Policy makers are also exploring ways to maintain a safety net for seniors with defaulted student loans, while still ensuring the Education Department gets the money it’s owed. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and McCaskill, Democrats from Massachusetts and Missouri, respectively, sent a letter to the GAO earlier this year asking for more information about the financial and loan status of seniors losing their benefits.
The two haven’t committed to any policy prescriptions just yet, but some possible fixes include raising the minimum amount of Social Security benefits seniors can keep. Right now, the government can’t garnish more than 15% of a senior’s benefits or any amount that cuts their checks below $750 a month, a floor the government set in 1998 and hasn’t updated since to keep up with inflation.
“That’s one thing that’s pretty alarming,” said Mark Huelsman, a senior policy analyst at Demos, a left-leaning think tank. “Congress hasn’t really changed the rule and in doing so has put seniors in a dangerous or precarious situation.”