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August 6, 2011


Comgressman Paul Tonko's Letterhead

July 28, 2011

Dear Mr. Van Riper,

Thank you for contacting me with your concerns about Social Security and Medicare. I appreciate hearing from you on these important matters.

Medicare and Social Security are two of the most successful government programs in U.S. history, and I am committed to ensuring their success well into the future. It is because of programs like these that we are living better, longer, and healthier lives than in the past. I pledge to do all I can to preserve these essential social safety nets. This is a time to ensure a strong future for Social Security and Medicare, not the time to cut benefits, as many in Washington are proposing.

Contrary to the claims of some, Social Security benefit levels are modest – only $1,167 per month for the average retiree. The median income for senior households is less than $25,000, reflecting just how much Social Security means to most elderly Americans. Six in ten seniors rely on Social Security for more than half of their income, and about a third of retirees have little other than Social Security on which to live. The lingering effects of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression have made the situation even more precarious for many seniors.

Over the last two years, the lack of a cost of living adjustment (COLA) has greatly affected seniors in our community. As the price of necessities such as gas, heating oil, food, and prescription drugs rise, seniors on fixed incomes are feeling the pinch. Since I arrived in Congress, I have been fighting to provide seniors with an alternative $250 payment in years where there was no COLA. Currently, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 456, the Preserving Our Promise to Seniors Act, which would provide a $250 payment to Social Security recipients in any year without a COLA.

As you may know, Medicare serves as the only source of health care for many of our nation's seniors. Republicans in Congress have introduced a Budget to ration Medicare and turn it into a voucher program. Rather than guaranteed benefits, seniors would be left with a limited voucher that would not increase to keep pace with rising health care costs. When it takes effect, this plan would double the out-of-pocket expenses that an average senior pays for health care. We all know that seniors who rely on Medicare cannot afford twice the cost and this plan would force American citizens into life and death decisions. As your representative in Congress and the only New Yorker on the House Budget Committee, which oversaw the legislative review of this plan, I authored an amendment to block this drastic cut in benefits and to prevent Medicare from being dismantled. Unfortunately, this amendment failed when every single Republican on the committee voted to end Medicare. Please be assured that I will continue to lead the fight against privatizing Medicare in the coming days months and will continue to support plans that extend the life of the Medicare Trust fund without harming beneficiaries.

Rather than stripping seniors and the disabled of their health and economic security, we must strengthen Medicare to fulfill its promise to future generations. This is why I supported legislation passed last year which provides seniors on Medicare Part D with discounts on prescription drugs, and will eventually eliminate the Medicare "donut hole."

As Republicans in Congress present plans to privatize Social Security, decrease benefits, and risk the dependability of payments on the whims of Wall Street and the fluctuations of the stock market, I remain committed to fighting against these proposals. Our seniors, who have paid into Social Security and Medicare their entire lives, deserve to see the security of their monthly payments continue. I am committed to ensuring that these programs remain stable for years to come.

Again, thank you for your correspondence. I am most appreciative. As your representative in Congress, I will continue to prioritize policies that create jobs, grow our economy, and protect the middle class while responsibly reducing the federal deficit. Should you have additional comments or questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. My door is always open.

For up-to-date news and information about our district, please visit my website at and sign up for my E-Newsletter. Additionally, please consider using my social media tools:,, and


Congressman Paul Tonko's Signature