The Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans recently gave Congressman James Langevin a hero award for his work in stabilizing and maintaining the nation’s senior benefits. John A. Pernorio, president of the organization, made the presentation in a ceremony held at the Johnston Senior Center.
“We are here to recognize Congressman Jim Langevin as our 2013 Rhode Island Alliance for Retired Americans Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid Hero for his outstanding leadership and support for Rhode Island seniors, disabled and veterans,” said Pernorio.
Speaking as to issues directly affecting senior benefits, Pernorio educated the audience as to the organization’s stance on proposed cuts and potential threats to the safety net for the nation’s senior population.
“As a Rhode Island congressman, Jim Langevin has fought against any cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He was criticized for his vote on the Affordable Care Act. It took courage for that vote to try and help Rhode Island citizens afford health insurance, to close the donut hole in the Medicare RX Part D, not to be turned down because of pre-existing conditions and to continue covering qualified children to the age of 25,” said Pernorio.
“This is truly a well-deserved recognition and award to Jim,” said Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena. “Jim is one of the ones who is out there fighting. He [John] mentioned the Republican party. Perhaps instead of sending billions and billions of dollars to people in other countries where people want to kill us, we should probably keep the money in this country and take care of the people here. That’s what Jim Langevin does, he ensures that the money stays with us to take care of the Americans first; to take care of the citizens of this country first and not people from other countries.”
“Thank you for this incredible award,” said Langevin. “I’m humbled by the award that you and the Alliance have presented to me today. I want you to know how much it means to me and I want you to know that I accept it on behalf of each and every one of you who are the true heroes in this effort. You are the grassroots that make sure that your voice and the voice of all seniors are heard loud and clear, so that we preserve Social Security and Medicare for our seniors – both now and those who will come in future generations.”
Langevin assured the crowd that the upcoming legislative session would include their voices and their concerns about sequestration, the debt ceiling and cuts to benefits, with the Rhode Island congressional delegation fighting on their behalf.
“I know there is a great deal of concern as we head into the fall legislative session,” Langevin said. “There is a great deal of concern and rumors about what is going to happen with the debt ceiling, sequestration and what’s going to happen with chained CPI [Consumer Price Index] and efforts to privatize Medicare. I want you to know that I am firm in my commitment, along with Senators Reed and Whitehouse, and Congressman Cicilline. Collectively, we are opposed to any cuts to Social Security or Medicare. We are opposed to any efforts to privatize Social Security or Medicare and we are opposed to any benefit cuts. Or attempts to raise the retirement age of seniors.”
Langevin talked about the need to strengthen Social Security as opposed to cutting it.
Pernorio praised Langevin for co-sponsoring the House resolution introduced by Congressman David Cicilline and 122 other Democrats against chained CPI. Pernorio also said that the organization supported the Harkin’s Resolution, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and by Senators Reed and Whitehouse, opposing chained CPI. Langevin explained the bill presented by Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL), and the need to address COLA in a realistic manner.
“There are some things that we can do and should do to strengthen Social Security for the future,” he said. “It would make sure that we look at a senior market basket of goods. CPI is calculated on a broad basket of goods that are considered, that seniors may or may not use in great numbers. What the Ted Deutch bill would do is look at things that seniors would use on a day-to-day basis, most frequently,” like heating fuel, gasoline and health care.
Pernorio offered a real-life analogy to explain chained CPI.
“If you go into Stop & Shop and there is a named brand [and] it is a dollar a can, and the Stop & Shop brand is 50 cents a can, you buy the Stop & Shop brand because it’s cheaper,” he said. “Or if you go to get gas, gas is $4 per gallon and the Stop & Shop gas is $3.59 a gallon, you’re going to buy the Stop & Shop gas. How the chained CPI would work is that at the end of the year, instead of associating your COLA [cost of living adjustment] with the consumer price index [CPI], it would assume that, because of a lower COLA, you would go out and buy the cheaper brands. It would be a cut that would amount to almost $1,000 for the next 10 years.”
Concerned with the future of Rhode Island’s seniors and the future of their benefits, Pernorio also addressed threats to Medicare.
“There are many decisions that will have to be made in the upcoming months that will affect seniors,” he said. “Decisions like the debt ceiling. The Republican House has offered a menu of options, including Medicare vouchers, means testing for Medicare, chained CPI and raising the retirement age as a condition for raising the debt ceiling.”
Addressing the Affordable Care Act implementation, Pernorio said, “The House voted over and over again at a cost of $60 million to try and overturn the Affordable Care Act. Instead of saying there are parts of it we don’t like, what they want to do is throw the whole thing out. You know the old saying,” he said. “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
The organization is in support of the congressman’s efforts in opposing any cuts to Social Security benefits, including increasing the retirement age, chained CPI and privatization.
“Make no mistake,” said Pernorio. “We, the most vulnerable, are undeceived by special interests who want to balance the budget on our backs. Social Security beneficiaries do not have offshore accounts that hide income, nor do we have tax shelters that protect our income. Social Security is a promise that must not be broken. Social Security belongs to the people who worked hard all of their lives and contributed to it.”