W. Mahoney: The reality of Social Security

I have worked for over 60 years and contributed to the Social Security programs for as long as I can remember and continue to pay into Medicare Part B.

As originally promoted by our government as a retirement insurance program, our government has used the income like a piggy bank for many socialistic and General Fund programs. Now Congress is discussing elimination of annual payments to retirees with some unknown exceptions.

I am a typical retired (2005) person depending on SS income. Here are some historic facts:

After deductions the monthly amount due is supposed to be adjusted to reflect changes in the Cost of Living (COL) index. From 2005 to 2008 — the Bush years —  the monthly amount was increased at a rate of 2.3 percent per year. Then, from 2009 to 2013 — the Obama years — the monthly amount was increased at a rate of .508 percent per year (less than 1 percent per year). In the years 2010 and 2011 the change was zero percent per year.

Now our government is talking about zero percent per year, no adjustment, ignoring the fact that we all experience actual cost of living increases.

All this time politicians promise to help and protect the elderly, and organizations like the AARP are too busy selling insurance policies to know what is happening.

How many people collecting SS actually paid into the program? Our socialistic government uses the SS funds in inappropriate ways to gain favor with minority and other voting groups.

Enough is enough.

William Mahoney Bethel

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FRANK EARLEY's picture

Sometimes I enjoy the comments as much as the letters....

Every time, the subject of Social Security comes up, it amazes me that so many people have these opinions that aren't entirely true. The whole system is so confusing for anyone involved with SS, and Medicare, it's no wonder, people who just read about it have confused opinions.
First of all, I agree with Mr. Mahoney, he is correct in that cost of living increases have shrunk over time. You have to remember, politicians don't care. They will never need to rely on SS and Medicare to get by. With their pensions and lifetime Health coverage, paid for by us, They'll be quite comfortable for many years.
I also get a kick out of people who feel no one should be allowed to depend on SS and Medicare, like it's some sort of embarrassment to retire after a long career. We should only use it as a supplement to our own savings and retirement funds. Like everyone who lives and works in the great state of Maine can acquire a vast retirement account and hefty savings account. It doesn't always work out that way, "life", gets into the middle of everything. Sometimes lifetimes include putting three kids thru college, paying household bills and just trying to get by on the typical Maine income. Then there's people like me, I blew most of my savings on a stupid thing called an education. I say that because, to hear some people put it, I should have known of my impending illness. I didn't know about it, but I unknowingly planned for it. I carried private long term disability insurance. Not a lot of forty year olds have that. When I became unable to work anymore, I lived on that for six years before they switched me onto Social Security and Medicare. I must have seen that coming, and planned appropriately. So here I am, at 54 years of age, "dependent' on SS, for the rest of my life. Not really, I did plan for the future. That however doesn't make me somehow more eligible, than someone who does need SS, to get by. Everyone on Social Security, has paid for it, and earned the privilege. That brings me to my last point.
To say that SS, has become some kind of refuge for drunks, shirkers, and drug addicts is not entirely accurate. To receive SS you need to qualify, simple as that. In my case numerous medical visits to verify my medical disability were required to even become considered. With the help of my private insurance company they helped me transition from private coverage to SS, and Medicare which I was qualified for, and paid into for over thirty years. I had absolutely no say in any part of it.
There is a program available for folks who might not otherwise qualify for Social Security, and Medicare. Due to many circumstances, not the least of which is lack of a work history, there is "Supplemental Social Security", along with Medicaid, or MaineCare. Those are totally different programs. I'm not sure how you qualify or where the money actually comes from, state or federal. I have noticed however, that many people blend the two programs together and find fault with everyone receiving benefits.
As I've stated many times in the past. To all those people who feel that receiving SS benefits, or SSDI benefits or even SSI benefits are receiving unnecessary entitlements, keep one thing in mind. All of you are just one "germ" or a finite number of years away from needing those same benefits. It's not anything you can plan ahead for. Its just part of Life.......

 's picture

Frank, we have all heard your tale of woe ...

... because you post it at least once a month. The author mentioned only SS; you're the one who dragged in SSDI, SSI, XYZ, ... The author said he is a typical retired person, depending on SS. There's no cause to read into that anything else just to justify your own atypical situation.

The typical worker doesn't lift a finger during his entire career to prepare for even an uneventful retirement, let alone any unforeseen items. He doesn't lift a finger because he has been told for decades that his government will take care of him. But he gets that annual SS report in the mail and, if he reads it before tossing it in the round file, he can easily see what his estimated monthly benefit will be. It's his responsibility to decide if he can live on it. It's also his responsibility to notice the little warning on page 2: Congress has changed the rules many times in the past and can change them again at any time.

No, Frank, everyone on SS has not paid for it. The typical retiree receives far more in benefits over retirement than he paid in in taxes during his working years. He qualifies for a certain level of benefit based on how long he worked and paid those taxes, and on his income level during those working years.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Your reply is exactly why I keep telling my story of "woe"

First of all, I post it way more than just once a month. It's not just my story of woe, it's a lot of people's story, it's just that when ever I tell my story, someone gets upset. It seems some people can't differentiate between SS, SSDI, SSI and so on. Not to mention Medicare and Medicaid. Further more, if you don't contribute a certain number of years of eligible income you don't get Social Security. You may get Supplemental Social Security, but no one could live on that alone. I'm going to continue to tell my story of woe, maybe just one person reading my story, won't be so upset at the fact that someone may be getting something for nothing, and actually realize that by starting to plan early, you stand a far better chance of surviving a catastrophic illness early in life. I was a typical worker, before I learned the hard way, you need to plan ahead. I was lucky, I had a dress rehearsal, I just lost my house, job, and just about everything, I did however regain my health. All that before I was thirty two. It would have been a lot different the second time around. Maybe I can compel some people to stop hating entitlement programs, and maybe realize that what you do early in life will greatly affect your later years. With out that knowledge I shudder to think of where i"d be now.
Sorry if you don't like my little story of woe, if you would like, I'll start telling my first disaster in life, but I warn you, that one will really piss you off......

