Monday, May 15, 2017

The Protection of Social Security Benefits Restoration Act: Will there be bipartisan support?

Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced the Protection of Social Security Benefits Restoration Act a few days ago. If adopted into law, this bill will stop the federal government from garnishing the Social Security benefits of elderly people who defaulted on their student loans.

This is a good bill, and it deserves bipartisan support.

Late last year, the General Accounting Office released a report on governmental offsets of Social Security benefits. The GAO documented that 173,000 people had their Social Security checks reduced due to defaulted student loans in 2015. This is nearly a five-fold increase from 2002, when only 36,000 people had their Social Security checks reduced for that reason.

Senators Wyden and Brown first introduced this bill in 2015, when it had five additional co-sponsors. This year the bill has 10 additional co-sponsors--all Democrats: Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jim Merkley (D-Or), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Surely this bill will garner widespread support among both Democrats and Republicans. If ever there was a bill that deserves bipartisan support, this is it.

Americans should watch this bill closely to see if it makes its way into law. Any Senator or Congressperson who votes against this bill should be voted out of office. Any federal legislator who tries to delay the bill or prevent it from moving forward should be given the boot.

Admittedly, this bill will only make a small contribution to relieving the suffering of overburdened student-loan debtors. Eight million people have defaulted on their loans and almost 6 million more have been forced into income-driven repayment plans that stretch their payments out for 20 to 25 years. Millions more are not making their loan payments because their loans are in deferment or forbearance.

No reasonable person can argue against passage of the Wyden-Brown bill. If the Protection of Social Security Benefits Restoration Act fails to become law, it will be a sign that our elected representatives cannot work together to solve real and obvious problems, which will mean our country is in real trouble.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)


Brown Introduces Bill to Stop Government from Taking Away Social Security Benefits to Pay Off Student Loans. Brown Press Release, May 3, 2017.

Senate Democrats Introduce Bill to Stop the Government From Taking Away Social Security Benefits to Pay Off Student Loans. Wyden Press Release, December 10, 2015.

United States Government Accountability Office. Social Security Offsets: Improvement to Program Design Could Better Assist Older Student Borrowers with Obtaining Permitted Relief. Washington DC: Author, December 2016).

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