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Congresswoman Annie Kuster cuts a cake for a celebration of Social Security's 79th birthday at the Peterborough Library Thursday morning. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent))

Kuster celebrates Social Security's 79 years in Peterborough

PETERBOROUGH — 2nd District Congresswoman Annie Kuster celebrated Social Security’s 79th birthday at the Peterborough Town Library Thursday morning with cake and a call to protect Social Security and Medicare from cuts.

Kuster said she is against the elimination of benefits from the programs as well as their privatization.

“I just feel very, very strongly about maintaining both Social Security and Medicare for seniors and for disabled Granite Staters who rely on these benefits,” Kuster said. “I feel there are solutions to the issues around solvency. Raising the cap on withholding wages for Social Security and managing the cost of care under Medicare, specifically negotiating volume discounts for prescription benefits. To me these are no-brainers. We should be doing both, and we shouldn’t be talking about eliminating benefits unless and until we’ve taken the very obvious steps that we can to secure the long-term viability of these programs that are working.”

Kuster was joined at the library by a group of area residents as well as state advocates for seniors for a discussion about the issues.

Kuster faces reelection in November.

In 2014, the maximum amount of taxable earnings for Social Security is $117,000.

Because of this, lower wage workers contribute a higher portion of their income into Social Security, one man said.

Steve Gorin, professor of social work from Plymouth State University, and former chairman of the State Committee on Aging, said if that cap is raised to $250,000, it could make the program solvent. By 2023, the Social Security trust fund is expected to run out, Gorin said. Social Security withholdings from working taxpayers would still be coming in, but they would only cover 77 percent of the program’s costs, Gorin said.

Many at the discussion of the federal programs said they struggled to get by on the current benefits.

“For people who rely on these benefits, it’s very hard to hear the conversation about cutting the benefits because as it is people’s budgets are very tight. The average social security benefit in New Hampshire is $1,100 a month,” Kuster said.

Kuster said she also supports legislation that would provide Social Security benefits for caregivers who have been unable to work because of their obligations to aging or disabled family members.

The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act would increase Social Security benefits for qualifying caregivers who spend more than 80 hours per month providing care to their loved ones.

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