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Legislative Updates

Social Security: Increasing the Retirement Age and Benefit Cuts

Some Proposals of Interest from ‘Co-Chairs’ Proposals for Consideration by the Fiscal Commission’
- Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration

1. Increase the retirement age from 67 to 69. “Index the retirement age to increase longevity”
2. Reduce COLAs (Cost of Living Adjustments) for Social Security beneficiaries. “Use Chained-CPI to calculate all COLAs starting December 2011”

The effects on Women:

  • For older women, Social Security averages half of their incomes. Without Social Security, more than half of elderly women would be living in poverty.
  • Increasing the retirement age from 67 to 69 reduces lifetime benefits an estimated 13%. This increse is on top of the 13% benefit cut that is still being put into effect from the 1983 decision to raise retirement age from 65 to 67 years.
  • Current benefits for the average retiree are less than $14,000 ($12,000 for women), below minimum wage earnings. It is simply not affordable to endure any further reduction in benefits.
  • The proposed increase in retirement age disproportionately affects low-income wage earners, who are more likely to be employed in physically demanding jobs. Working longer is not a choice for many of these workers.

For more information on the effects on women of increasing the retirement age for Social Security please follow this link:

Sources: Eisenbrey, Ross. “EPI Fact Sheet: Top Ten Reasons Not to Raise the Retirement Age.” Economic Policy Institute. August 24, 2010. Print. November 30, 2010.

Tori Finkle, Heidi Harmann, and Sunhwa Lee, “Briefing Paper: The Economic Security of Older Women and Men in the United States,” Institute of Women’s Policy Research, November 2007, p.1.

Social Security Administration (SSA), letter from Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, to Fiscal Commission Staff, “Co-Chairs’ Proposals for Consideration by the Fiscal Commission: Preliminary Long-Range Estimates of Effect on Social Security,” pp. 2,3, November 9, 2010.

Strengthen Social Security, “Ten Reasons the Social Security Proposal of the Fiscal Commission Co-Chairs should be DOA (Dead on Arrival),” 2010, pp. 1,2.

Violence Against Women Act

The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law. It was passed as Title IV, sec. 40001-40703 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (H.R. 3355) and signed as Public Law 103-322 by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.

It provided $1.6 billion to enhance investigation and prosecution of the violent crime perpetrated against women, increased pre-trial detention of the accused, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted.

Then-U.S. Senator Joseph Biden's office drafted VAWA with support from a number of advocacy organizations. VAWA was reauthorized by Congress in 2000, and again in December 2005. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2006.

VAWA came up for authorization in 2011. The Senate Judiciary Committee proposed a bi-partisan bill (S 1925) that would add protections for immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBT. The Senate version of VAWA passed with overwhelming support. The House of Representatives introduced their own version of VAWA (HR 4970), which denied protections for these three groups, as well as removing provisions and protections that had been in place for years. The House Version passed 221-205, with significant opposition from Democrats. Several groups protested the House bill and pushed for passage of the Senate bill. VAWA did not end up being passed in the 112th Congress.

On January 22, 2013 U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced the bipartisan Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (S. 47). The bill was similar to the bipartisan bill that was approved by the U.S. Senate last year, but does not include the increase in the number of U visas for immigrant victims.

On February 12, 2013, the U.S. Senate passed the VAWA reauthorization bill by a vote of 78-22 with a few amendments.

On February 22, 2013, House Republicans released their version of the VAWA. Sponsored by U.S. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), this amendment in the nature of a substitute did not go as far as the Senate bill. The House amendment did not guarantee equal coverage for homosexual victims of domestic violence and would have created a challenge for tribal courts to prosecute non-Native Americans when charged with assaulting women on lands of tribes.

On February 28, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives held Floor votes on the VAWA. After almost 90 minutes of debate, the House voted against the McMorris Rodgers' amendment by a vote of 166-257. Subsequently, 87 Republicans joined all 199 Democrats to pass the Senate version of VAWA by a 286-138 vote.

On March 7, 2013, President Barack Obama signed the VAWA into law.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) is an important effort by the U.S. government to decrease violence against women and girls globally. The bill will help support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and prevent violence. The bill would increase U.S. diplomatic attention to decreasing violence against women and incorporate best practices into U.S. foreign assistance.

