U.S. Senator Bob Casey Proposes the SWIFT Act to Modernize Social Security Benefits

Washington, D.C.Image via Pixabay

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 on Thursday. This legislation aims to address the outdated and arbitrary restrictions currently limiting Social Security benefits for widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses.

Despite facing high rates of poverty, these groups often encounter unnecessary hurdles when accessing Social Security benefits. The SWIFT Act seeks to eliminate or provide more flexibility around these barriers, potentially benefiting over one million Americans.

“Social Security is a lifeline for many older adults and people with disabilities,” said Chairman Casey. “The SWIFT Act will modernize Social Security and help the program keep its promise of a financially secure retirement for all Americans.”

Reportedly, poverty rates among widow(er)s who receive Social Security benefits are almost double those of retired workers and spouses. Furthermore, widow(er)s caring for children and those with disabilities have some of the highest poverty rates among all Social Security recipients.

Under existing law, widow(er)s who develop a disability after their spouse’s death cannot claim survivor benefits until they reach age 50. These benefits are significantly reduced if claimed before reaching full retirement age. Moreover, an obscure provision known as the “widow(er)’s limit” further restricts benefits for more than one-third of widow(er)s.

The proposed SWIFT Act aims to 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 the 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.
  • 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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The SWIFT Act has garnered support from Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Murray (D-WA), and Sanders (I-VT). It has also been endorsed by multiple organizations including the National Committee To Preserve Social Security and Medicare and the Alliance for Retired Americans.

Read more about the billĀ here.

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