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Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund
4/8/2013 3:02:24 PM

Federation talks with rural residents in Alabama

ATLANTA, GA -  In 2012, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund joined with a coalition of national groups under the auspices of the Center for Community Change to explore the knowledge, perceptions and concerns about social security. The focus of the Federation was to hear from the rural Black community. See information below but for the entire report please go to Social Security in the Rural South on our website.

Below, read (1) one of the compelling stories and (2) see the list of recommendations from those attending the listening sessions in Georgia and Florida.

One of the Stories from Alabama

I am a veteran and got disabled about 9 years ago. In 2008 I filed for SSI* because I didn't have anything else coming in. I wasn't of retirement age or nothing like that. SSI* carried me through 4 years of paper work. I had all the documents saying that I couldn't breathe. I had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. I couldn't breathe. But, they carried me through almost 4 years of paper work to give me $647 a month.

But by grace, I was (ultimately) dealing with the VA (Veterans Administration) and the VA came in said "Wait a minute. We'll give you a 90% disability."

So they sent the papers to SSI telling them I'm getting a 90% disability and they can keep the $647." SSI contacted me and said I owed them $3,000 because I'm getting money for being in Vietnam. That wasn't right. I've got to pay them now. I pay them $25 a month for their fault.

Recommendations for Improvements to Social Security:
-All should pay their fair share into Social Security.
-There should be credit offered for caregivers.
-All social security benefits should be increased and not cut.
-There should be a re-calculation of COLA.*
-Recipients should be able to get their benefits without either going to an attorney or at the very least not have to pay large amounts to an attorney.
-Survivors benefits should be changed to offer coverage for students up to age 22.
-The age limit should not be changed as it would discriminate against physical laborers.
-There should be an adjustment to formulas for SSI accounting for medical costs and benefits.
-More people should be paying into Social Security.(e.g. working youth) and/or tax
those with incomes over $10k and leave the poor alone.
-There should be better services for recipients such as providing relevant information and responses to questions and concerns in the
local and national offices. The communications - such as the 800 number - needs to be improved altogether.
-There should be sensitivity training for social security employees. (the mindset
of these employees is often not good. For example, SSI means welfare to them.)
SSDI** needs improvement - there needs to be a faster process that would also include links to the Veterans Administration and other agencies to prevent "paybacks" by recipients if these agencies make mistakes.
-There should be training and education with youth about social security so they can better plan their life altogether including, of course, their future.

* COLA - Cost of Living Adjustment
** SSDI - Social Security Death Index

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