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Harkin Letter Asks Bush The Fate of Social Security For Disabled

By JANE NORMAN
REGISTER WASHINGTON BUREAU
February 15, 2005

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa will send a letter to the president Wednesday, saying millions of Americans with disabilities are being ignored in the debate over Social Security reform and personal investment accounts.

Harkin, a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, said he has "listened carefully" to the president's remarks on changing Social Security and has not heard an explanation of how Bush plans to protect people with disabilities who receive Social Security payments.

"People with disabilities are deeply concerned," Harkin said in the letter. "They don't want to wait until a proposal surfaces that leaves their benefits out. We need to know with certainty what your thoughts are on how to prevent cuts to these needed benefits."

Harkin plans to send the letter to the White House on Wednesday, and a copy was provided to The Des Moines Register.

The president has emphasized in a series of public appearances that current and near-retirees will not be affected by any of his proposed changes to the popular retirement insurance program.

Allen Abney, a White House spokesman, said Americans with disabilities would not be affected by the establishment of personal accounts for younger workers.

Asked about benefit cuts for the disabled that could come about as a result of a larger Social Security overhaul, Abney said that if nothing is done, "under the current system we're promising money that's not going to be there." It is projected that benefits for everyone would be reduced by about 30 percent by 2042 if no action is taken.

Read more in Wednesday's Des Moines Register