Current U.S. efforts to address violence against women are well-intentioned but fragmented, piecemeal and uncoordinated. The I-VAWA is a comprehensive, multi-sectoral, coordinated response to violence against women that is not only more efficient, but also a wise investment. Investing in women and girls and ending violence generates returns for families and communities, nationally and internationally.

Specifically, I-VAWA would:

  • Address violence against women and girls comprehensively, by supporting health, legal, economic, social, and humanitarian assistance sectors and incorporating violence prevention and response best practices into such programs.
  • Alleviate poverty and increase the cost effectiveness of foreign assistance by investing in women.
  • Strengthen security by reducing social tensions.
  • Support survivors, hold perpetrators accountable, and prevent violence.
  • Create a five-year strategy to fight violence against women in select countries which have a high incidence of violence against women.
  • Define a clear mandate for Senior Officials in the Department of State and USAID for leadership, accountability and coordination in preventing and responding to violence against women and girls.
  • Enable the U.S. government to develop a faster and more efficient response to violence against women in humanitarian emergencies and conflict-related situations.
  • Build the effectiveness of overseas non-governmental organizations – particularly women’s non-governmental organizations – in addressing violence against women.

I-VAWA has not been introduced in the current 113th Congress.

H.R. 5095 (House) International Violence Against Women Act 2012
Introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (6/7/2012)
Latest Major Action: 6/7/2012 Referred to House Committee on Foreign Affairs

CEDAW – The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

CEDAW is a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. CEDAW was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 18, 1979 and signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Under the chairmanship of then- U.S. Senator Joe Biden, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed it on September 29, 1994, but the full Senate has not ratified CEDAW.

On November 18, 2010, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill). chaired a first-ever Judiciary Committee hearing on ratification of CEDAW. Eight years have lagged since the last hearing for the human rights treaty signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.

In order for the treaty to be ratified, there would be a vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If the treaty is approved by the committee, it must then be brought to a full vote on the Senate floor to receive 67 votes to pass the ratification.

Paycheck Fairness Act

Bill Numbers-113th Congressional Session
H.R. 377 (House)-Introduced by Rosa DeLauro (1/23/2013)
S. 84 (Senate) – Introduced Barbara Mikulski (1/23/2013)

The PFA amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes. The PFA, which has already passed the House of Representatives, builds upon the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work. The PFA would update the Equal Pay Act and close major loopholes that have prevented it from being effective, for instance, the PFA would:

  • prohibit employer retaliation against employees for sharing salary information with their coworkers -- a change that will greatly enhance employees' ability to learn about wage disparities and to evaluate whether they are experiencing wage discrimination.
  • improve Equal Pay Act remedies by allowing prevailing plaintiffs to obtain a full range of remedies for pay discrimination.
  • close loopholes by clarifying that gender disparities in pay within a company need not be within the same facility to count as discrimination. It would also tighten the rules concerning the defense of a gendered pay differential that employers claim is not due to sex.
  • require the Federal Government to take proactive steps to address wage discrimination. This would include providing for increased training for EEOC employees to help them respond to wage discrimination claims and enhancing EEOC and Department of Labor information on pay practices and ways to eliminate gender-based pay disparities.
  • clarify the establishment provision under the Equal Pay Act, which would allow for reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas to determine fair wages. This provision is based on a similar plan successfully used in the state of Illinois.
  • authorize additional training for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff to better identify and handle wage disputes. It would also aid in the efficient and effective enforcement of federal anti-pay discrimination laws by requiring the EEOC to develop regulations directing employers to collect wage data reported by the race, sex and national origin of employees.
  • require the U.S. Department of Labor to reinstate activities that promote equal pay, such as: directing educational programs, providing technical assistance to employers, recognizing businesses that address the wage gap, and conducting and promoting research about pay disparities between men and women.
  • create a competitive grant program to develop salary negotiation training for women and girls.
  • Women comprise nearly half the workforce. For the last ten years women have earned 77 cents to the dollar for men. The PFA improves basic fairness in our workplace by ending discrimination against all workers, including pregnant women and caregivers.

