Boonville resident, Andy Melendez, breaks down his views, interpretations and solutions.

Dear Editor,

With both political conventions on the near horizon, we are entering the final and defining stage stage of a presidential race that is certain to hold historic consequences for Social Security and Medicare. Indeed, bipartisan support for sweeping changes to the social insurance safety net is on the rise. The next U. S. President, whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, is certain to face momentous decisions on far-reaching proposals. That's why now, before the party platforms are solidified at this summer's conventions, we must make our voices heard.

The attacks on earned benefits have been virtually non-stop as current Washington politicians promote the false and dangerous choice that the only way to fix Social Security and Medicare is to cut our earned benefits. Certain efforts that are being proposed are:

1. "Reform" Social Security – through partial privatization, raising the eligibility age and reducing the COLA (Cost-of-Living-Adjustment).
2. Cut critical improvements to Medicare that became law in 2010. This would make prescription drugs unaffordable for many seniors and take away life-saving benefits, including preventative care screenings. Further, it would weaken the Medicare program's finances.
3. Cut earned benefits in order to pay for – and even enlarge – tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest Americans. This is how some lawmakers hope to score political points with powerful constituents!

We're sure to see the same misguided plans resurface in the next Administration, regardless of who is elected U. S. President! And that is why it is so very important for all of us to voice our concerns directly to President Obama and Governor Romney at this critical stage of their campaigns.

I wish to propose four important improvements to Social Security that would modernize benefits to meet the needs of today's senior Americans, especially women. I recommend:

1. Increase survivor benefits – to an amount equal to 75% of the total combined benefits paid prior to a spouse's death. Currently, lower income beneficiaries see a reduction in benefits when a spouse dies.
2. Give credits to caregivers. Social Security work credits would be given for a period of up to five years to any person caring for young children or family members who are elderly or disabled.
3. Equalize rules for disabled widows and widowers. This proposal would end benefit reductions, age restrictions and eligibility time limits now imposed on widows and widowers.
4. Strengthen the COLA. This plan calls for a more accurate, updated index than the current CPI-W, which reflects price increases based on the purchasing patterns of urban wage earners and clerical workers. As it stands, the annual COLA does not keep pace with seniors' higher costs.

These are the proposals that will need the next Administration's solid support! We are fast approaching a critical turning point for Social Security and Medicare. The next President of the United States will no doubt determine whether we turn towards much needed improvements – or drastic benefit cuts, leaving seniors to fend for themselves. Please urge President Obama and Governor Romney to stand firm against all proposals that would threaten earned benefits under Social Security and Medicare.


Andy Melendez

An advocate for Social Security and Medicare