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As we draw closer to the 2016 presidential elections, Americans are beginning to pay close attention to candidates and their policy decisions. For many seniors and the caregivers that support them, one major question looms: will senior assistance programs remain intact?

The United States is bracing itself for a silver tsunami; with Baby Boomers constituting the second largest segment of the population (behind Millennials), an estimated 10,000 people will reach retirement age every day for the next 20 years, leading many to wonder how the Federal government can continue to afford programs like Social Security and Medicare.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at where the top 10 leading candidates stand on issues of Social Security and senior care.

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush on senior care

Affiliation: Republican

Known For: Governor of Florida (1999-2007), son of former President George H.W. Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush

Actions: During his time as governor, Florida saw many of its social services programs transition to private sector companies, indicating that he may explore such options for Medicare and Social Security if elected president. He’s also openly expressed a desire to push the eligible age for receiving social security benefits from the current age of 65 to “68 or 70.”

In his words: “The people that are receiving these benefits – I don’t think we should touch that, but your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefits that they believe they are going to get or that you think they’re going to get. Whenever you get into a conversation about reforming entitlement the first thing that you can be guaranteed of is that the left will attack you and demonize you.” (Wall Street Journal, 7/23/15)

Ben Carson

Ben Carson on senior care

Affiliation: Republican

Known For: Neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins hospital, conservative commentator

Actions: As a neurosurgeon, Carson has no political record as a major ranking member of any public office. However, he’s linked government-run healthcare programs to the goals of Neo-Marxism, claiming such programs “make a population dependent.”

In his words: “When Social Security was first enacted, the average age of death was about 63 years. It is now approaching 80 years and rising. Obviously we have to adjust to a changing situation. The age at which benefits are distributed should be gradually raised. I stress the word gradually because people must be given a chance to adjust their plans and expectations. It must be forbidden by law for government to use any of the money that has been set aside for Social Security.” (Forbes, 1/29/15)

Chris Christie

Chris Christie on senior care

Affiliation: Republican

Known for: U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey (2002-2008), Governor of New Jersey (2010-present)

Actions: While district attorney, Christie led an investigation that revealed area physicians received roughly $800 million in kickbacks for selling hip and knee replacement devices, many of which were faulty. As governor, he expanded the state’s Medicaid program with help from the Affordable Care Act, but has since recommended curtailing Social Security by raising the retirement age to 69 and changing it to “insurance against poverty” as opposed to an outright entitlement program.

In his words: “…the truth is that Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to a lesser extent are eating away at every dollar we raise in taxation. And so what we need to do is sit down and get to a common sense approach to reduce the benefits, to means test some of this stuff, and to get people who don’t need it to stop taking it so that we can give it to people at an affordable price who do need it.” (Perspectives on Leadership Forum, Reagan Library, 9/27/11)

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton on senior care

Affiliation: Democrat

Known for: First Lady of the United States (1993-2001), United States Senator from New York (2001-2009), Secretary of State (2009-2013)

Actions: Clinton has advocated against the privatization of Social Security as early as 1997. As senator, she has a strong track record of voting in favor of expansions to and reduced costs associated with Medicare and Medicaid, including legislation that aimed to reduce the cost of prescription medications for recipients in these programs. According to her campaign website, Clinton wants to “enhance—rather than roll back—Social Security, especially for women.”

In her words: “What do we do to make sure [Social Security] is there? We don’t mess with it, and we do not pretend that it is a luxury – because it is not a luxury. It is a necessity for the majority of people who draw from Social Security… my only question to everybody who thinks we can privatize Social Security or undermine it in some way – and what is going to happen to all these people, like you, who worked 27 years at this other company? What’s going to happen? It’s just wrong.” (MSNBC, 4/20/15)

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz on senior care

Affiliation: Republican

Known for: Solicitor General of Texas (2003-2008), United States Senator from Texas (2013-present)

Actions: Cruz voted against HR 4302, or the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, which delayed cuts to Medicare until March 2015 (the bill ultimately passed). The Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) gave Cruz a 0%, indicating that he appears in favor of privatizing Social Security.

