Kuster hosts roundtable on Social Security issues

Seniors, advocates for people with disabilities and their caregivers share stories with Congresswoman at the library Thursday

  • Rep. Annie Kuster spoke in a roundtable at the Peterborough Library with experts and the public about Social Security and Medicare.
  • Rep. Annie Kuster spoke in a roundtable at the Peterborough Library with experts and the public about Social Security and Medicare.

PETERBOROUGH — After a roundtable at the Peterborough Town Library on Thursday to commemorate Social Security’s 79th anniversary, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH2) said this program and Medicare can be bolstered two ways. She recommended making anyone who earns more than $117,000 each year give more to Social Security. She also said the U.S. should try to lower the cost of prescription pills for the public by bargaining with pharmaceutical companies.

Both of these solutions should be talked about before we consider eliminating these benefits, she said in an interview following Thursday’s event she hosted. Present at Thursday’s roundtable were local senior citizens and people with family members who are living with disabilities, as well as policy experts on senior and disability issues. These experts included Steve Gorin, former chair of the state Aging Committee, Olivia Zink of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and Barbara Salvatore of Elder Rights Coalition & EngAging NH.

Currently, if someone earns more than $117,000 each year, they only have to give 6.9 percent of $117,000 to Social Security.

The panel agreed this ceiling should be raised because the Social Security benefits offered now are only sustainable until 2033. After that year, someone eligible for Social Security will only receive 75 percent of the Social Security offered today. This is according to a pamphlet by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation distributed at the event.

Another handout passed out at the event said in New Hampshire there are 271,181 residents who rely on Social Security. Of those residents, New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes the Monadnock region, has 137,279 who are beneficiaries of this program.

The panel listened to some of the audience’s personal accounts and concerns about Social Security and Medicare. In a press release published after the event, Kuster said she hosted this forum to hear from local seniors about what more Congress can do to support these federal programs. Kuster faces reelection in November.

On Thursday, the Concord Monitor reported that U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) has called for the preservation of Social Security and Medicare, and cited her past efforts to fight “radical attempts” to cut these programs. Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH1) made a similar pitch on Aug. 12 to a retirement community in Laconia.

Kuster, at one point on Thursday, criticized the U.S. for not negotiating with pharmaceutical companies to lower the cost of buying medication in bulk. She said it “cost pennies” to manufacture medication, and the U.S., like the “Walmarts of the world,” should negotiate down the price of large-volume purchases.

State Rep. Richard McNamara (D-Hillsborough) said in an interview following the roundtable that it was beneficial relating the statistics he learned about residents’ dependence on Social Security and Medicare to the personal stories he heard that morning.

Kuster said she was moved hearing the stories of participants who care for their aging parents or disabled children.

Deborah Opramolla of Rindge spoke about caring for her 23-year-old son who is disabled. Opramolla is also an active member of Advocates Building Lasting Equality in New Hampshire, an organization that advocates for the rights and inclusion of those with disabilities. Opramolla said she has a medical degree , but has a difficulty working full-time because someone has to care for her son during the day. She said she would like federal compensation to pay for a caregiver. Otherwise, she said, she and her husband will have to set up a trust fund and rely on Social Security to pay for their son’s care in the long-run.

Opramolla told the audience that when her son was younger she was told that she and her husband should divorce, because they could earn a lot more for their son by divorcing.

Kuster said, “That’s terrible.”

Kuster spoke about a bill U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY17) introduced to Congress that would provide a credit through Social Security for caregivers. Under the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, a credit will be added to a caregiver’s earnings they would receive through Social Security. This credit phases out when the caregiver earns more than the average national earnings.

Kuster also shared her personal experience, watching her father care for her mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s. Kuster mentioned watching the toll her mother’s dementia took on her father who was her caregiver.

Following her visit to the library, Kuster toured the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield. The Congresswoman met with numerous patients at the rehabilitation center.

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