By Deb Courson Smith

Social Security and Medicare are in the crosshairs as Congressional debate targeted on reducing the national deficit continues, and Montanans in the 50-plus set are taking notice. AARP Montana State President Joy Bruck says her office has fielded calls from those who depend on one or both of the programs, and there’s a lot of confusion and anger.

“Of course, Congress needs to address our large and growing debt, but not by harming seniors and future retirees. We believe they should start by cutting waste, fraud and inefficiency.”

She says about 20 percent of all Montanans receive Social Security, and close to 170,000 depend on Medicare.

Several major news publications last week ran stories saying AARP was supporting a cut in Social Security benefits, but Bruck insists that is untrue. In fact, Bruck adds, Social Security should not even be part of the budget discussion, because it’s funded separately from the rest of government and does not contribute to the national debt.

“Today’s retirees spent their working years building this great country while dutifully paying into the system. Our leaders owe Americans policies that will allow them to live their retirement years with security and peace of mind.”

Bruck says that Medicare is a tough topic because program costs are rising and so are all health care costs, yet she calls it a “lifeline” for thousands of Montanans. She adds that the spending caps being discussed would not address the cost drivers.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicts Social Security will not encounter funding problems for at least 25 years.