When I started with OWL as an intern through the National Academy of Social Insurance, I had my questions about Social Security. I did not believe, like over 80% of my generation, that Social Security wouldn’t be there for me when I retired. Although, the pervasive scare-tactic messaging had skewed my idea of the program enough to make me wonder: When the time comes, will I be able to retire and live comfortably? How exactly will Social Security figure into that? During these turbulent times, these are some of the questions Americans ask each day, leaving many worried about their retirement security.
Since its passage in 1935, Social Security has provided insurance through the likes of poor housing markets, declining pensions, rising health care costs, and recession after recession.
In fact, Social Security is essential to the economic security of older Americans, particularly women. Two in three seniors get over half of their income from Social Security, and one in three get almost all of their income from Social Security. Social Security benefits keep a significant portion of women out of poverty- 37.5% in 2012. In 2012, 26.5% of women relied on Social Security for 90% or more of their income.
Though they account for a substantial amount of retired Americans’ income, benefits are still modest: the average monthly benefit is $1,230 per month. This number is even less for women. Last year, retired women workers received an average of $1,100 per month while retired male workers received an average of $1,400 per month.
And, in answer to the doubts of over 4 in 5 of my peers, we not only can afford to keep Social Security strong, but we want to. Social Security payments now account for 5% of the economy, and will increase to 6% when the baby boomer generation retires. Additionally, the program is efficient: less than a penny of every dollar is spent on administration. Americans are willing to pay to keep Social Security robust.
Still not sold on why everyone - from millennials to baby boomers and everyone in between - should care about this program? In honor of Social Security’s birthday each year, Social Security Works puts out its series of state reports, which are available online for all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition to providing information about Social Security’s history, character and vitality, and compelling, real-life stories, each report includes statistics about the number of people who receive benefits, the types of benefits they receive and the total amount of funds flowing from these programs into every state, its congressional districts and counties. Click here to see how people in your state are benefiting from this crucial social insurance program.
OWL has been working on strengthening and protecting Social Security for over 34 years. As a guardian of this critical component of economic security, we have helped Americans of all ages continue to receive the benefits they have earned over a lifetime of hard work.
TheWomenAgainstAlzheimer’s Network (WA2) “harnesses the power and creative energy of women - the disease’s disproportionate victims, as patients and caregivers – to create a new approach to finding a cure and to build a movement that commits our nation to a bold and aggressive plan for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Their goals include:
*Challenging policymakers and the research community to move away from business as usual to collaborate, to innovate, and to forge ahead in new and previously unforeseen ways to reach for a cure.
*Marshalling an army of women advocates in Washington and state capitals, and throughout industry and the research community.
*Educating lawmakers and the general public about the prevalence of the disease, its particularly cruel burden on women, and the resulting costs to our society.
*3.2 million women have Alzheimer’s; women are diagnosed twice as often as men
*60-70 percent of the 15.5 million primary caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients are women
*Women leaving the workforce to care for a diagnosed family member lose, on average, more than $300,000 in earnings, pensions and Social Security benefits
And despite the enormous cost to the nation – more than $200 billion is estimated to be spent this year – very little is spent on research. In 2013, the National Institutes for Health spent only $500 million on Alzheimer’s research. (That compares to more than $6 billion on cancer research.)
A recent study also finds that deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s are under-reported; it finds that Alzheimer’s disease may contribute to close to as many deaths in the United States as heart disease or cancer.
Other new founders include Maryann Bersani, Interim CEO and Senior Vice President of Public Policy, Assisted Living Federation of America, Dr. Tonia Vojtofsky, Founder and President, Cognitive Care Solutions and Dr. Kate Zhong, Senior Director of Clinical Research, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. WA2’s national summit is scheduled for September 16-17 in Washington, D.C.
OWL was pleased to be part of this event, hosted by Cecilia Munoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The conference will be a timely one—2015 is the 50th anniversary of Medicare, Medicaid and the Older Americans Act, as well as the 80th anniversary of Social Security.
“The 2015 White House Conference on Aging is an opportunity to look ahead to the issues that will help shape the landscape for older Americans for the next decade,” Ms. Munoz writes. “As we listen to aging leaders and older Americans, some of the common themes we hear include the following:
· Retirement security is a vitally important issue. Financial security in retirement provides essential peace of mind for older Americans, but requires attention during our working lives to ensure that we are well prepared for retirement.
