Millions of caregivers leave their jobs to care for a loved one at some time in their careers. Not only do they lose their income in the process, they stop paying into Social Security and may see lower Social Security benefits when they retire. So, on May 30, 2017, Senator Chris Murphy reintroduced a bill to provide these caregivers additional retirement benefits, the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act. He originally introduced the bill on March 18, 2016.
An estimated 65 million people leave their jobs entirely or significantly reduce their work hours in order to care for someone they love. And, by some accounts, they forego an average of $300,000 in lost wages, pension benefits and Social Security benefits when they do so jeopardizing their retirement security. Women are most affected.
The credit would be based on a sliding scale of income tied to past earnings with a cap, for up to five years of caregiving. Anyone caring for a family member–parent, child, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, aunt, uncle, grandparent–who needs help with activities of daily living would qualify for the credit, so long as they were caregiving a minimum of 80 hours a month.
Senator Murphy argues that supporting caregivers will save the government money. People being cared for in their homes will not need nursing home care, which Medicaid often pays for. Bernie Sanders is co-sponsoring the bill in the Senate. And, Congresswoman Nita Lowey introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
If passed, this bill would expand Social Security and improve the lives of many older adults in retirement. It would end the penalty on people who put their family first to care for them. It would be particularly helpful in increasing women’s income in retirement and reducing the income gap between men and women.
People would be able to claim the credit–based on a sliding scale–for up to 60 months. And, it would phase out when the caregiver earns more than the average national wage.
These organizations have all endorsed Senator Murphy’s bill: The National Council on Aging, The National Organization for Women, The National Alliance for Caregiving, The Sibling Leadership Network, The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Social Security Works, Autism Speaks, Latinos for a Secure Retirement, Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action, The Arc of the United States, and Washington State Senior Citizens’ Lobby.
Here’s more information from Just Care: