Some younger Americans, recent surveys have shown, are worried that Social Security won’t be there for them decades from now when it’s time for them to retire.
But Social Security isn’t just for retirees. And now, two Senators have introduced a bill that will extend benefits from that program to some Americans in their 20s, provided they meet certain conditions.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland have introduced a bill called the Helping Students Successfully Overcome Adversity and Rise (SOAR) with Social Security Act. The bill, according to a press release issued by Van Hollen’s office, would “extend Social Security benefits to age 26 for students who are survivors, children of disabled workers, and eligible grandchildren of retired workers.”
Currently, such benefits are available to those 19 and under who meet that criteria. Such benefits were available to older students until the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan passed Social Security reform.
“Children who receive Social Security benefits have faced unique and challenging hardships – like the loss of a parent. For these young people, the financial burdens are real – often requiring them to work in order to compensate for their limited family income – and stand in the way of their continued education,” Sen. Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, said in the announcement. “This legislation would provide the support these students and their families need to remove these barriers and allow them to further their education. It’s crucial that we pass this bill to provide greater opportunity and access to college for over one million of these young Americans.”
“It is absolutely unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of bright young Americans do not get a higher education each year, not because they are unqualified, but because their family does not have enough money,” Sen. Sanders, the independent from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, said in the release. “For 4 million kids ages 19 and under, Social Security child benefits provide critical help. It is time to expand the Social Security child benefit to give students the support they need through college to help address this crisis.”
It’s unclear how much support the legislation has overall in Congress. The Biden Administration has not endorsed the legislation and it’s not clear if they plan to do so.
Several groups, however, have backed the measure, including Social Security Works, Strengthen Social Security Coalition, Generations United, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), and Blue Future.
"Social Security is our nation's largest children's program. It provides benefits to over 3 million children, many of whose parents died young or are disabled. Those benefits should continue when these children are in college or other post-secondary education. Social Security Works enthusiastically endorses the Helping Students SOAR with Social Security Act, which would enable some of our nation's most vulnerable young people to get an education without drowning in debt,” Alex Lawson, Executive Director of Social Security Works, said in the release.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.