A senior citizen living on $624 a month in Social Security benefits made a heartbreaking case against President Barack Obama's plan to cut Social Security cost of living increases when she tearfully told Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) at a recent town hall meeting that "there is no way for me to eat less."
The White House has been mulling a plan to adopt a formula known as chained CPI (Consumer Price Index) which calculates social security cost-of-living increases in a less generous manner. It holds that seniors will change their consumption habits as the price of certain items increase.
Many economists argue that the chained CPI method is a more accurate measure of inflation but, Washington-based advocacy group, Social Security Works, which is against the reduction of benefits, explained that if chained CPI was the regime under which seniors were receiving benefits, an 88-year-old today who started getting benefits at age 62 would be collecting 7.32 percent less in benefits in 2013.
But in a room full of retirees at a senior center in Des Moines on Tuesday, Senator Harkin disagreed with President Obama's proposal concerning seniors, according to a WHO TV report.
"I'm sorry to say that the president of my own party has advocated this and he's wrong," said Harkin to the seniors.
"I'm so tired of people saying we've got to cut Social Security. I thought, we got to come back and say something, no, you've got to increase Social Security," he said.
In a news release on Thursday, U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii unveiled a bill he is supporting with Sen. Harkin that will expand and enhance Social Security for seniors across America.
The Harkin-Schatz bill, according to Schatz, will keep Social Security solvent through 2049 while benefits would increase by about $65 a month. The formula used to calculate cost of living adjustments would also change under the bill to more accurately represent the costs seniors face.
"Families in Hawaii and across the country depend on Social Security as a safety net, and it is our responsibility to ensure that those who have paid and continue to pay into the system can retire without fear of financial insecurity," said Schatz in the release.
At the Iowa town hall meeting, several seniors protested President Obama's proposal but it was the tearful plea of Sheryl Tenicat that forcefully brought home their concerns.
"I have $624 a month, that's what I'm living on," Tenicat explained in the WHO TV report. "Ninety-nine [dollars] of that goes to Medicare Part D and B. After I get my check, in two weeks, it's gone. I have nothing. I live with what I eat here. And I just do not want my cost of living cut because I've paid in since I was 16 to the government. I'm looking for work in my retirement years so that I can exist. I do own my house, but I don't know how long that will go because I have property taxes to pay."
Tenicat, who noted that her car had broken down and she now had to take the bus to receive her free meals at the retirement center, capped her statement with a heartbreaking line.
"There is no way for me to eat less," she said.