In late September, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment (SWIFT) Act (S. 3457).
To help Americans achieve financial security in retirement, the SWIFT Act would fix outdated and arbitrary restrictions that prevent many Social Security recipients, particularly women, from maximizing their benefits.
The bill would also enhance outreach and education about when and how to claim Social Security.
“Due to outdated laws, those who rely on Social Security the most are having their income cut by unfair rules,” Casey said. “These arbitrary restrictions disproportionately affect women.”
The SWIFT Act would:
• Allow widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses with disabilities to receive 100 percent of the survivor benefit they are entitled to regardless of their age
• Give widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses the ability to increase the value of their survivor benefits beyond current arbitrary caps
• Enable widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses caring for children to receive child-in-care benefits until their children are age 18 or 19 if still in school
• Require the federal government to proactively provide information to widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses about benefits they are eligible for, claiming options, and important deadlines
The Social Security Administration estimates that the SWIFT Act would not accelerate the depletion year of the Social Security trust funds.
Poverty rates for widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses, the majority of whom are women, are higher than poverty rates for other Social Security recipients. Those living with a disability or caring for children are even more likely to live in poverty.
Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Patty Murray (D-WA) are co-sponsors of the bill.
The bill is also endorsed by more than a dozen organizations, including the Alliance for Retired Americans, Social Security Works, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, and the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement.