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Social Security & Retirement






Congresswoman Tsongas visits a senior center in Methuen


Not long ago, I received a letter from a woman named Harriet from Dracut, whose sole income is from Social Security. After her Medicare deduction, Harriet’s Social Security check only comes to $1,100 per month and is barely enough to pay for groceries, prescription drug copays, dental work, and supplemental health insurance.

Harriet is not alone: millions of seniors like her simply cannot afford any type of cut to Social Security and other programs like it.

After years of paying into these programs, our seniors and those about to retire deserve the peace of mind knowing that their retirement security is protected and that they won’t have to deplete a lifetime of savings if they require longer hospital stays, assisted living, or a complicated surgery.  Similarly, our children and grandchildren should have that same access to a secure retirement instead of having their costs increased to pay for tax cuts for those who least need them. 

We must protect the basic government services our senior citizens rely upon every day. I oppose any budget proposal that seeks to cut  from some of our most critical programs and gut others. When it comes to our nation’s economy, I believe we need a balanced and targeted approach to deficit reduction and I remain firm in my stance to uphold the long-term solvency of America’s vital services, like Social Security and Medicare, two of the most successful domestic programs in our nation's history. For more than seventy years, Social Security has provided basic economic security that families could depend on in times of need and has meant independence for generations of Americans. And, as a former member of the board of a Massachusetts-based community health plan, I also understand how important it is to ensure that Medicare continues to guarantee health care coverage for millions of Americans and people with long term disabilities.



I am committed to strengthening Social Security so that our national contract with America’s workers endures for future generations of seniors. 

In all instances, there should be no changes to the system for those now receiving benefits or for those who are approaching eligibility.

I strongly object to the proposals to privatize Social Security. We don’t want to replace a guarantee with a gamble. 

Social Security was never envisioned to be the sole source of a person’s retirement, but without it, those who rely on it would have no safety net. 

51% of the workforce has no private pension coverage.

34% of the workforce has no savings set aside specifically for retirement.

Social Security is not a driver of the national debt; in fact, it is currently a creditor to the government—the government borrows funds from the Social Security Trust Fund and pays it back over time with interest. The Trust Fund is projected to be solvent for several decades, at which time, if no action is taken, benefits will be reduced, but the program will not contribute to the debt. 

For more information about Social Security, go to

Throughout my tenure in Congress, I have consistently demonstrated support for protecting Social Security. 

- I cosponsored H.Con Res 72 in the 112th Congress, which makes clear that any deficit reduction plan should not balance the budget by eroding America's hard-earned retirement plan and social safety net, and H.Con.Res 34 in the 113th Congress, which expresses congressional opposition to cutting promised Social Security benefits by changing how inflation is calculated.

- I voted for and cosponsored legislation during the height of the Great Recession recognizing that Social Security’s traditional cost of living adjustment failed to take into account seniors’ rising health costs and providing them with additional support during the economic crisis.

- I have joined my colleagues on a number of occasions in expressing opposition to undermining Social Security, privatizing it, or using it to pay for deficits caused by reckless tax cuts for the most well-off.

I also strongly believe that to strengthen Social Security we must make it easier for people to save more in addition to Social Security instead of at the expense of Social Security as some have proposed. As a co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Savings and Ownership Caucus, I have been working with my colleagues to promote the personal savings necessary for retirement security and economic mobility.

- I introduced the SSI Savers Act with my fellow Savings Caucus co-chair Republican Rep. Tom Petri (WI) to help low-income seniors and the disabled build up their personal savings. A study of my bill by the Urban Institute suggested that it would increase personal savings and ultimately help seniors and disabled individuals transition off of federal assistance like traditional welfare.

- I also joined Rep. Petri in introducing the Making Work and Marriage Pay Act, which encourage saving by removing obstacles in federal law for personal economic responsibility.

- I introduced the Small Business Tax Relief and Retirement Restoration Act with bipartisan support to help prevent small business owners, who had to use their retirement to keep their businesses afloat during the recession, from facing the harsh tax penalties required under current law, incentivizing them to repay their retirement accounts.

- I worked with Massachusetts non-profit Doorways to Dreams to promote tax-time savings initiatives which encourage people to put their tax refund toward saving for their future.

- I supported a number of efforts to facilitate and encourage savings, including helping to introduce the Assets for Independence Reauthorization Act which supports critical individual development account (IDA) programs in Lowell, Lawrence, and throughout the district and supporting the ABLE Act for disabled savers and the Savings Enhancement for Education in College Act to improve the 529 program.