· Long-term services and supports remain a priority. Older Americans overwhelmingly prefer to remain independent in the community as they age. They need supports to do so, including a caregiving network and well-supported workforce.
· Healthy aging will be all the more important as baby boomers age. As medical advances progress, the opportunities for older Americans to maintain their health and vitality should progress as well.
· Seniors, particularly the oldest older Americans, can be vulnerable to financial exploitation, abuse, and neglect. The Elder Justice Act was enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act, and we need to realize its vision of protecting seniors from scam artists and others seeking to take advantage of them.
We are delighted to announce that Nora Super will be leading this effort as the newly named Executive Director of the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. She brings both substantive expertise on the issues and the experience to help maximize our outreach and engagement with older Americans across the country. We also will launch WhiteHouseConferenceOnAging.gov as the official site for the conference this summer.
Americans got good news in the 2014 Medicare Trustees Report released in late July.
Medicare’s financial status improved modestly, and the date the trust fund is projected to become insolvent is 2030, four years later than was projected in 2013.
Among several factors that contributed to the modest improvement: the Affordable Care Act helped to increase revenues as well as efficiency in Medicare, and healthcare costs for Medicare beneficiaries have grown at a slower pace in recent years. The Congressional Budget office estimated that Medicare spending for each beneficiary would be $1,000 lower in 2014 than was estimated in 2010 and $2,400 lower in 2019. If nothing is done and the Medicare trust funds are exhausted in 2030, incoming payroll taxes and revenues could still pay 85% of benefits decreasing to 75% of benefits starting in 2045.
Currently, there are 52.3 million Medicare beneficiaries, of whom 43.5 million are 65 and older. Medicare is also a critical source of retirement security for 22.4 million women ages 65 and over, who tend to have lower incomes and more chronic conditions than older men. More than half (56%) of all older Medicare beneficiaries are women; two out of three beneficiaries ages 85 and older are women.
The improvement in Medicare’s finances will provide more time for policy makers to come up with a plan to ensure its long-term solvency and allow for incremental changes rather than emergency measures.
If you’ve ever seen ABC’s Shark Tank, a reality show where Barbara Corcoran sits on a panel of successful venture capitalists hearing pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs, you’ll know exactly why this feisty businesswoman gives a whole new meaning to the term “loan shark.”
Given the egregious findings of the report Senator Cantwell released yesterday on behalf of the Committee, “enormously” is an understatement. The report stated that women receive only 4.4% of business loans, and that the U.S. government has never met its goal of allocating a mere 5% of federal contracts to women-led businesses.
SBA Administrator Contreras-Sweet outlined the support the SBA provides and spoke more broadly about the importance of uniting the public, private entities, and the government to help women succeed. Claiming that the SBA now stands for “Smart, Bold, and Accessible,” she said, “Many people don’t have a rich uncle to open the door; the SBA is going to be the Uncle Sam to open the door.” Just as venture capital firms don’t understand the economic advantage of funding women, women business owners are often unaware of their options for loan programs.
One thing is certain: this is both a pressing and nonpartisan issue. The hearing was held in the largest meeting room of the United States Senate, yet people were still packed like sardines, because they know just how critical women entrepreneurs are to the success of the U.S. economy. It is high time we break down the barriers inhibiting women-owned businesses.
In the face of complex structural barriers and frustrating gender bias women-owned businesses face, we asked Corcoran, “What do women 40+ most need to succeed in business?” Her answer was simple: “A partner. Everyone needs a partner. I have a partner. Someone to dream with, share your trials with.” When she testified later on, the charismatic Shark joked that she’d “never seen a real senator before.” Asked by Senator Cardin whether capital or technical assistance was more important, the cunning entrepreneur answered, “Capital. Entrepreneurs are just hard-headed enough to figure the rest out on their own.”
There’s been a lot of news lately about the Social Security Disability Insurance Program, including accusations that it’s being abused, that claims are skyrocketing, and that it’s about to go bankrupt.
It’s important to know the facts, and the recent post from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is an excellent summary of the critical role SSDI plays in millions of people’s lives, and what the real funding issues are.
First, SSDI payments go to people in need. The article points out that the typical beneficiary is in his or her late 50s and suffers from a severe mental, musculoskeletal, or other debilitating impairment.
