently provides benefits to more than 3 million children ages 19 and younger. From 1965 to 1982, Social Security benefits were allowed for post-secondary students up to age 22. However, the student benefit was eliminated during the Reagan administration. According to the senators, studies have shown that “elimination of the program reduced the probability of a student beneficiary attending college by one-third.”