I strongly object to proposals to privatize Social Security and oppose diverting any amount of Social Security payroll taxes into private, individual investment accounts.  Private individual accounts take money from the Trust Fund, compromising its solvency while putting retiree benefits at serious risk.  During the devastating recession of the last few years, volatility in the stock market has severely damaged private retirement savings accounts like 401(k)s.  The same would have been true of Social Security accounts had previous proposals to privatize been allowed to go through.  Instead, retirees received their benefits as they always have.  We cannot afford to replace a guarantee with a gamble.  I will continue to stand against efforts to privatize Social Security and will work to ensure that it is available to the next generation. 


I am a proud cosponsor of the Social Security Fairness Act, which would ensure that dedicated firefighters, police officers, teachers, and other public servants are no longer deprived of a portion of their Social Security benefits each year as a result of the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The WEP currently reduces Social Security benefits for workers who have pension benefits from employers not covered by Social Security. The GPO reduces Social Security spousal benefits if the recipient has another government pension based on work not covered by Social Security.  In addition to Massachusetts, there are 26 states that have public retirees and employees who are disadvantaged by either the GPO or the WEP. The Social Security Fairness Act allows these employees to retire with the benefits they have rightfully earned throughout the course of their careers.



Medicare, like Social Security, is one of our nation’s great success stories. It is a national health insurance program where the federal government helps support health care services for people ages 65 and older. Medicare allows working people to pay for the health care insurance they will receive when they are older and no longer working. Some people will pay in more than they receive back and others will get back more than they paid in, but this is the practice with any form of insurance, public or private.

If you have questions about Medicare, click here or contact my office at 978.459.0101.

Medicare is fundamentally different from private health insurance programs, which can limit whom to cover and what benefits to offer in order to manage their risk and guarantee that costs do not exceed premiums, because Medicare is universal: any American 65 and older can enroll in Medicare.  Medicare offers all enrollees a guaranteed set of benefits that includes hospital care (Part A), outpatient medical services like doctors’ visits, x-rays, vaccinations (Part B) and prescription drugs (Part D).

Because the federal government is legally obligated to provide Medicare benefits to older and disabled Americans, it cannot cut costs by restricting eligibility or benefits.  Medicare’s coverage policies and payment rates are publicly known and all enrollees are entitled to the same coverage, whereas customers in the private sector can face major difficulties determining what care is covered and at what cost.


Although Medicare’s costs are actually rising more slowly than in the private health sector, over the long-term, Medicare faces significant financial challenges because of rising health care costs and increasing enrollment as the population ages.

I have consistently voted to prevent cuts in payments to physicians under Medicare, ensuring that Medicare beneficiaries will continue to have access to physicians' care.  We must ensure that physicians are able to accept the insurance that seniors in our country rely on day after day, and I will continue to support initiatives designed to preserve the vital coverage Medicare provides for seniors so that this program can continue to provide accessible and affordable health care to millions.

In recent years, House Republicans have voted to alter the way Medicare works, even suggesting turning it into a voucher program that would pay a small lump sum to private insurers to cover seniors. In reality, this kind of plan would result in a far lower standard of care for seniors, while still adding trillions of dollars to the national debt. This way of thinking would result in higher costs for seniors and a lower standard of care. That is unacceptable.

The Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as “Obamacare”), which I supported, has provided our country with a way forward for protecting Medicare. This health care reform legislation made several improvements to the Medicare program and added years to its solvency by eliminating wasteful overspending to insurance companies, never by reducing traditional benefits.  In addition, it begins to gradually close the prescription drug “donut hole,” which cost seniors thousands of additional dollars each year in prescription costs.

The health care law also ensures that Medicare fully covers preventive benefits such as checkups, vaccines, and preventive tests.  Under the reform, seniors are receiving free Medicare coverage of key preventive services, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and a free Annual Wellness Visit.  Health care reform also prevents pre-existing conditions from being a barrier to coverage and limits how much more insurance companies can charge seniors for the same coverage as younger adults.

Republican leaders in the House have voted more than fifty times to repeal the health care reform law. If the reform law were to be repealed, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that the Medicare hospital insurance program would become insolvent in as soon as 2016. Congress needs to work together to ensure the health reform law is implemented effectively and efficiently so that our seniors can receive a high standard of care at an affordable price.

For more information on health care, please visit my webpage dedicated to that specific issue, which can be found by clicking here.

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