The local AARP chapter is participating in a national campaign to give seniors a say in the future of Medicare and Social Security, and to take their say to Washington lawmakers.
“You’ve Earned a Say” aims to take the debate about Medicare and Social Security from behind closed doors in Washington out into the open, according to AARP. The two programs have come under fire in the last year because of national budget debates.
“We are tired of Congress telling the seniors what is good for the seniors,” said Don Rose, president of the local AARP chapter and eastern Kentucky chapter specialist. “We are telling Congress what’s good for the seniors. We want our people, our seniors, to step forward and say ‘Hey congressmen, here’s what we think you need to do.’”
As part of the campaign, people nationwide fill out questionnaires about Social Security and Medicare and what they think needs to be done, and those are then mailed to AARP.
Rose and his wife Janet have been visiting places in town where seniors gather, like the Generations Center, to pass out the questionnaires and to tell them about the campaign.
By the end of 2012, Don Rose said, the information from the questionnaires nationwide will be compiled and taken to representatives in Washington.
“They will take this to Congress and say ‘Here’s what your constituents are telling you that you need to do to keep your job,’” Don Rose said. “So, if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do, hopefully we can vote them out of office.”
The questionnaires consist of just six questions and a section for comments.
They include asking participants to describe the quality of Medicare and Social Security currently, how much they expect to get back from the programs, and whether they believe it’s important to strengthen the programs.
The purpose of the campaign, Don Rose said, is to give every senior an opportunity to speak up. AARP members, he said, want Social Security and Medicare to remain sound.
In Kentucky, 92.1 percent of seniors received Social Security in 2010, and it accounted for 62.2 percent of the typical older Kentuckians’ own income, according to AARP. Almost 99.4 percent of Kentucky seniors were enrolled in Medicare in 2009.
In Clark County, the total population in 2010 was 35,613, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Seniors 65 and older made up 14.2 percent of the total population.
The main concern local seniors voice, Janet Rose said, is that they don’t want the government to take any of the money they’ve already put away.
“So their biggest concern is ‘Am I going to be able to make it on what I get, and are my children and grandchildren going to be able to get anything that they’re paying into?’” Don Rose said.
There are a lot less people in the workforce today than there were when the baby boomers were growing up, Don Rose said, “because the birth rate has decreased.”
“It fell from 25 per 1,000 during the baby boom to 14 today,” he said. “So we’ve got fewer workers ... we have 2.8 workers per beneficiary, but by 2036, it will be 2.1 workers. In other words, pretty soon, it’s going to be one to one — one guy working to support the guy that’s drawing you know, and we want to avoid that, because we have put the money there.”
That money that seniors have already put in is a lot, Don Rose said, “and Congress and Washington, D.C., they’re playing with our money, our funds.”
“They’re making decisions on things that we have bought and paid for. ... It’s like if you buy a home, nobody’s going to tell you (that) you can’t live in it,” he said. “We sent that ahead as we worked, to be waiting for us when we got there. Well, we’re there.”
Questionnaires are available at the Generations Center, and people can mail them to AARP postage free.
Different questionnaires with different questions will be passed out in June.
For more information about the campaign, the local AARP chapter meets the last Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Generations Center, and visitors are always welcome. Information is also available at www.aarp.org.
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