Many are also poor. CBPP notes that poverty rates for disability insurance recipients are twice as high – even when taking those benefits into account.
Overall, about one-fifth of all disabled-worker families are poor; without DI, nearly half would be.
And yes, the rolls have been growing – but the reasons are from well-known demographic factors: more people, more older people, more women in the workforce – and ironically enough, the rise in the Social Security full retirement age from 65 to 66. The recession also bumped up applications, since unemployment drives those up. But approval rates actually fall when unemployment is high.
Finally, CBPP points out that the SSDI and Social Security may have challenges – but they are not about to go bankrupt. “The DI trust fund is expected to be exhausted in 2016, the much larger Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) trust fund in 2035, and the combined funds in 2033 (if legislators shifted money from the retirement fund to the DI fund as needed to keep it solvent). Even after those dates, the programs could pay 75 to 80 percent of scheduled benefits; they would not go ‘bankrupt.’ DI’s 2016 depletion date is no surprise — the trustees projected it back in 1995.”
Expect more disinformation about SSDI to be broadcast in coming weeks as opponents of the program gear up to make unnecessary and damaging cuts.
“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” —Maya Angelou
50 years ago today, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce the Act. Today, the EEOC enforces a number of federal statutes protecting workers from discrimination, including:
• the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin;
As we recognize the progress we’ve made as a nation in achieving equality for all, we also realize more needs to be done. Despite federal anti-discrimination laws, age-based discrimination complaints have increased by 50% over the past several years, and women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. OWL will continue its work on behalf of women 40+ in the areas of equality, economic security, and quality of life.
OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar is quoted in a June 27 article on female entrepreneurs written by Fox Business reporter Christina Scotti. The article, “Female Entrepreneurship Growing Faster Than Ever,” highlights the impressive growth rate (68% since 1997) of women-owned businesses, which now number 9.1 million. It also mentions a Harvard study which found that men—especially attractive ones—have a much easier time than women in securing funds from venture capitalists. Bobbie responded to these findings by calling for change: “It’s ridiculous to think males have more persuasiveness, and we need to get rid of this unfounded bias by advocating for the millions of smart and successful women entrepreneurs out there.”
By Janna Starr
Secretary, OWL National, and President, The Arc Oregon
As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which, among other things, makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to hire, fire, or discriminate against anyone because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, we might take a moment to remember that women were an afterthought in the Act. The word “sex” was not added to Title VII until late in the process when a Democrat from Virginia introduced it in a one-word amendment. Rumor had it that the Representative, who generally opposed integration legislation, did so in order to increase opposition to the bill by labor unions, which had opposed including women in employment legislation.
The rest, as we know, is history. Thanks to the strong efforts of women’s advocacy organizations and civil rights leaders in Congress, the Civil Rights Act – with the ban on sex discrimination included - was signed into law.
Women have clearly made great strides in the world of employment since then. And lately, they have been breaking ground in another business arena: entrepreneurship. A recent American Express report found that the number of women-owned businesses increased by 68% between 197 and 2013— at 1 ½ times the rate of U.S. business overall. In the last 16 years, employment by companies owned by female entrepreneurs national was up 10 percent; their revenue grew by 63%.
Of course, as in all other walks of life, women still face more obstacles than men when starting a business. A recent Harvard Business School study found that investors who were presented with identical proposals were more likely to choose the one pitched by a man. And in the first half of 2013, only seven percent of venture capital funds went to women.
If history is any guide, we know that women will ultimately prevail. The outlawing of gender discrimination in employment in 1964 was monumental, opening doors women had yet to enter. Breaking the barriers and taking leadership in entrepreneurship is nothing more than the next step.
•In 1970, only a generation ago, 62% of children had a working father and a stay-at-home mother.
•But by 2011, just one in five families fit that configuration (20.7%), while single parents headed only one in three households (31.9%), and the remaining families (52.6%) consisted of two working parents.
•In 1967, only 27 % of mothers were breadwinners or co-breadwinners in American families.
•Women are now the primary or co-primary breadwinner in nearly two-thirds of American families.
•The majority of mothers today work, and most of them work full-time – leaving most families without a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver.
