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Statement About Signing a Bill Increasing Social Security Benefits

July 11, 1973

SINCE THIS Administration took office, social security benefits have increased by more than 50 percent, and several major reforms have been made in the Social Security System.

I am pleased to have signed legislation which further contributes to these improvements. It is H.R. 7445, a bill which amends the social security and Federal income maintenance programs while also extending the Renegotiation Act of 1951

for one year.

The critical feature of this bill for almost 30 million Americans is an increase in social security benefits of more than 5 percent next year in order to meet the rising costs of living.

I have long held that social security cannot contribute to genuine financial security until it provides an automatic means of compensating for cost-of-living increases. Last year, when social security increases of some 20 percent were enacted, the Congress approved my proposal providing for an escalator in benefits so that recipients will automatically be protected against inflation.

The first automatic adjustments under this new system, however, will not occur until January 1975. In the interim, elderly Americans on fixed incomes need further protection against rising costs. In enacting H.R. 7445 into law, we are moving to fill in that gap, as this bill provides an increase in benefits during the last half of 1974.

A second amendment in H.R. 7445 is designed to reduce the disincentives which now face many elderly people who want to work. This provision of the bill increases the amount of money which an individual can earn and still qualify for full social security benefits. This sum is raised from $2,100 a year to $2,400 a year.

Another change is in the income maintenance laws. On next January 1, my Administration will begin the new Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, a program of Federal income maintenance for needy adults who are aged, blind, or disabled. This program, which I have urged as a necessary change in the welfare system, will provide a uniform floor for assistance to those needy adults. H.R. 7445 will provide a cost-of-living increase in the minimum assistance level and will also assure that no person will suffer a reduction in income as a result of the change from existing State programs to the new SSI program.

Other provisions of H.R. 7445 will assure that several categories of individuals, such as those in medical institutions who are now eligible for assistance under the Medicaid program, will not lose their eligibility when the new Supplemental Security Income pt%ram becomes effective. Assistance under Medicaid is essential to the well-being of many of these individuals. They must be protected against the loss of benefits which might otherwise result from the changes in eligibility requirements and standards that will accompany the shift from widely varying State plans to the uniform Federal program.

I regret that in the closing rush before the July 4th recess, one clause was written into this bill delaying until November I, 1973, the effective date of Social Service regulations recently promulgated by the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. This clause would permit an earlier effective date if the regulations are approved in advance by certain Congressional committees.

As the Congress knows, neither I nor nay predecessors have been able to accept such a "coming into agreement" clause because it infringes on the essential responsibility of the President and the executive branch, and on the separation of powers doctrine.

These regulations were drafted in response to Congressional intent expressed last fall when the Congress placed the ceiling on social service expenditures, and we will, of course, work cooperatively with the Congress in considering possible changes in them.

Despite this reservation, I am extremely pleased to approve this measure. It should be good news for millions of our citizens.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 7445, approved July 9, 1973, is Public Law 93-66 (87 Stat. 152).

Richard Nixon, Statement About Signing a Bill Increasing Social Security Benefits Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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