In his words: “I think it should be a bipartisan priority to strengthen Social Security and Medicare to preserve the benefits for existing seniors and to enact fundamental reform to ensure that those programs remain strong and vital for generations to come.” (Politico, 4/9/13)

Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina on senior care

Affiliation: Republican

Known for: CEO of Hewlett-Packard (1999-2005), conservative news commentator

Actions: Like Carson, Fiorina has no background in public office (although she was part of the quasi-public One Woman Initiative. Her stance on Social Security and similar programs is unclear. However, Amy Noone Frederick, president of the senior-citizen-focused 60 Plus Association, recently joined Fiorina’s campaign as a senior advisor.

In her words: “I am not prepared to go to the American people and talk to them about how we’re going to reform Social Security and Medicare until I can demonstrate to them that the government can execute with excellence, perform its responsibilities with excellence, serve the people who pay for it with excellence.” (CNBC, 9/15/2015)

Rand Paul

Rand Paul on senior care

Affiliation: Republican

Known for: United States Senator from Kentucky (2011-present), son of former congressman and three-time presidential candidate Ron Paul

Actions: In his first year as senator, Paul voted against a budget amendment that would have prohibited courts from ordering reductions to Social Security benefits for the purposes of meeting the amendment’s budgetary goals (the bill ultimately failed) and, like Cruz, voted against the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. However, he claims to “have worked on proposals” that would gradually increase full retirement age while “preserving those benefits for near and current retirees.” He also has expressed skepticism over eligibility requirements for disability assistance (see below).

In his words: “The thing is that all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving, everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system. I tell people that if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everyone over 40 has a back pain.” - (New Hampshire Legislative Leaders Breakfast, American Bridge 21st Century, 1/14/15)

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio on senior care

Affiliation: Republican

Known for: Florida House of Representatives (2000-2008, Speaker of the House 2006-2008), United States Senator from Florida (2011-present)

Actions: Rubio voted againstS J Res 24 and the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, like Paul and Cruz. He has expressed concern over the longevity of programs such as Social Security, but seems to be leaning toward cuts to the benefits of individuals 55 and under in order to preserve the program.

In his words: “We need to focus on saving Social Security and Medicare, both of which are headed for bankruptcy. I didn’t want to abolish Social Security. I wanted to save it. But to do that, I had to accept that my Social Security benefits would be less generous than my parents’ benefits.” (when asked during a 2010 debate about the future of Social Security, An American Son, 6/19/2012)

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders on senior care

Affiliation: Democrat

Known for: Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981-1989), U.S. House of Representatives (1991-2007, independent), United States Senator from Vermont (2007-present, independent)

Actions: Sanders has a strong track record of voting in favor of public assistance programs such as Social Security and Medicare, frequently supporting measures that increase benefits while simultaneously reducing costs for most taxpayers. He is a strong advocate of raising the cap on the payroll tax, and seeks to address Social Security longevity concerns by requiring high-income earners ($250,000/year and up) to pay more into the program.

In his words: “Stop trying to pit senior citizens on fixed incomes against the disabled. Stop rigging the rules for making it easier to cut Social Security - benefits for the most vulnerable people in this country, while providing even more tax breaks for millionaires, billionaires and the most profitable corporations in this country… One thing I do know damn well is that you don’t cut those benefits. You expand those benefits.” (, 3/12/15)

Donald Trump

Donald Trump on senior care

Affiliation: Republican

Known for: Chairman and president of The Trump Organization, host of NBC reality show The Apprentice

Actions: Like Fiorina and Carson, Trump has never held public office. In 2015, Bloomberg called the retirement plans for Trump’s employees “stingy,” and gave the mogul’s 401(k) retirement options a score of 30 out of 100, or “below average”. However, he has often publicly defended programs such as Social Security and in the past has echoed more progressive proposals to raise taxes on the richest Americans to keep the programs solvent.

In his words: “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut.” (Mediaite, 4/18/15)

Essentially, you can expect to see presidential candidates to fall within two camps (excluding Trump, who remains a wildcard): a conservative president would be more likely to pursue cuts to Social Security and Medicare by either raising the minimum retirement age, introducing privatization measures, introducing new eligibility requirements, or some hybrid of all of the above.

A more liberal-leaning president would likely seek to increase taxes on wealthier Americans, and possibly businesses, in order to keep entitlement and public assistance programs solvent.

If left unchanged, analysts expect the current Social Security surplus to dry up sometime around 2034.

Regardless of how our future leaders propose to maintain one of the defining cornerstones of American society, there will always be affordable options for in-home senior care.

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