Last week it was reported that some or all of the minor children of Congressman Pete Stark (D-13th) receive Social Security benefits. They are eligible because Stark, at 81 years old, is entitled to Social Security payments in addition to his Congressional salary.
Swalwell said that Stark's $174,000 annual salary precludes him from collecting Social Security payments as he earns more than allowed under the earnings cap in the law. However, his children are still eligible for Social Security benefits because their father is eligible to collect the benefit, even if he makes too much money to collect his own check.
However, Lowell Kepke of the Social Security Regional Public Affairs Office, told the Pleasanton Weekly that it is not correct that high earnings would preclude an 80-year-old from collecting Social Security retirement benefits.
"If an individual is over full retirement age, which would be 65 for an individual who is now 80, and 66 for current retirees, that individual can work and earn without limit and still collect full retirement benefits," Kepke said.
Swalwell also said that in addition to his annual Congressional salary, Congressman Stark, ranking Member of the Ways & Means Committee, is worth an estimated $27 million, making him one of the wealthiest people in Congress, and in the country.
"Every person should receive the benefits to which he or she paid into and is entitled," said Swalwell. "But, just because it's legal, doesn't make it right. The purpose of granting Social Security benefits to children of retirees is to stabilize the family's income, the only income of the family, and ensure the minor children are receiving the necessities they need."
"Clearly, the situation in the Stark household is not the intended purpose of this benefit and he's diverting government money to his kids," Swalwell said.
"If a person is eligible for Social Security but working and earning too much to quality for a benefit check, then I propose closing the loophole that allows his or her children to collect Social Security benefits simply because their father or mother is eligible," Swalwell added. "Minor children should only be allowed to collect Social Security benefits if their parent is collecting benefits earned because they are retired, not working and not earning other income above the earnings cap."
Jamie Hintzke, a member of the Pleasanton school board, an outspoken advocate for low-income children and families, and a Democrat, agreed. She told Swalwell:
"This benefit is intended for children of retired, disabled or dead parents, and to keep them out of poverty and ensure the financial future of the children. For the majority of these children, this is the only source of income in their family. And, at a time when Social Security is more threatened than ever, Democrats lose credibility on an important issue when a senior member of the Ways & Means Committee abuses this loophole."