Misleading letters continue targeting seniors about "Notch Baby" legislation

Misleading letters continue targeting seniors about "Notch Baby" legislation

"They only send this to senior citizens, ones who were born between 1917 and 1926, the ones that think they might get some money," Bill Laughlin says. "They only send this to senior citizens, ones who were born between 1917 and 1926, the ones that think they might get some money," Bill Laughlin says.

September 19, 2007

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Anyone over 80 in the U.S. is likely to be aware of the so-called "Notch Baby" legislation. And one local man tells 6 On Your Side he's fed up with getting misleading letters about it.  

The letters suggests the elderly are victims who are being cheated out of Social Security benefits, partially due to when they were born.

Bill Laughlin, an 81-year-old WWII vet who retired from the Navy, has a letter with a petition from a lobbying group for senior citizens.

Bill has received the letter about his Social Security benefits four times in the last six years.

"They only send this to senior citizens, ones who were born between 1917 and 1926, the ones that think they might get some money," Bill says. 

The letter is targeted to people his age. It's from the Retired Enlisted Association soliciting his financial support for the "Notch" legislation.

The letter suggests Bill is "a victim" and is being "unfairly deprived" of his Social Security benefits. It says if the Notch legislation is passed, people Bill's age could receive a $5,000 settlement.

The roots of the letter are in legislation passed in 1972 and then adjusted in 1977.

Thirty-five years ago, Congress linked Social Security benefits to inflation, which was running into double digits then.

So Congress enacted what's called cost of living adjustments (COLA) to help Social Security benefits keep up with inflation.

People retiring 35 years ago, at age 62, were born in 1910.

For others, retiring several years afterward, the COLA formula provided a big-windfall.

However, in 1977, fearing Social Security might go bust, Congress corrected the formula and reduced the benefits of future retirees.

That's when the Notch Baby issue was born, when lawmakers changed the formula for the next group of retirees, those born from roughly 1917 to 1921.

Instead of restoring those lower benefits immediately, Congress restored them over a five year period. This was for people born from 1917 to 1921.

Several watchdog groups studying this issue, such as the General Accounting Office and the National Academy of Social Insurance, concluded the Notch babies haven't been robbed of benefits. They point to formulas linking Social Security benefits to lifetime earnings.

Still, people who are Bill Laughlin's age are asked for money to support legislation that only has 100 signatures. It's a bill many people conclude is going nowhere.

Exactly, what is a normal period of time? In the 1990's, a special Congressional commission concluded Notch legislation won't pass.

If you or someone you know has received a letter like Bill got, remember, if you send money, it goes to a lobbying group. You'd probably be better off keeping your money.

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