(WASHINGTON) -- It's possible that Congress, searching for ways to cut the deficit, might extend the age by which Americans can start getting Social Security benefits.
While David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP, says his members fully support efforts to rein in federal spending, he adds that upping the age for Social Security eligibility isn't the right way to go about it. Raising the wage cap, currently $106,800, would be better, he says.
Right now, most Americans get their full benefits starting at age 62. But under a draft plan floated by the co-chairmen of President Obama's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the retirement age would rise to 67 by 2050 and 69 by 2075.
Social strife in Europe over benefit cuts was one of the factors that prompted Congress to finally deal with Social Security's problems, before they reach a similar crisis stage.
The idea of raising the retirement age dealt a setback in November when the Government Accountability Office issued a report suggesting that such a move might cause more financial harm than good. By 2050, said the GAO, Americans age 65 or older will account for more than 20 percent of the population, up from 13 percent in 2000. Forcing older people to keep working might lead to an increase in the number of people applying for disability. Increased disability costs could well exceed the savings from delayed retirement.
The AARP's Certner notes that many older Americans lack the two things essential for employment: good health and a job. "Maybe we should work past age 62," he says, "and AARP supports that. But age discrimination is an issue. For people who are older, it's more difficult to find a job, or, if you've been working and get laid off, to get re-hired." Depending on the type of job, says Certner, an older man or woman may physically lack the stamina to do it.
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