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July 15, 2010 8:53 PM   Subscribe

My great-uncle says Obama cut his Social Security. Is this true?

I don't set out to argue politics with my great-uncle, who is a wise and kind man, although he's been listening to way more Glenn Beck, etc. than I've ever seen him do. Still, we do talk about issues sometimes, and he knows I was an Obama voter whereas he voted for McCain. When I was (politely enough) arguing for Obama on some account, I forget what exactly, he told me that Obama cut his social security, and that where he got $1100+, he now gets about $50. He has other sources of income, and is doing okay, but he seemed gravely hurt. I could tell it was sensitive, and I was embarrassed, so I did not press to find out exactly what date, what reduction, what metric, etc. I headed towards another subject IIRC.

I am looking up the subject, but I can't really tell whether what he was talking about was exactly what happened. He wouldn't tell a lie in a hundred years, but whether Obama did it (personally, as he seemed to think) I don't know. Can you tell me?

(Anonymous because I am known to family etc. on the site.)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is it possible that by "cut" he means there was no 2010 increase?
posted by Miko at 8:56 PM on July 15, 2010

A quick Google turns up this. Is your uncle on Medicare?
posted by oinopaponton at 8:59 PM on July 15, 2010

...where he got $1100+, he now gets about $50. and he's been listening to way more Glenn Beck, etc. than I've ever seen him do.

Is it possible your great-uncle is getting, um, confused? The decrease he's describing isn't legal; not to mention, if that actually had happened, not only would there be 24 hour news coverage, we'd probably see actual riots. Maybe that's his net decrease, and not the net amount?
posted by sfkiddo at 9:19 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Surely he has statements, deposit slips, stubs, W2s, something, to document this?
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:24 PM on July 15, 2010

As far as I know, there have been no cuts to Social Security payouts. There has been some talk about means testing SS in the future, but no bill has been passed, that I recall.
posted by wierdo at 9:42 PM on July 15, 2010

Unless he went back to work? I forgot that you lose $1 of benefits for every 2 or 3 dollars you earn, depending on your age.
posted by wierdo at 9:44 PM on July 15, 2010

If his Social Security has been cut, it sounds like it's a one-off issue, somehow relating specifically to your uncle's situation. Definitely not across the board.

Part of my job is calculating people's income to see if they are applicable for additional assistance (for low-income families), and many of my clients' sole income is Social Security. I can say with authority that for the first time in many years that the average SS/SSI check has not decreased -- nor, for that matter, has it increased. There was no COLA raise this year. However, the Medicare expenses did go up a few dollars. But only a few dollars (say, two), so it shouldn't make a drastic impact.

The only time I see such drastic decreases as per your uncle's case, is because the client is somehow no longer eligible for the benefit. Not for some arbitrary decision by the administration at large to lower it.

So again, if indeed his Social Security is down to almost nothing, my inclination is it's from something on your uncle's side. The most common example of a client not getting the full amount is due to garnishments (i.e., owing back taxes). Not saying that's the case with your uncle -- just my experience.

On preview: Yes, if your uncle has gone back to work, his SS amount would decrease. Also, if he's now receiving a pension from another source, that would also cause his SS to decrease.
posted by paisley sheep at 9:51 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Miko's right about the COLA - that shouldn't make his checks decrease though (although oinopaponton is possibly on to something). Also, seniors got an extra $250 check from the stimulus last year, so I don't reeeeally think Obama is out to get him. Actually, Obama shouldn't get either much credit or much blame for this sort of thing; it's really more up to Congress to fix the COLA situation.

Not to shit on Congress too much though, because if there's a possibility that there's just some sort of error with his checks, rather tha something based on some new sweeping policy that has completely escaped my attention (I know you said he didn't want to talk about it, but if there's any sort of way to figure out if he received any explanation of the change in benefits or if they just mysteriously dropped...?), he should really call the local office for his Representative and speak to a caseworker, who should be able to sort it out.
posted by naoko at 9:53 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

The only thing I can think of was where people who worked more than one job suddenly had to pay back the "stimulus payment" that they received from the second/third job. Evidently the extra $10 or so per paycheck that people started getting only applied to one job, but all the employers had to take it out, so the worker had to pay back the second job's worth of credit (unexpectedly) when they filed.

You say your uncle has "other sources of income," although you are not specific about what those are. If the other income is from a current job, then that's more than likely what happened. If it's from investment dividends, then I really couldn't say, but it might be worth googling Obama's stimulus package and seeing what counts as "making work pay." (That was the name of the tax credit, ironically).

Also, good on you for being willing to sort this out for him.
posted by deep thought sunstar at 1:03 AM on July 16, 2010

oinopaponton is not really on to something here. This link explains that there is a savings clause that prevented most recipients from having to pay an increased Part B premium. Even assuming your uncle did pay an increased premium, it would be a relatively small amount, not almost his entire benefit.

I spend all day dealing with Social Security on behalf of clients and can guarantee you there have been no major policy changes that would cause a recipient's benefits to drop as drastically as is reported here.

People dump on the Social Security Administration a lot and goodness knows I'm no fan, but it is extremely rare that it does not provide written notification of action it takes, especially reductions such as this. I would bet a lot your uncle got some explanation in the mail. If he can't find it, he needs to go to his local Field Office to inquire. My advice to clients is to never,ever call the toll free number; those people routinely give out bad advice and misinformation.

You can find your local Field Office here.
posted by pasici at 4:39 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I guarantee Obama personally had nothing to do with it. There are about 1000 layers of bureaucracy between Obama and the Social Security payment centers. If he wanted to, sure he could probably make a call and move the levers and speed up or influence a case, but really the only time that could ever happen is some kind case getting national headlines, maybe something like this. He has a lot bigger things to worry about, and you can bet that Beck et al would be all over it the first time he called down from the White House to muck around in some random taxpayer's case.

More likely, if your uncle is telling the truth, either he was reciving SSID disability payments and was ceased for some reason, or he has some other work or deductions that you don't know about like those mentioned above.

Problems pop up all the time with people's checks, even when they're entitled to the benefits. A trip to your local field office should help clear things up if your uncle is really in a hard way. Worst comes to worst and he might need to contact a lawyer who does Social Security cases.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:49 AM on July 16, 2010

There have been no new Federal taxes that should have affected your uncle, and certainly no cuts to SS. I'd badger him to contact the local office to verify.

On the other hand, if he's really a Glenn BeckMcCain guy, he should be delighted if his SS were cut - smaller government and all that...
posted by coolguymichael at 12:14 PM on July 16, 2010

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