The AARP, a powerful nonprofit organization that fights for the rights of individuals over the age of 50, appeared to be easing its longstanding opposition to cuts to Social Security benefits in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, then the group backed away from those comments.
"The ship was sailing. I wanted to be at the wheel when that happens," John Rother, AARP's long-time policy chief told the newspaper.
But Friday afternoon, the group issued a statement, citing "inaccurate media stories" on its Social Security stance: "AARP is as committed as we've ever been to fighting to protect Social Security for today's seniors and strengthening it for future generations. Contrary to the misleading characterization in a recent media story, AARP has not changed its position on Social Security."
In a phone interview with the New York Times policy chief John Rother stated, "our goal is to limit any changes in benefits but we also want to see the system made solvent."You have to look at all the tradeoffs and what we're trying to do is engage the American public in that debate," said Rother.
Earlier, WSJ reported that the 37 million member organization with wide pockets plans to host town hall meetings across the United States to sell disgruntled seniors on the change.
The real-time reaction on social media to the Journal story was critical of the organization, which for years has steadfastly opposed cutting benefits under the federal retirement program. Congress is currently considering moves to shore up the Social Security trust fund, which is expected to run out of cash when the Baby Boomer generation is in full retirement mode.
On Twitter, Kel Munger wrote , "as a member, I'll be plenty ticked if they throw SS under the truck," wrote Kel Munger.
In Alabama, Stacy Hyatt wrote on Twitter, "Time for Seniors 2 Revolt! AARP forgets Seniors are the largest dependable voting block!"
President Obama opposes changes to Social Security that would reduce payments to current beneficiaries or sharply cut future benefits, his spokesman said today.
"No current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced," Jay Carney, White House press secretary, said. "We will not accept any kind of reform that slashes benefits for future beneficiaries."
Vice President Joe Biden is leading talks with lawmakers in hopes of reducing the national debt by $4 trillion as part of an agreement to raise the government's borrowing limit. The deadline for this effort is Aug. 2, when the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit expires and no more money can be borrowed.
Meanwhile, one of the more difficult decisions faced by couples nearing retirement is when to take benefits under the program. We prepared these tables with the help of the SSA to help you understand the options.
Social Security Spouse Benefits at a Glance
Full Retirement Age (FRA): 66 years old. A person can expect to receive his (or her) full Social Security benefit if he starts receiving benefits at the full retirement age.
Minimum Age for Spouse Benefits: 62 years old.
Divorced Spouses: A divorced spouse must be 62 years old to receive benefits and had to be married for at least 10 years prior to divorce. The ex-spouse is required to be currently unmarried.
Current Maximum Social Security Benefit for Workers: Approximately $2366
Maximum FICA Taxable Income: $106,800
Working Household: If a person has enough work credits to qualify for his/her own Social Security retirement benefits, she would only get a spouse's benefit if her own full benefit is less than one-half the spouse's full benefit, explains Linda Lauria, SSA spokesperson.
Maximum Spouse Retirement Benefits: 50 percent of spouse's unreduced benefits.