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Social Security forum slated

March 18, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County residents will have the chance to voice their views on Social Security reform next week.

U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., will hold a public forum March 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley County Senior Center to discuss legislative plans to deal with projected shortfalls in the Social Security budget in the next 30 years.

"Our Social Security system has problems," Wise said. "The surplus we have now is going to be eaten away by 2030."

With 380,000 West Virginians already receiving Social Security benefits, Wise said federal projections show a steady decrease in the number of people paying into the system compared to those being paid by the system.

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By 2032 the system will pay out $2.88 trillion in benefits but will collect only $2.1 trillion in taxes, according to Wise's office.

"This is a problem that affects everyone, not just the people who are currently getting checks," said Wise.

Bipartisan agreements in Washington to address the problem and President Bill Clinton's plan to dedicate part of the federal budget surplus to Social Security indicate there is enough time to solve the problem, said Wise.

Wise, however, said it is important to keep people informed as well as solicit public input for additional ways to tackle the problem.

"There are going to be sweeping changes coming, and these changes are going to affect every generation," he said.

Monday's presentation will include presentations from the Social Security Administration and the American Association of Retired Persons and will include a public question-and-answer session.

Martinsburg senior citizen Georgia Catlett, 70, said the future of Social Security needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

"I have family that's coming of age," Catlett said. "Whatever can be done, then we should do it."

Thomas Phalen, 69, of Martinsburg, said Social Security needs to be examined, but Phalen is concerned tampering with the system could do more harm than good.

Berkeley County Senior Services Director Eileen Dooley hopes Wise's forum will draw people of all ages.

"A lot of seniors don't think they'll be affected, and a lot of young people just assume Social Security won't be there when they retire," Dooley said. "We're saying come out Monday night because the truth is probably somewhere in between."




Forum on Social Security reform

  • Monday, March 22
  • 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
  • Berkeley County Senior Center, 217 N. High Street in Martinsburg
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