Currently, widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses face disproportionately high rates of poverty and unnecessary and burdensome hurdles to access Social Security benefits
The SWIFT Act would fix these outdated and arbitrary restrictions, ultimately increasing Social Security benefits for more than one million Americans
Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment (SWIFT) Act, which would fix outdated and arbitrary restrictions on Social Security benefits for widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses. Currently, despite facing disproportionately high rates of poverty, widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses often must overcome unnecessary and burdensome hurdles to access Social Security benefits and are prevented from maximizing their benefits. The SWIFT Act would fix this problem by eliminating or providing more flexibility around these barriers, which often harm women. The bill would ultimately increase Social Security benefits for more than one million Americans.
“Social Security is a lifeline for many older adults and people with disabilities,” said Chairman Casey. “Yet because of outdated rules that disproportionately affect women, many of those who rely on Social Security the most are not receiving all the benefits they need and deserve. The SWIFT Act will modernize Social Security and help the program keep its promise of a financially secure retirement for all Americans.”
Official poverty rates of widow(er)s receiving Social Security benefits are nearly twice as high as those of retired workers and spouses, and widow(er)s caring for children and widow(er)s with disabilities have among the highest poverty rates of all Social Security recipients. Despite this, under current law, widow(er)s who develop a disability after their spouse dies are not allowed to claim survivor benefits until they reach age 50, and the value of these benefits is severely reduced if they claim them before reaching full retirement age. Additionally, more than one-third of widow(er)s also have their benefits limited by an obscure provision known as the “widow(er)’s limit,” which prevents beneficiaries from maximizing their benefits by permanently reducing widow(er)s’ survivor benefits if their deceased spouse claimed retirement benefits before reaching full retirement age.
The SWIFT Act would remove these barriers and modernize Social Security by:
The SWIFT Act is cosponsored by Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Murray (D-WA), and Sanders (I-VT). It has been endorsed by the National Committee To Preserve Social Security and Medicare, Social Security Works, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, the National Association of Disability Representatives, the Alliance for Retired Americans, Justice in Aging, the Arc of the United States, the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, AFSCME, the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Reps, AFL-CIO, and AFGE.
Read more about the bill here.