Gottheimer Unveils Three-Part Senior Security Strategy

May 15, 2018

Strategy Cuts Taxes, Stops Scams, Protects Social Security & Medicare

Today, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) unveiled his Three-Part Senior Security Strategy, which will help cut taxes for seniors, protect Medicare and Social Security from federal garnishing, and stop financial predators from scamming seniors out of their hard-earned dollars.

At Brighton Gardens senior living, Gottheimer brought up speakers who discussed active scams that target New Jersey seniors. Bergenfield’s Linda Williams discussed her experience as a victim of identity theft and shared that, if receiving a call asking for money, “when in doubt, shout.” AARP’s Cristina Anastasio shared resources available at AARP to combat senior scams. Saddle River Police Department’s Detective Ed Riedel discussed how local police can help seniors combat scams.

Details of the Three-Part Senior Security Strategy can be found HERE.

Video of the event can be found HERE.

Below: Congressman Gottheimer unveils his Three-Part Senior Security Strategy

Below: Congressman Gottheimer hugs Elisabeth Gustowarow, a resident at Brighton Gardens

Below: Congressman Gottheimer greets residents at Brighton Gardens

Congressman Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

As I think we all agree, it is simply too expensive to live and retire in New Jersey. We’ve been turning our backs on families who have been here for decades because they just can’t afford to stay for their golden years. For the past five years, New Jersey has lost a larger percentage of its population than any other state. The cost of living is up, including the cost of health care.

Since I took office, I have been committed to helping seniors save their hard-earned money for retirement, so they can afford to stay here and enjoy their lives and time with family – with their kids and grandkids — here in New Jersey. That means, among other things, cutting taxes for our seniors, taking on the costs of health care, and stopping financial predators from scamming seniors out of their hard-earned dollars. And it means working with both sides of the aisle, with Democrats and Republicans, to work together for solutions that are good for you and good for New Jersey.

Back in January, I introduced my New Jersey Tax Cut Plan, which will lower taxes after the Tax Hike Bill passed in Congress gutted our State and Local Tax (SALT) Deduction, raising taxes on our residents and hurting our property values. I was proud when, earlier this month, my Tax Cut Bill was signed into state law, putting us on the path to real tax relief.

In Congress, I introduced the bipartisan Senior Housing Improvement and Retirement Accounts Act. We have retirement savings accounts such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), but retirees are blocked from tapping one of their largest savings devices — the equity in their homes. And we know that homes often grow in value; it’s often the place where we have made our greatest investments over the years.

My bipartisan bill will help seniors in retirement by reducing the taxes paid from the sale of their home and helping put those dollars into their retirement savings. It allows seniors who sell their home to avoid paying the capital gains tax if they save gains into a Roth IRA. I’m hoping extra help toward retirement will help seniors in New Jersey afford to stay here in our state in their golden years, instead of packing up to go elsewhere.

In January, I also joined with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to delay the devastating Health Insurance and Medical Device Taxes, which threatened our seniors, businesses, and everyone purchasing insurance. I also opposed attempts to lower the cost-of-living adjustment and reduce access to Social Security, and voted against a budget plan to end Medicare as we know it. Instead, I am working to strengthen Medicare and protect Social Security – and protect them from efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare.

Last year, I also fought back against the gutting of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a good alternative, which was an assault on seniors in New Jersey and across the country. The ACA is essential to lowering prescription drug costs for seniors. It took aggressive steps to close the Medicare Part D Donut Hole; seniors can feel the difference in their wallets. That’s a good thing.

The ACA also extended the solvency of the Medicare Trust Fund by 12 years—to at least 2029—protecting retirement security for future generations. Our seniors pay into Medicare through a lifetime of hard work and deserve the security of knowing they will be able to access healthcare when they need to.

But what is absurd is that the alternative that very nearly past included a “senior tax,” allowing older Americans to be charged five times more for their insurance premiums. They also went after Seniors using Medicaid. Their bill would’ve radically changed Medicaid, a needed lifeline that millions of seniors and people with disabilities rely on to be able to access long term care. It would have imposed a $4,000 tax on every family in New Jersey.

200,000 Medicare beneficiaries in our state rely on Medicaid for services not covered by Medicare, like long term care. 60% of Medicaid expenditures go to long term care for the elderly, blind, and disabled. And 3 out of 5 nursing home residents in New Jersey are actually covered by Medicaid. 500,000 Jersey residents would have lost their coverage—throwing them out of their nursing homes.