Businesses, economists, labor leaders, legislators, advocates, and the media all convened to emphasize that our laws and workplaces haven’t kept up:
•Women still earn less than men. Women working full time are paid 77 cents for every dollar that men are who work full time.
•Most Americans do not earn paid family leave. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee workers the right to earn paid time off to care for a new child.
•Working families lack the flexibility at work to meet their family responsibilities. Less than half of parents can change the hours or days that they work, and only about one-quarter are able to change their location.
Given this disparity between changing workforce demographics and stagnant workforce policies, the White House Summit on Working Families focused on strategies to ensure all members of our society have equal access to high-quality jobs. Of particular significance was the increasingly important role of women as breadwinners in working families. Topics included key issues such as workplace flexibility, equal pay, workplace discrimination, worker retention and promotion, opportunities for low-wage workers, elder care, childcare, and early childhood education. Makers, the largest video collection of women’s stories, had an onsite roaming camera recording stories throughout the day from both participants and attendees.
Participants of the summit included:
•Vice President Joe Biden
•Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez
•Valerie Jarrett, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor
•Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress
•Tina Tchen, Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls
OWL is proud to work with Tina Tchen and the White House Council on Women and Girls to bring the workplace up to speed for women. Advance workplace equality by sharing your working family story and telling the White House how women 40+ would be helped by 21st-century workplace policies by visiting I’m Ready for Workplace Policies wall.
OWL Program Manager Brittany Reid attended the Senate Special Committee on Aging’s hearing to investigate the effect of Social Security Administration (SSA)’s recent office closures and service cuts. As a result of a bipartisan investigation, Chairman Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Ranking Member Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) sought to examine why, despite the increase in case load due to the aging of the baby boomer population, more offices than ever, 64 since 2010, were being closed nationwide.
The hearing addressed the need for SSA to evolve to the changing needs of the technological world while maintaining invaluable field office locations, despite cuts of $1 billion and 11,000 staff members over the past three years.
Here at OWL we are on the same page as the Senators: face-to-face contact is essential to ensuring the economic security of our aging population.
Tammy DeLong, from the Aroostook Area Agency on Aging in Presque Isle, Maine, shared a story about a woman who was earning a mere $434 per month and was able to claim an additional $1,000 monthly widow benefit which she was entitled to but unaware of, because she had access to a field office where a staff member took the time to ask her personalized questions and investigate potential benefits. Senator Collins said that she was struck by this story, as it made a huge difference in the woman’s standard of living, and “proves the point that face to face is so critical.”
Senators Nelson and Collins urged Nancy Berryhill, Deputy Commissioner for Operations for the SSA, to search for creative opportunities for shared office spaces, such as co-locating with the U.S. Postal Service or other such government entities. If absolutely necessary to close a field office, the Committee recommended that the SSA maintain transparency in deciding how they choose which offices to close, particularly taking into account the needs and opinions, demographics, and other factors present in each community.
While Chairman Nelson acknowledged that this will be an ongoing process, he emphasized that the Committee stands with the aging population and will seek transparency in maintaining fair access to Social Security information.
OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar and Program Manager Brittany Reid attended Vital Voices’ 13th Annual Global Leadership Awards Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The inspiring evening opened with Vital Voices President and CEO Alyse Nelson remarking on the importance of women in leadership, saying that women are working on issues that “are not just women’s issues, but THE issues impacting our shared futures.”
The honorees were remarkable women from around the world who are taking risks to break down barriers, empower women, and advance equality; their undertakings are nothing short of extraordinary.
The recipient of the Economic Empowerment Award was Dr. Victoria Kisyombe of Tanzania. Following the death of her husband, she had only a single cow. From that, she was able to sustain her family and ultimately founded SELFINA. The micro-finance organization has issued $16 million in credit, provided 25,000 leases to women, created 125,000 jobs, and impacted 200,000 people.
Vital Voices board member and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg presented Priti Patkar of India with the Human Rights Award for her work with children of prostitutes. Her four 24-hour shelters provide meals, education, healthcare, and the opportunity to break the cycle of exploitation.
Melanne Verveer, director of Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace, and Security, honored Claudia Paz y Paz with the Leadership in Public Life Award for her bravery as Guatemala’s first female attorney general. She has led efforts to curb the extreme violence, particularly against women, in her country.