 's picture

You listen, Frank, ...

... but you hear only what you want to hear. Your attitude is precisely why no improvements to entitlement programs ever get past first base. If we change anything, somebody somewhere might be hurt. So all that happens is we throw more money and hope some gets to those who need it instead of those who want it.

FRANK EARLEY's picture

Why fix something thats not broke?????

I'm getting along just fine. If any repairs to the system are needed, they should be made, in a responsible and un-intrusive manner. I shudder to think of the "Right" or extreme Right, trying to fix anything. They have shown what their made of, and quite frankly, it's pretty disgusting. This is my life we're talking about here, I don't take kindly to a bunch of Yahoo's coming in and trying to mess with my future. Evidently, a majority of the population feels the same way. There's a reason for that...........

Amedeo Lauria's picture

Now get ready for the same...

as we impliment the "Affordable Health Care Act."

Always interesting how they come up with names for legislation that do anything but actually describe the program!

Get prepared for news stories, from any responsible media that remains, about the addded costs to Americans. No problem, I think I have one or two notches left in my belt, but some aren't so lucky.

 's picture

Typical is right.

W. Mahoney: I am a typical retired (2005) person depending on SS income.

SS was supposed to supplement one's own retirement savings and investments. What is now typical is the word "depending", indicating how successful politicians have been at making us believe SS is the national retirement system.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

And the politicians have been

And the politicians have been equally successful in allowing Social Security to become a welfare fund (SSI Disability) for alcoholics, drug addicts, shirkers who can't work but can often be seen chopping wood or replacing the shingles on a roof, and just about anyone else who can convince a government case worker that they deserve a government check for life.

Betty Davies's picture

Not accurate...

Disabled people who receive SSI have not turned Social Security (for the elderly) into "a welfare fund." Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security payroll taxes).

I agree that some people receiving SSI are gaming the system, not truly disabled. There are ways to sort out the fakers, but that would require putting in some money up front--hiring workers to go over these cases more carefully, and paying the people who evaluate applicants (usually physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists) to do specialized testing that identifies fakers. People seem a lot more focused on slashing the social safety net than on putting extra time and money into operating it better.

I disagree that when you see someone who's receiving SSI doing manual work such as chopping wood, it means they';re not disabled. I have an adult daughter who was born with a disabling genetic disorder. You'd never know to look at her, and if you saw her at work (transferring dementia patients from bed to toilet, for example) you'd probably figure that because she's physically fairly strong she's surely not impaired. You'd be mistaken. Whenever she gets ambitious and tries to work more than about 25 hours a week, she winds up back in the hospital.

Republican politicians are planning to make people in her generation work until they're 69, 70, maybe even older. Her body will wear out long before that. Collecting Social Security (not SSI) before that age will reduce her monthly benefit--which will already be quite small because she works part-time for minimum wage. She will have a very hard time keeping food on the table and a roof over her head when she's in her 60s, and I won't be around to help. Yet the politicians will sneer that Social Security wasn't meant to be one's ONLY source of retirement income, and she should have been socking away tens of thousands of dollars in stocks and bonds. Ha!

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

...."(SSI) is a Federal

...."(SSI) is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security payroll taxes)."
And where do you suppose the Social Security payroll taxes end up? If you said in the same bag as the general tax revenues you would be correct.
Social Security, from its inception, was never intended to be one's only source of retirement income, but rather supplemental. Unfortunately, for many faced with circumstances beyond their control, Social Security,k in and of itself, just won't be enough to get them through their "golden" years. A sad situation, but it's the one we're faced with and no politician has the testicular fortitude to change the system, although they have no problem stealing from it.

Jim Cyr's picture

Not accurate II,

People need to be focused on "preventing the horse from getting out of the barn", surely, not throwing extra "bad money" at the system to operating it better. It needs to be accountable from the start, not after the horse gets out. Just like your household budget, spend wisely and avoid the waste at all cost. We know of a couple , she is 23 and he is 28 and are both on disability as "learning disabilities". And yet are able to go out and earn "Federal Frauds' under the table. Should this have been reviewed before being awarded this compensation ? If having a " learning disability " is a qualification for receiving life time S.S., we certainly have a huge " spending " problem.

Betty Davies's picture

You've just made my point...

What I said was that these cases should be reviewed in greater depth before SSI is awarded, including the applicants being given more tests to make sure they're not faking disability. This would involve providing additional funds so the process will operate better from the start.

In regard to learning disabilities, there are many different kinds, right down to borderline intellectual functioning which is marginally higher than MR. In combination with related difficulties (e.g., perhaps fetal alcohol syndrome which damages the ability to reason and other executive functions) that degree of learning disability could indeed be disabling.

A severe learning disability in reading--dyslexia--would make it very difficult to sustain any sort of employment that required reading, even in a person who was relatively intelligent. There are gradations, such that a relatively mild case of Reading Disorder wouldn't necessarily be occupationally disabling; yet in combination with other afflictions, it could be.

I do understand that the couple you refer to might be faking. I'm trying to point out that these situations can be a whole more complex than they appear to someone who hasn't reviewed their histories and test scores.


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