Struggle to keep Social Security funded continues

Feb 20, 2014

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Social workers and Social Security have a rich history together, explains NASW-New Hampshire Executive Director Stephen Gorin, and he urges social workers to continue this history by advocating for the Social Security program, which is facing possible government cutbacks.

“It’s important to keep in mind that social workers were at the forefront in helping create Social Security,” he said.

Social work pioneer Frances Perkins, the first female Cabinet member as Secretary of Labor in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration, served as chairwoman of the Committee on Economic Security, the stepping stone to the Social Security Act of 1935.

Other social work pioneers  — Grace Abbot, Eveline Burns, Wilbur J. Cohen and Harry Lloyd Hopkins — played leading roles in developing the program, which celebrated its 78th birthday last year.

But the struggle to keep Social Security funded for future generations remains in jeopardy.

“Here we are in 2013 and Social Security continues to be under attack,” said Gorin, who is a professor in the social work department at Plymouth State University.

While some lawmakers seek to remove or underfund Social Security, social workers need to defend its livelihood, Gorin said. It is an essential program, not only for social work clients but for social workers themselves and their loved ones, he said.

Gorin has advocated for the continued support of Social Security by appearing for interviews and debates on the topic on New Hampshire Public Radio. He has written and co-written op-ed columns on the subject and has been active as a guest speaker.

Gorin has also worked for several years with Eric Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University, on issues related to Social Security. Kingson is the co-chairman of Strengthen Social Security, a coalition NASW belongs to that advocates preserving and increasing Social Security benefits.

“The message is strengthen the program don’t cut it,” Kingson said. “This program is so fundamental to our society – you can’t do any other way.”

U.S. lawmakers, including the Obama administration, are seeking ways to reduce the nation’s budget deficit and Social Security is one of the federal programs up for debate, Kingson said.

“We’ve been busy beating back, defending the system,” he said. Nationwide, nearly one in five Americans received Social Security benefits in 2012, providing $774.6 billion in benefits to nearly 57 million beneficiaries.

He also stressed that Social Security is not just a retirement program for older adults. More than 17 million people under age 65 received Social Security benefits in 2012—nearly one-third of all beneficiaries.

Social workers need to contact their lawmakers in Congress and send the message that Social Security should be expanded instead of cut back, Kingson said.

He also encourages social workers to urge lawmaker support of the Strengthening Social Security Act (S. 567; HR 3118), which, among its provisions, calls for millionaires and billionaires to pay the same rate as other Americans by gradually eliminating the Social Security tax cap.

From the February 2014 NASW News. NASW members can view the full story after logging in.