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GOP: Don't Penalize Older Americans

A rule that limits how much money older Americans can earn without losing Social Security benefits is keeping the nation's most experienced workers from filling the labor shortage, the Senate Finance Committee chairman said Saturday.

With Americans living longer and the tightest labor market in 30 years, Social Security beneficiaries should not be penalized for staying on the job, Sen. William Roth, R-Del., said in the Republicans' weekly radio address.

Repealing the limit "will not only help to raise the standard of living for many of our seniors but help keep the living standards high for all Americans," Roth said.

The Senate will vote on legislation to eliminate the earnings limit next week, and President Clinton has said he would sign the bill if passed.

The Social Security earnings limit requires the government to subtract $1 in benefits from every $3 beneficiaries up to age 70 earn over a prescribed limit, currently $17,000 a year. The rule was established 65 years ago to encourage older workers to retire during the hard times and high unemployment of the Great Depression, Roth noted.

More than 800,000 older people lose part or all of their benefits because of the limitation, the Social Security Administration estimates.

"As a result, many seniors choose to work less or stop working altogether," Roth said.

He said the earnings limit is complex and difficult for the government to administer, costs more than $100 million per year and causes more than 70 percent of Social Security payment errors.
"These payment errors are a large source of frustration for seniors," he said.

Baby boomers will begin to retire in five years, and the nation will need a sharp increase in the number of older Americans working just to maintain the nation's labor force, Roth said.

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