    Unfortunately, the Senate vote on November 17, 2010 was just two votes shy of the 60 needed to bring the PFA to the floor for a vote. The Senate voted on party lines, and, disappointingly, GOP women senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), and Susan Collins (R-ME) voted against moving the Act forward.

On January 23, 2013, PFA bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate and in the U.S. House of Representatives. While U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the S. 84 bill in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the H.R. 377 bill in the U.S. House. Both bills have been referred to the relevant committees.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010

The comprehensive health care reform law was enacted in March 2010 in two parts: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and was amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act on March 30, 2010. The name “Affordable Care Act” is used to refer to the final, amended version of the law.

On September 23, 2010 new reforms under the Affordable Care Act begin to bring to an end some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry. These reforms will give Americans new rights and benefits, including helping more children get health coverage, ending lifetime and most annual limits on care, and giving patients access to recommended preventive services without cost-sharing.

These reforms will apply to all new health plans, and to many existing health plans as they are renewed. Many other new benefits of the law have already taken effect, including rebate checks for seniors in the Medicare donut hole and tax credits for small businesses. More rights, protections, and benefits for Americans are on the way now through 2014.

Coverage: Would expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.
Cost: $940 billion over ten years.

H.R.3590: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Sponsor: Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is a federal statute that was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the new law as amended would reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion over the first decade and in the decade after.\

H.R. 4872: Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010
Sponsor: Rep. John Spratt (D-SC)
Signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 30, 2010.

Benefits for Women

Effective in 2014, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions or discriminate based on age or gender. In the past, women have been denied coverage due to domestic violence, rape, caesarian sections and in rare cases, prior pregnancies that were defined as "pre-existing conditions”.

Effective six months after the signing of the Act, women have regular access to OB-GYN and Maternity Care. The Act also approved increased funding for mid-wifery care.

Gender rating is classified as insurance companies charging women more than men for the same insurance coverage. The Health care Act penalizes insurance companies for the use of gender rating. Unfortunately, the Act excludes private companies that have less than 100 employees.

Effective in 2018, the Act requires insurance-plans to offer preventative care to all participants. Women will have the opportunity to be screened for cervical cancer, breast cancer and reproductive/sexual health issues.

Effective 2010, the Act will increase funds dedicated to Community Health Centers that will be able to care for more patients.

22 million women depend on Medicare’s basic health insurance. The Act will reduce the cost for the basic health care plan and provide additional services such as: free annual wellness visits, provide quality care for chronic diseases and the reduction in the amount of co-payments. The Act will also provide a $250.00 rebate to beneficiaries who have reached the donut hole in 2010.

Unfortunately, abortion coverage was removed from the final legislation that was passed. In plans that offer the coverage, individuals have to pay for it separately, by making two separate payments, private funds would have to be kept in a separate account from federal and taxpayer funds. No health care plan would be required to offer abortion coverage. States could pass legislation choosing to opt out of offering abortion coverage through the exchange.


SCOTUS Decision on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

On June 26th, the Supreme Court upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Court held that the individual mandate was not a command for Americans to purchase health insurance, but merely a tax on Americans if they do not. Since the Constitution grants Congress the authority to levy taxes, the Court found the individual mandate constitutional. The Court also upheld the Medicaid expansion, but struck down the provision that revoked all Medicaid funding for states who decide not to comply.

What does this mean for women? Insurance companies can no longer deny care to women for pre-existing conditions, such as cancer, pregnancy or having a c-section. Insurance companies can no longer charge women higher premiums for the mere fact that they are female. Women can receive recommended preventative care, such as mammograms, pap tests, and domestic violence screenings, without the burden of a copay. Women will have the opportunity to choose their own doctors without a referral. Insurance companies are now required to cover maternity care. Nursing mothers will be given mandated breaks and a private place to express breast milk at places of employment that have at least 50 employees. More than ten million low-income women will be covered by Medicaid when the law goes into full effect.

These ways are just some of the ways the Affordable Care Act protects and serves American women. For more information, please visit:

The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the mandate and Medicaid expansion. Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Justice Steven Breyer, Justice Elena Kagan, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor voted to uphold the law. Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel Alito voted against the law.

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