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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Seniors/Social Security

America's Social Security program is the nation's only subsidized family-protection program for all persons, regardless of race, class, age, and gender. Social Security provides retirement and disability insurance benefits for qualified workers and their dependents, as well as benefits for survivors of deceased workers.

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Today in Civil Rights History: Anniversary of the Social Security Act

August 14, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

President Franklin Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act of 1935

President Franklin Roosevelt, center, signs Social Security Act of 1935 in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Photo Credit: Library of Congress

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law, providing benefits for the elderly, women and children who had lost their family incomes, people with disabilities, and unemployed people.  The Act was part of his New Deal, a broad plan to reform American society and relieve the hardships of the Great Depression.

During the Great Depression, the unemployment rate skyrocketed and the banking system collapsed, leaving many people with no means of support.  In 1933, 25 percent of all American workers were unemployed, up from three percent in 1929, and over 40 percent of banks in the United States closed. 

As banks failed, people's life savings were lost.  From 1930 to 1933, nine million savings accounts were completely wiped out and approximately 1.3 billion dollars  -- about 16.8 billion in today's dollars -- were lost

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New Report Shows Racial Disparities in 401(k) Plans

July 14, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

report cover with piggy banks on it

A new study shows that African Americans and Hispanics are less likely than Asian Americans or Whites to participate in employer-provided 401(k) retirement savings plans or save for their retirements in general, regardless of age, income, or length of time in a job.

The recession has hit millions of Americans' retirement savings hard. The study's findings suggest that the retirement crisis will hit African-American and Hispanic retirees hardest.

Only 66 percent of African-American workers and 65 percent of Hispanic workers participated in their company's 401(k) or a similar retirement plan, compared to 77 percent of White employees and 76 percent of Asian-American employees. Additionally, African Americans only saved 6 percent of their salary for retirement and Latinos only saved 6.3 percent, while Whites and Asian Americans saved 7.9 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively.

African Americans and Hispanics are also less likely than other people to invest these savings in the stock market and are more likely to borrow from these savings early on.

The report recommends that employers consider automatically enrolling all employees and providing more opportunities for workers to learn how to manage their savings.  The report also recommends that the government require schools to teach financial literacy and pass legislation to eliminate costly rules about early withdrawals and loans.

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New Proposal Fills the 'Doughnut Hole' for Medicare Recipients

June 30, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Last week, the Obama administration announced a proposal that would cut in half the prescription drug costs for all Medicare recipients who fall into a coverage gap in their drug plans.

As the nation's largest federal health care program, Medicare covers nearly 40 million Americans, primarily seniors over the age of 65 and people with disabilities. The Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) allows Medicare patients to obtain insurance that covers some of their prescription drug costs.

Currently, more than 26 million Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in the plan, but about 26 percent of them are affected by a coverage gap.  Medicare covers costs up to a specific point and then beyond a certain point, which forces beneficiaries that fall between these coverage levels, commonly referred to as the "doughnut hole," to pay for drugs out of their own pocket or stop taking medications if they can't afford to pay.

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Supreme Court Makes It Harder for Older Workers to Prove Discrimination

June 24, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Last week, in a 5-to-4 decision in Gross v. FBL Financial Services, Inc., the Supreme Court made it harder for employees to win age discrimination lawsuits.

The lawsuit was brought by Jack Gross, a longtime employee of FBL Financial Services, Inc., who was demoted at the age of 54 through what the employer called a restructuring.  Gross argued his demotion was the result of his age and filed suit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967, which prohibits employment discrimination against workers over the age of 40.

In a broad decision, the Court reversed a longstanding rule used by many federal appellate courts that provided for a two-step process in some age discrimination cases under the ADEA.  Previously, the employee had to demonstrate that age was a motivating factor in the employer's decision, which then shifted the burden to the employer to prove that the action was based on grounds other than age.  Now, the employee carries the full burden of showing that age was the determining factor in a demotion or layoff by an employer. 

Seniors' rights and civil rights groups denounced the decision.

"By putting on the worker the entire burden of demonstrating the absence or insignificance of such factors, the majority has effectively freed employers to discriminate against older workers, as long as they do not actually state that they are singling out an employee for adverse treatment solely because of age," said the National Senior Citizens Law Center in a statement.

 

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May Is Older Americans Month

May 29, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Living Today for a Better Tomorrow: Older Americans Month May 2009

May is Older Americans Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions older people have made and continue to make to our country, and to highlight our work to ensure that older Americans are able to live with dignity and security.

This year's theme for Older Americans Month is health care. Although Medicare provides health insurance coverage for people 65 or older, many seniors have difficulty getting the health care that they need.

One particular concern is prescription drugs, for which Medicare covers only part of the cost. A recent survey by The Senior Citizens League found that in the past year, 42 percent of respondents had postponed filling prescriptions or took less than the prescribed amount of a drug because of financial hardship.

Some states have programs that help low-income seniors and people with disabilities afford their prescription drugs, but the current financial crisis is causing some states to consider cutting funding to those programs.

Another concern for many seniors is being able to find a primary care doctor that will accept Medicare. Doctors are not required to accept Medicare insurance, and some choose not to because of low payments and complex paperwork requirements.

Combined with a nationwide shortage of primary care doctors, many seniors are faced with making dozens of phone calls before finding a doctor who will see them - or sometimes not finding one at all. A 2007 survey by The Commonwealth Foundation found that about a third of Medicare patients had trouble finding a doctor who would take Medicare.

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Seniors Struggle to Survive on Social Security Benefits

February 18, 2009 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of LCCR, greeting Lilly Ledbetter

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of LCCR, greets Lilly Ledbetter after President Obama signed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in January 2009

Many senior citizens depend on Social Security and retirement checks to survive.  When a check doesn't come, that can be the difference between paying the light bill and buying groceries.

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