Social Security Caregiver Credit Act
Thursday, August 3, 2017
Shared from Integrated Living Opportunities’ (ILO) website, www.ilonow.org.
Here at Integrated Living Opportunities (ILO), we are all parents, family members, and friends of individuals with disabilities. We are dedicated to creating supported communities in which these individuals can thrive and live full lives. ILO self-advocates are connected to their peers, the ILO network, and the wider community – supported according to their needs, living according to their dreams.
Through our work with ILO, and our personal experiences, we are very aware of the challenges that arise from raising a family with special needs. Parents in special needs families fill many roles: caregiver, advocate, therapist, secretary, educator, cook, chauffeur, coach, and friend. As parents/caregivers, these roles are, of course, unpaid. The sheer amount of work involved in caring for a loved one with a disability is significantly time consuming, often at the expense of the caregiver’s career.
If you are a caregiver of an individual with a disability and have had to leave work or reduce your work schedule in order to accommodate your caregiving duties, you are not alone. According to an article written by Diane Archer (of justcareusa.org), millions of other Americans are in similar situations. As Archer writes:
An estimated 65 million people leave their jobs entirely or significantly reduce their work hours in order to care for someone they love. And, by some accounts, they forego an average of $300,000 in lost wages, pension benefits, and social security benefits when they do so, jeopardizing their retirement security. Women are most affected[i].
Recently, a bill that addresses this issue – specifically, the lack of wages for caregivers, and therefore lack of retirement benefits – came before the house. Sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy (co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Margaret Wood Hassan) the bill was first introduced in March of 2016, and then more recently reintroduced in May of 2017. Titled the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act of 2017 (S.1255), the bill would “credit individuals serving as caregivers of dependent relatives with deemed wages for up to five years of such service.” It also supports medical training programs for caregivers.
This bill is very important to caregivers of individuals with disabilities for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is financially beneficial. The Social Security Administration calculates benefit levels based on average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which employees earn the most. As a result any gaps or reduced hours taken by caregivers to perform caregiving duties would necessarily mean lower retirement benefits. This bill would create a credit that will increase an individual’s earnings to calculate future social security benefits.[ii]” Secondly, this bill goes a long way to redress the gender wage gap, as women are more likely to provide care, and often experience a lack of financial security as a result. Thirdly, the bill is an important way to acknowledge the important and valuable work that caregivers do to care for children, the vulnerable, the ill, the elderly and individuals with disabilities.
This bill is currently referred to the Committee on Finance. For more information, please visit congress.gov website to read the text in full. You may also wish to check out the websites of Sen. Murphy, Sen. Sanders, or Sen. Margaret Wood Hassan.
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