Divorced? You Deserve Even More Social Security Benefits

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Despite budgetary concerns, Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich and Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray have introduced legislation to expand Social Security, reports The Fiscal Times.

The Retirement and Income Security Enhancements (RAISE) Act would extend spousal support benefits to spouses who were married less than ten years. The proposal is a “common sense bill to update, enhance, and protect Social Security in a fiscally responsible way,” Begich said.

In particular, Begich and Murray are concerned especially for women who are at significant risk of financial hardship, owing to divorce. According to the Senate Budget Committee blog, “women, on average, earn less than men, accumulate less in savings, and receive smaller pensions.” Currently, a divorced spouse is only permitted to receive spousal benefits if the marriage has lasted over a decade.

Starting in 2016, RAISE would modify that clause to require less than ten years of marriage before benefits could be claimed, with benefits decreasing in increments of 10 percent until the five-year mark, at which point no benefits would be available.

“We need to make sure women get equal pay for equal work, so they have the same shot at a secure retirement as their male coworkers,” said Murray, in justification of the proposed changes. (RELATED: Obama official apologizes for misleading on gender pay gap)

In addition, eligibility for children would be altered to include full-time students under 23, in the case that they are the children of the deceased, disabled, or retired. Current legislation has the age limit set to under 19.

“Social Security lifts tens of thousands of Alaskans out of poverty,” said Begich.  “And it pumps more than $1 billion into our economy each year…As long as I am in Congress, I will fight to make sure Social Security is solvent and available for Americans who earned it.” (RELATED: Sorry, College Grads, You’ll Probably Never Get Your Social Security Money)

To fund this expansion, in 2015, a 2 percent payroll tax rate would apply to earnings over $400,000. Begich’s other proposed legislation, the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, would remove income caps on high-income earners’ first $117,000, effectively eliminating what Begich called a tax loophole. “With my bill, millionaires would pay into Social Security all year long – just like the rest of us,” he added.

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