Proposed SWIFT Act Aims to Improve Social Security for Survivors

In a recent development on Capitol Hill, U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging, has introduced the Surviving Widow(er) Income Fair Treatment (SWIFT) Act. This proposed legislation seeks to address outdated and restrictive regulations governing Social Security benefits for widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses.

Currently, many individuals in these categories encounter unnecessary barriers and complexities when attempting to access Social Security benefits. These challenges often disproportionately affect women and hinder them from maximizing the benefits they are entitled to receive. The SWIFT Act is designed to rectify these issues and potentially increase Social Security benefits for over one million Americans.

Social Security is a crucial safety net for older adults and people with disabilities. However, outdated rules within the system have left many of those who rely on it facing financial insecurity. Chairman Casey emphasized the importance of modernizing Social Security to ensure that it fulfills its promise of providing financial security during retirement for all Americans.

Official statistics reveal that the poverty rates among widow(er)s receiving Social Security benefits are nearly twice as high as those of retired workers and spouses. Widow(er)s caring for children and those with disabilities face some of the highest poverty rates among all Social Security recipients. Nevertheless, under current regulations, widow(er)s who develop disabilities after their spouse’s death cannot claim survivor benefits until they reach the age of 50. Furthermore, the value of these benefits is significantly reduced if they claim them before reaching full retirement age. An obscure provision known as the “widow(er)’s limit” also limits the benefits of more than one-third of widow(er)s, preventing them from maximizing their benefits if their deceased spouse claimed retirement benefits before reaching full retirement age.

The SWIFT Act aims to eliminate these barriers and modernize Social Security by:

  1. Allowing widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses with disabilities to receive 100% of the survivor benefit they are entitled to, regardless of their age.
  2. Providing widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses the ability to increase the value of their survivor benefits beyond the current arbitrary cap.
  3. Enabling widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses caring for children to receive child-in-care benefits until their children reach the age of 18 or 19 if they are still in school.
  4. Requiring the federal government to proactively provide information to widow(er)s and surviving divorced spouses about the benefits they are eligible for, claiming options, and important deadlines.

The SWIFT Act has garnered bipartisan support, with Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), Klobuchar (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Murray (D-WA), and Sanders (I-VT) joining as cosponsors. Several prominent organizations, including 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, have also endorsed the bill.


Ann Marie Moore obituary 1944-2023

Ann is a lifelong member of St. John Lutheran Church in Fairfield, and a member and past president of AORN (Association of periOperative Registered Nurses).

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