Suaad Allami earned the Fern Holland Award, presented by co-host of CBS This Morning Norah O’Donnell, for establishing Women for Progress, the first legal clinic for women in Iraq, which counsels women in cases of divorce, custody, and gender-based violence.
Vital Voices founder Hillary Rodham Clinton presented the final award, and stressed the importance of “advancing rights, opportunities, and full participation of women and girls everywhere.” Razan Zaitouneh – who was abducted in December 2013 and whose whereabouts remain unknown – was given the Global Trailblazer Award for her courageous advocacy in Syria. There, she established the country’s first human rights information bank, documenting violations and making information available to the outside world.
OWL was honored to be part of an evening showcasing such courageous and innovative women. Their work is a powerful reminder of the importance, as Paz y Paz said, of “breaking the silence in demand of justice.”
Gracia currently provides management consulting services as President and Principal Consultant of G. M. Hillman & Associates, Inc. (formerly The Hillman Group, Inc.) She also serves as a Senior Fellow at Demos, a public policy organization working for an America where all have an equal say in democracy and an equal chance in economic prosperity. She contributes to Demos’s work to expand the freedom to vote for all of America’s citizens. Her previous writings include “Toward A More Perfect Union: The Congressional Black Caucus & Voting Rights” and “E-Voting and Democracy in America.”
Gracia’s previous work includes the following positions:
Chair, Vice Chair and Commissioner, U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues, U.S. Department of State
Nonprofit Executive Management:
President and CEO, WorldSpace Foundation
Executive Director, League of Women Voters of the U.S.
Interim Executive Director, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
Executive Director, National Coalition on Black Voter Participation
Executive Advisor, Council on Foundations
Throughout her career, Gracia has worked with numerous federal, state and local public officials, and national and local nonprofit and business leaders. She has a vast working knowledge of and appreciation for the nuances of America’s diverse communities and the importance of inclusive partnerships and collaborations to solve problems and advance critical issues. Her global experience includes travel to several countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe working with government officials and local NGOs. She served as an official representative of the U.S. government at conferences and meetings convened by the United Nations, Organization of American States, and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and negotiated program partnerships with UN agencies and indigenous groups. Gracia also served as co-chair of the 2005 World Conference on Cape Verde.
Gracia believes in engaged communities, is committed to voluntary service and has served in leadership positions as an officer and member of numerous nonprofit boards of directors and commissions. Her professional memberships include the National Association of Parliamentarians.
On Tuesday, June 10, Small Business Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet spoke at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress and attended by OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. Mrs. Contreras-Sweet outlined her top priorities, which were to make the SBA more modern, more inclusive, and more market-savvy. On the subject of inclusion, she noted that the face of entrepreneurship in America is changing: more small businesses today belong to women, seniors, and other non-traditional groups, who often have more difficulty gaining access to expansion capital.
According to Mrs. Contreras-Sweet, more than a quarter of small businesses are now owned or led by women. She called the 20% growth in women-owned businesses over the past five years “remarkable.” She also noted that women entrepreneurs are considered underrepresented in only 83 out of 260 industry-sector categories.
OWL’s upcoming initiative will focus on this topic, since encore entrepreneurship is becoming an increasingly necessary means of economic sustainability for women over 40. As always, we will work with an extensive network of private and public resources to explore the existing challenges and resources unique to women tackling new careers. The topic will also be the subject of our 2015 Mother’s Day Report.
Statement on RAISE Act of 2014 by Bobbie Brinegar, OWL Executive Director
OWL applauds Senators Mark Begich and Patty Murray for taking the lead on this important and timely legislation. Working to ensure the economic security of the more than 70 million women over 40 is one of OWL’s core missions, and the RAISE Act is a positive step toward that goal.
The changes expand Social Security to more accurately reflect the realities of today’s workforce, one dominated by stagnating wages, the erosion of pensions and other economic factors.
An enhanced and strengthened Social Security program is of particular concern to women. Women tend to earn less than men and are less likely to receive pensions from employers. They are more likely to take time out of the workforce to care for family, including those with disabilities, which is another group that will receive enhanced benefits under the ACT. Surviving spouses – a sector where women are disproportionately represented – also will see improved benefits.
It is encouraging, after years of fighting just to maintain existing benefits, to see a measured approach to improving the nation’s most successful and popular insurance program. OWL looks forward to working with the Social Security community to seek passage of the RAISE Act.