Seniors Struggle to Survive on Social Security Benefits

Human Rights 02.18,09

Many senior citizens depend on Social Security and retirement checks to survive.  When a check doesn’t come, that can be the difference between paying the light bill and buying groceries.

Lilly Ledbetter, whose Supreme Court case against pay discrimination inspired the recently-enacted Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, recently had a new battle to fight when her Social Security check failed to arrive.  She spent days on the phone or down at her local Social Security office, trying to locate her missing check.  Finally, after 11 days, a supervisor in a Baltimore office found her check. 

Sixty-six percent of Social Security beneficiaries 65 and older get more than half their income from the program, according to the Social Security Administration. A third get 90 percent or more of their income from the program.

In addition, for older women like Ledbetter, Social Security benefits often supplement pension benefits that are much smaller than their male counterparts.  In Ledbetter’s case, if she hadn’t been discriminated against by her former employer, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, for nearly 20 years, Ledbetter could have been receiving twice the pension that she receives now.