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DelBene, Reichert, Kilmer, Cole Introduce Tribal Social Security Fairness Act

The bill provides a technical fix to allow tribal leaders to participate in the Social Security program.

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Washington, DC, June 9, 2017 | comments

Reps. Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Dave Reichert (WA-08), Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Tom Cole (OK-04) today introduced the Tribal Social Security Fairness Act to allow tribal council members to participate in Social Security — including paying Social Security payroll taxes and receiving earned benefits in retirement — in a similar manner as state and local governments.

Today, tribal council members are precluded from receiving Social Security coverage. The Tribal Social Security Fairness Act would make a technical fix to end this unfair practice.

“For more than 80 years, Social Security has kept seniors out of poverty and provided a vital safety-net for the middle class. There is no reason this same benefit shouldn’t extend to tribal leaders who choose to opt-in,” said Rep. DelBene. “The Tribal Social Security Fairness Act is about equity for tribal nations and removing barriers for talented native leaders wishing to serve their communities. All Americans deserve to retire with dignity and economic security, and I will continue to work in a bipartisan fashion to advance forward-looking reforms that improve Social Security for all Washingtonians.”

“Our tribal leaders deserve access to Social Security benefits if they choose to opt-in to the system,” said Rep. Reichert. “Many tribal leaders had been paying into Social Security with the expectation of future benefits before a policy ruling issued in 2006 that prevented them from continuing to pay into the program and have their earnings count toward future benefits. The Tribal Social Security Fairness Act is about righting this wrong and giving tribal governments the same opportunity to opt-in to this program that so many rely on.”

“Tribal leaders shouldn’t be barred from access to Social Security. It's the most successful public policy program in our nation’s history,” said Rep. Kilmer. “I’m proud to work in a bipartisan fashion to fix this mistake.”

“The Tribal Social Security Fairness Act will overturn an ill-conceived policy that prevented tribal council members from participating in Social Security,” said Rep. Cole. “All Americans should have the right to retire with the knowledge that the payroll taxes they paid into Social Security will give them access to the benefits they have earned. This correction is long overdue and I look forward to working with my colleagues to restore fairness to the treatment of America’s tribal council members.”

When Social Security was created in 1935, state and local government employees were excluded from receiving Social Security coverage.  The Social Security Amendments of 1950 gave states the option to extend Social Security coverage to certain state and local government employees. However, these amendments failed to address the needs of elected tribal council members. This bill makes the needed technical fix so tribal nations can voluntarily enter into an agreement with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to allow their elected leaders to participate in Social Security.

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Tags: Seniors