No one on a fixed income should be forced to pay thousands more for prescription drugs, pay a Senior Tax of thousands of dollars, and risk being thrown out of their nursing homes.

We cannot go back to a time when an illness or injury meant bankruptcy or death for retirees, and I am committed to fighting any attempts to do so.

Today, I’m taking the next step in our fight for New Jersey seniors by announcing my Three-Part Senior Security Strategy.

First, we must cut Social Security taxes on seniors and eliminate double taxation.

Social Security benefits are generated through hard-earned wages throughout an individual’s working life. It’s not a hand-out; you paid into it all your lives. Yet, when you retire, you are taxed again on the same benefits. Many seniors live on fixed incomes after working their entire lives to support their families and save for retirement. To tax the very benefit an individual has been taxed all his or her life amounts to double taxation. And it’s wrong.

That’s why I’m cosponsoring and calling for the passage of the bipartisan Senior Citizens Tax Elimination Act. This bill would pull millions of seniors out of poverty by putting an end to this excessive double taxation on Social Security benefits. In short, seniors’ Social Security benefits won’t count toward income when the IRS determines how much they owe in taxes, leaving seniors with a little more money in their pockets. Our seniors don’t deserve yet another tax on their years of labor.

Second, I’m fighting to stop the government from withholding seniors’ Social Security benefits if they are behind on debt payments.

As it stands, a portion of a senior’s Social Security benefits can be garnished – or taken from you — without permission to collect debts like old VA home loans or small business loans. Cutting important benefits like Social Security to collect federal debts can create serious financial problems for low-income seniors and individuals with disabilities. Withholding Social Security benefits is eroding America’s most important social safety net.

That is simply unacceptable. That’s why I’m proud to support the Protection of Social Security Benefits Restoration Act, which would repeal the change in law that allowed Social Security benefits to be garnished to collect their debts.

Nothing should come in between seniors and Social Security.

Third and finally, we must do all we can to combat the latest Medicare scams.

We should not have to worry that picking up the phone could mean being scammed out of thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, for far too many of us, that’s exactly what is happening. According to AARP, seniors lose $3 billion each year in savings because of scams. And that number will keep increasing because of a brand-new scam which is just beginning.

Between now and April 2019, millions of seniors will be receiving new Medicare cards that display unique eleven-digit numbers instead of Social Security numbers, to help prevent identity theft. These low-life scammers have wasted no time adapting to the new system. They’ve already started impersonating Medicare representatives and are cold-calling seniors across the country, aggressively demanding fake fees, personal details, and Social Security numbers.

You might get a call from someone claiming to be a federal employee, who will tell you that you won’t receive your new Medicare card unless you confirm your Social Security number and send a processing fee. But everyone needs to be aware that Medicare will never ask for information like that over the phone, and you do not need to pay a fee to receive your new card. Seniors in only a few states have received their new cards so far. Millions more in New Jersey and across the country may not receive theirs for several months, so this scam is going to pick up in frequency and intensity.

As your Representative, I am committed to fighting back against scammers who prey on seniors. We must immediately stop these scammers from threatening the security and financial well-being of our 1.5 million New Jersey seniors. That’s why I’m calling on the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission to work with state and local agencies to alert seniors and protect them from this scam.

It’s also why I set up a Stop Senior Scams Hotline at 800-974-1301 or Seniors

My call to the FTC is the next step in my work to combat senior scams. Just last month, I stood with seniors in Park Ridge to announce my Stop Senior Scams Plan. I have caseworkers specializing in Social Security, Medicare, and consumer protection standing by at the ready to help in case you or a loved one receives a suspicious call.

Those who know me know I am willing and eager to work with anyone to improve the lives of New Jersey families and New Jersey seniors. In today’s environment, working together—whether that’s across the aisle, across the country, or across generations—is the only way to keep our communities safe

That spirit and attitude is what America is all about, and that’s thanks to the work of your generation. I’m hoping my Three-Part Senior Security Strategy will be just what New Jersey residents like you need to stay put in the greatest state in the county, spending time with their families, listening to Bruce Springsteen and eating the best pizza in America.

It is because of you, your children and grandchildren, our veterans and first responders and our great American spirit, and your support that I believe our best days are always ahead of us. After all, we live in the best country in the world.

Thank you, god bless you, and God bless America.

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