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Regulation and Compliance > Legislation

New Bill Would Guarantee Social Security Benefits in Debt Limit Standoff

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Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., introduced Wednesday the Social Security Guarantee Act, H.R.521, a bill guaranteeing “the right of individuals to receive Social Security benefits under title II of the Social Security Act in full with an accurate annual cost-of-living adjustment.”

“I have heard from many West Virginia senior citizens concerned about the payment of Social Security benefits given the current debt crisis,” Mooney said in a statement. “While Congress works on a long-term solution, we owe a legal guarantee to those who have paid into the system and been promised Social Security that their benefits will be fully paid.”

Mary Johnson, Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League, told ThinkAdvisor Thursday in an email that a version of Mooney’s bill has been introduced in previous sessions. “It’s extremely popular with Social Security recipients,” she said, “and The Senior Citizens League has supported the bill in the past based on that interest.”

Mooney’s legislation, Johnson said, is “an important first step in strengthening Social Security,” but “the problem with this bill as a free standing measure, is that there needs to be an enforcement or triggering mechanism which it does not yet have.”

An issue now with the current standoff over the debt limit, Johnson said, is that “we do need legislative language as to when such a guarantee would be applied and how it would work. There are no instructions for how Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries would receive their benefits in full and on time under a delay in lifting the debt limit. We are dependent on the debt limit agreement to be negotiated in a timely fashion.”

Social Security and Medicare are considered mandatory spending, Johnson continued,  “spending protected by law — but there is no law that prioritizes payments if there is a delay.”

Mooney’s bill “would need to be part of a more comprehensive bill to address that problem to give it real teeth,” Johnson added. “That said, Congressman Mooney should be thanked for his effort to do what he can given the political environment he’s operating in.”


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