WASHINGTON, DC — On Thursday, September 7, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment …
WASHINGTON, DC — On Thursday, September 7, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment (SWIFT) Act, which would fix outdated and arbitrary restrictions on Social Security benefits for widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses. Currently, despite facing disproportionately high rates of poverty, widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses often must overcome unnecessary and burdensome hurdles to access Social Security benefits and are prevented from maximizing their benefits. The SWIFT Act would fix this problem by eliminating or providing more flexibility around these barriers, which often harm women. The bill would ultimately increase Social Security benefits for more than one million Americans.
“Social Security is a lifeline for many older adults and people with disabilities,” said Chairman Casey. “Yet because of outdated rules that disproportionately affect women, many of those who rely on Social Security the most are not receiving all the benefits they need and deserve. The SWIFT Act will modernize Social Security and help the program keep its promise of a financially secure retirement for all Americans.”
Official poverty rates of widow(er)s receiving Social Security benefits are nearly twice as high as those of retired workers and spouses, and widow(er)s caring for children and widow(er)s with disabilities have among the highest poverty rates of all Social Security recipients. Despite this, under current law, widow(er)s who develop a disability after their spouse dies are not allowed to claim survivor benefits until they reach age 50, and the value of these benefits is severely reduced if they claim them before reaching full retirement age. Additionally, more than one-third of widow(er)s also have their benefits limited by an obscure provision known as the “widow(er)’s limit,” which prevents beneficiaries from maximizing their benefits by permanently reducing widow(er)s’ survivor benefits if their deceased spouse claimed retirement benefits before reaching full retirement age.
The SWIFT Act would remove these barriers and modernize Social Security by: allowing widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses with disabilities to receive 100% of the survivor benefit they are entitled to regardless of their age; giving widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses the ability to increase the value of their survivor benefits beyond current arbitrary cap; enabling widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses caring for children to receive child-in-care benefits until their children are age 18 or 19 if still in school; and requiring the federal government to proactively provide information to widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses about benefits they are eligible for, claiming options and important deadlines.
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