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Larson Chairs Hearing: “Equity in Social Security: In Their Own Words”

June 15, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman John B. Larson (CT-01) chaired a hearing on “Equity in Social Security: In Their Own Words.” During the hearing witnesses highlighted why Social Security must be strengthened and expanded.  

Click here to watch Larson’s opening statement.

“It’s been 38 years since Congress has done anything to strengthen Social Security and 50 years since we’ve significantly improved benefits.  65 million Americans currently rely on Social Security benefits yet millions are suffering and can’t make ends meet -- living below the poverty line or barely above it. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored our need to act. The average retired worker receives just $18,500 year in Social Security benefits.  For women and people of color, these benefits are even more important,” said Larson. “Today’s hearing made it clear, we must strengthen and expand Social Security. We know there’s hope for bipartisanship when reform of the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) is supported by President Biden, Chairman Neal, and Ranking Member Brady, but bipartisan or not, we need to act.” 

“I am testifying as an individual who urgently wants to ensure the strength of the Social Security program. I felt it important to speak out at this hearing today because, as a Social Security recipient for a number of years now, this program is absolutely my lifeline,” said Kitty Ruderman, a retiree from Queens, NY. “I have worked virtually my entire life, paying into the Social Security program and earning the benefits that I receive today. I was a single mom, and my only source of income through my working life came from earnings. Today it primarily comes from Social Security.” 

“In a five-year span, I lost my husband, mother, father, and job. It was the most difficult period in my life where I felt so helpless and alone,” said Cora McDonnell, a retiree from Seattle, WA. “Fortunately, I began receiving my husband’s survivor benefits after his passing up until 2006 when I became eligible for my own Social Security benefits. Without Social Security, I could not have survived; I would have been homeless and unable to provide for my young son and his medical condition.... Social Security was essential as a single working mother and more so when I became unemployed.” 

“I was born in Caroline County Virginia and began contributing to Social Security when I was 15, while working at the local tomato factory during the summer months,” said Julian Blair, a retiree and veteran from Washington, D.C. “I continued to earn my Social Security benefits while defending this great nation as a member of the United States Air Force and Army. After 23 years of service, including combat time in Thailand during the Vietnam War, I retired from the military and continued my career in a number of positions at Corning Glass Works. Today, Social Security is a crucial part of my income. Yet, I must tell you: Though I worked and contributed my entire life, my Social Security benefit is far too low to cover my monthly expenses. In fact, my Social Security doesn’t even cover my entire rent. Thankfully, because of my military service, I also receive a military pension. So, I do okay, but not everyone is so fortunate. I am concerned about my family, friends and neighbors – and millions like them—who are trying to live on Social Security alone.” 

“I worked for a total of 24 years. During that time my husband of 48 years became very sick. I also became sick and was forced to apply for my Social Security benefits and retire at an early age of 50. It was a hard time and I wasn’t expecting to retire so early,” said Elba Lopez, a widow and retiree from Philadelphia, PA. “Social Security has been a very important part of my life since I fell on these difficult times.... To give you a sense, right now I receive $827 dollars a month from Social Security. My rent payment is $425 and I also pay electric, gas, and water that adds up to $250.00. That leaves me with around $150 for additional expenses. As you can see, I live on a very tight budget.... I do not want to be a burden to my daughters but not having a pension is only going to make it harder for me to continue to make ends meet.... An increase in my Social Security income would allow me to be more independent and reduce the burden on my daughters.”