NASHVILLE - The nation's largest organization for Americans age 50 and above is sounding an alarm against proposals to cut Social Security and Medicare, as the nation's policymakers eye those programs while considering ways to pay down the nation's debt.
AARP made its case in written testimony delivered to the Senate Finance committee. It warns against cuts, spending caps or triggers that could jeopardize the two most vital health and retirement safety nets for seniors.
Shelley Courington, advocacy director for AARP Tennessee, says benefits that older Americans have earned through years of hard work should not be sacrificed as part of a deal on the debt ceiling or deficit reduction.
"To talk about eliminating or drastically reducing those benefits would probably re-instate levels of poverty for many people as they age."
Courington says 1.2 million Tennesseans rely on Social Security and more than 54 percent of those who receive these benefits use them as half of their income. AARP has launched a national campaign pushing back against proposals that could lead to cuts in the two programs.
Social Security and Medicare keep many Tennesseans above the poverty line, Courington says.
"When Medicare was put into place over 40 years ago, it eliminated senior poverty. As we age, we spend a large portion of our disposable income on medicine and medical care."
Courington says Social Security is not an entitlement program. She says the self-financed program - paid for with employer and worker contributions - is not to blame for the nation's debt dilemma.
Nationwide, according to AARP, Social Security is the main source of income for nearly two-thirds of households receiving benefits, and roughly one-third of them depend on the program for 90 percent or more of their income.
More information about this AARP campaign is available at www.aarp.org.