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Over Half of Seniors Getting Smaller Social Security Checks This Year

Author: The Senior Citizens League

Published: 2010-02-16

Synopsis and Key Points:

A majority of seniors are receiving a smaller Social Security check this year than in 2009.

Main Digest

51 Percent of Seniors Getting Smaller Social Security Checks This Year: Survey - A majority of seniors are receiving a smaller Social Security check this year than in 2009. The finding comes from an annual survey of elderly Americans, released earlier today by The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), one of the nation's largest nonpartisan senior citizens advocacy groups.

Of seniors receiving smaller checks, one-in-three report receiving at least $31 less per month, and one-in-nine report decreases of $70 or more each month.

In addition, the survey found that:

Almost two-in-three seniors (65 percent) estimate their expenses increased by at least $80 per month in 2009

45 percent of seniors cut back on visits to the doctor or hospital outpatient services

38 percent postponed filling a prescription or took less than prescribed

47 percent had trouble covering their heating, cooling, or electric bills

Social Security checks are lower since many seniors have their Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage premiums automatically deducted; some may also have been affected by significantly higher Medicare Part B costs.

But those deductions do not typically lower overall Social Security checks for most seniors since they receive an annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). However, seniors failed to receive a Cost of Living Adjustment in 2010 for the first time since the Automatic COLA was introduced in 1975.

"Although the economic downturn has been tough for many Americans, few groups have been as hurt as our nation's seniors," said Daniel O'Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League. "Too many seniors are no longer living on a fixed income, but rather a shrinking income."

Almost 70 percent of beneficiaries depend on Social Security for 50 percent or more of their income. Social Security is the sole source of income for 15 percent of beneficiaries.

TSCL supports the Emergency COLA Bill (H.R. 3557), introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). The bill would provide a COLA for 2010 equal to the average of the COLA over the past ten years. That average is roughly three percent.

SURVEY METHODOLOGY: The survey was conducted through print and electronic surveys over a two-month period from December 15, 2009 through February 12, 2010. The survey had 2,086 respondents aged 65 and over. Full survey results are available at

With 1.2 million supporters, The Senior Citizens League ( is one of the nation's largest nonpartisan seniors groups. Its mission is to promote and assist members and supporters, to educate and alert senior citizens about their rights and freedoms as U.S. Citizens, and to protect and defend the benefits senior citizens have earned and paid for. The Senior Citizens League is a proud affiliate of The Retired Enlisted Association.

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