WASHINGTON, D.C. — Inspired by the Dutchess County (NY) Friendly Calls for Seniors program, U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (R, NY-19) recently introduced the Friendly Calls For Our Seniors Act, a …
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Inspired by the Dutchess County (NY) Friendly Calls for Seniors program, U.S. Rep. Marc Molinaro (R, NY-19) recently introduced the Friendly Calls For Our Seniors Act, a bipartisan bill to combat isolation among seniors in upstate New York and across the country.
Molinaro introduced the bill with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D, MI-6), Brian Fitzpatrick (R, PA-01), Donald Davis (D, NC-01) and Susie Lee (D, NV-3).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-fourth of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated. Isolation can increase the risk of dementia, heart disease, stroke, obesity and mental health disorders, and it can increase a person’s risk of premature death.
Individuals with disabilities and those living in rural communities also face an increased risk of isolation due to inadequate access to health care, a lack of community events or activities for older adults, limited transportation and higher rates of poverty.
Earlier this year Dutchess County launched the Friendly Calls program. The program trains volunteers to connect with older adults through weekly phone calls. Molinaro’s bill also makes federal funds available to states such as New York to begin providing telephone services to isolated older adults, with a focus on individuals with disabilities and those living in rural communities.
“We know social isolation can create medical complications and take years off people’s lives,” Molinaro said. “That’s why I am proud to bring the successful Friendly Calls for Seniors Program to the national level. The effort connects volunteer callers with older adults and prioritizes calls to individuals with disabilities and those living in rural, isolated areas. With something as simple as a weekly phone call, we can combat loneliness and help older adults live fulfilling, dignified, and independent lives.”
In September, Molinaro called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to stop “aggressively prosecuting seniors for mistakes made by the SSA,” his office said.
In 2021, the SSA made over $2 billion in overpayments to Social Security recipients. When the SSA discovers an overpayment, they send notices to recipients demanding their money back.
This has happened to numerous residents in New York’s 19th Congressional District, the congressman’s office said, who have reached out for assistance.
In some cases, the SSA is requesting back thousands of dollars that were paid out over several years.
In a letter to Dr. Kilolo Kijakazi, the acting commissioner of the SSA, Molinaro called on the agency to immediately stop seeking back overpayments and take steps to update its system to prevent future failures.
“The Social Security Administration screwed up, and now they’re demanding that seniors pay for the administration’s mistakes,” Molinaro said. “Social Security serves as the primary source of income for thousands of recipients in upstate New York. Most victims will have no way of ever paying Social Security back. The Social Security Administration needs to stop aggressive prosecutions of seniors and focus on fixing their systems.”
The full text of the letter can be found at www.bit.ly/3u4Rg3n.
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