Seniors' message: 'Make sure Social Security is there for us'


The Mirror

Norma Kelsey, 69, a Des Moines resident, will represent the 9th Congressional district, including Federal Way, at the 2005 White House Conference on Aging in December.

The conference occurs once every decade to make recommendations to the president and Congress on issues, policy and research in aging. The mission is to assist public and private sectors in promoting dignity, health, independence and economic security of current and future generations of older persons.

“I’m pleased that Ms. Kelsey has agreed to serve” as a delegate, said U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, who appointed her.

There are 17 delegates from Washington. They were chosen based on their background and experience.

Delegates will help guide aging policies for the next decade and possibly further.

Smith praised Kelsey’s “many years of advocacy work on behalf of older Americans,” which he said “is a testament to her enthusiasm and tenacity in ensuring equality and thoughtful public policy for everyone in our local community.”

Kelsey is a board member for Puget Sound Alliance of Retired Americans, helping set policies for the organization. The alliance focuses on enrolling and mobilizing retired union members and other senior activists.

Kelsey has also served on the King County Labor Council, El Centro de la Raza and the King County Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC).

“My background is in organized labor,” said Kelsey, who is retired after serving 12 years as president of the Office and Professional Employees Local 8 labor union. She is working part-time as a secretary in the union office of Local 440 Laborers.

Items on the agenda for the 2005 White House conference, which will be held Dec. 11-14 at the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., include the workplace of the future, health and long-term living, social engagement and the marketplace.

“If these forums are valuable in making changes in broad policy, then for people that are going through it now, it’s important that we be there to talk about what needs to be done,” said Kelsey.

The conferences originally began in the 1950s when President Harry Truman directed the Federal Security Administration to hold a conference to discuss the challenges raised by the rapid increase of the elderly population. The forums have helped establish programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and the Older Americans Act. They have set the stage for Social Security reforms and “safety net” programs.

“I believe the reason for this conference is to come out with a policy supporting the partial privatizing of Social Security,” said Kelsey.

Kelsey has worked with the Alliance of Retired Americans on this issue.

“Our alliance is endorsing lifting the cap on Social Security,” she said. “It would be much simpler to raise the cap to address the problems.

“We just want to make sure that social security is there for us. If Social Security is gone, there won’t be insurance for widows, orphans or disabled workers.”

Social Security will be discussed in the portion of the conference that will also include retirement savings, protecting financial assets, financial fraud, abuse, exploitation and financial literacy.

News intern Christine Pettigrew: 925-5565,

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