Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation , the National Organization for Women Foundation and the Institute for Women's Policy Research briefed Congressional staff today on their research examining the challenges facing America 's elderly women and their families. Their report, Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling also proposes initiatives to ensure Social Security benefits are adequate for all Americans, particularly for women and women of color.
Here are just some of the recommendations in this groundbreaking report:
  • Improving Survivor Benefits. Women living alone often are forced into poverty because of benefit reductions stemming from the death of a spouse. Providing a widow or widower with 75 percent of the couple's combined benefit treats one-earner and two-earner couples more fairly and reduces the likelihood of leaving the survivor in poverty.
  • Providing Social Security Credits for Caregivers. We recommend imputed earnings for up to five family service years be granted to a worker who leaves or reduces his/her participation in the work force to provide care to children under the age of six or to elderly family members.
  • Equal Benefits for Same-Sex Married Couples and Partners. Gay and lesbian same-sex couples, whether married or not, are denied a host of benefits under state and federal law that are routinely provided to heterosexual married couples. Social Security benefits should not be denied to qualified retirees because of their sexual orientation.
  • Restoring Student Benefits. Social Security pays benefits to children until age 18, or 19 if they are still attending high school, if a working parent has died, become disabled or retired.  In the past, those benefits continued until age 22 if the child was a full-time student in college or a vocational school.  Congress ended post-secondary students' benefits in 1981 which has disproportionately hurt children of parents in blue-collar jobs, African Americans, and lower income students.

While some suggest we can't afford to provide even current level benefits to America's retirees, disabled and their families, we disagree.  In fact, we believe our nation can't afford not to provide fair and adequate benefits for future generations of working Americans.  A number of funding options are included in this research, including:

  • Eliminate the Cap on Social Security Payroll Contributions.
  • Slowly Increase the Contribution Rate by 1/40 th of One Percent over 20 years.
  • Treat all Salary Reduction Plans like 401K's.
  • Together, these proposals provide revenue increases equal to 3.99% of taxable payroll.  They would close the actuarial deficit (2.67% of payroll) while also funding the modest program improvements recommended.
The full report, "Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling", is available online at: 
(from the news release)