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Senators say no to checks for elderly, disabled

In February 2009, Congress voted in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. A significant part of the ARRA was the Making Work Pay Credit, but there was one catch: Retirees, veterans, and the disabled were not eligible for the credit. Instead, Congress elected to authorize one time payments of $250 for eligible retirees, veterans and the disabled.

So, of course, with the economy still slow, Congress would do it again ... or not. On Wednesday, the Senate rejected a measure to issue the checks for a second year. Despite support from President Obama, the measure still did not pass. The Senate defeated the measure by a vote of 50 to 47. The vote was largely along party lines, with only one Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-MAINE), and one Independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), voting in favor. Three Senators did not join the vote: Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO.), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA.).

Those who supported the bill were disappointed with the outcome, noting that Social Security payments will otherwise not increase this year. This is because Social Security payments do not receive an automatic Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increase. Instead, adjustments are tied to consumer prices; there was no increase in the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) over the last year.

In an election year, this won't be the last you hear about Social Security benefits. The powerful American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has already responded, with Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond saying she was "disappointed" there had been no action. It is highly likely that another bill will be introduced to benefit seniors in some way over the next several weeks. However, with a major hole in the budget, it won't be an automatic pass: Expect to see a lot of give and take in any bill that includes more benefits in 2010.

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