When I took the oath of office in January to be the next U.S. senator for Oklahoma, I made a commitment to represent our great state and our values in Washington, D.C. While Oklahomans do not agree on many issues, most Oklahomans are very protective and very skeptical of Social Security. We know years ago the federal government made a promise to America’s seniors. We also know that, for decades, individuals have paid taxes into the trust fund to support their own retirement and to provide an emergency backup in case of disability. Now it is time to keep that commitment.
The Social Security Disability Trust Fund has been in trouble for years, but Congress has not passed a reform to protect the most vulnerable in our nation. The Disability Fund is designed for individuals who cannot work anywhere in our economy. But, instead of protecting the vulnerable, the truly disabled have been pushed to the back of the line by clever attorneys and endless appeals, which have overloaded the system and driven the program to the edge of insolvency. Three years ago, my office started writing a solution to protect the Disability Trust Fund and reform the program. For years, we have interviewed people, researched ideas and held Congressional hearings. We released a set of solutions that would protect the disabled, stabilize the program, stop the rapidly growing fraud and get more of the disability money to the disabled, instead of to the bureaucracy.
When Congress finally had a moment to protect and reform the disability program a few weeks ago, it chose to simply transfer funds from retirement Social Security and put in place small patches on the disability program to carry it seven more years. I voted against this legislative patch and spoke out for our point of view. We can do better than this, and we must. Seven years from now, the problem will be worse.
This is the same issue we face in retirement Social Security. Americans know that in the decades to come, Social Security cannot pay all of its obligations. Retirement Social Security is solvent for the next two decades, but now is the time to start planning for the next generation. I am 47 years old. When I reach retirement age, 20 years from now, Social Security will not be solvent enough to pay its full promised benefit to my generation. The question is simple, but the answers are tough. How can we stabilize Social Security for the decades to come and protect everyone in and near retirement so that they face no changes to the program?
People in and near retirement have planned for years — the Social Security contract cannot change now. That is why it was important for Congress to make sure the cost of Medicare did not go up this year, when there was no cost-of-living increase in the Social Security formula. With our slow economy, this is the third time in five years that Social Security has had no cost of living increase. This is another issue that must be addressed.
Every single congressman and senator from Oklahoma understands these issues well. We all have parents, friends and neighbors on Social Security. The seven people who represent our state in Washington D.C. are all passionate about our state and the best way to protect our seniors, the disabled and our future. As we work through the solutions and the political realities, I would encourage anyone with specific ideas to contact our offices and share your thoughts. There are enough challenges in retirement — instability of Social Security should not be one of them.