A widow's story

The daughter of a railroad widow tells us why H.R. 1140, S. 695 are so important and need to become law

BLE Editor's Note: The following letter was written by the daughter of a railroad widow, who wished to remain anonymous. The intent is to explain the need for improved widows' benefits under the railroad retirement system and to encourage support for H.R. 1140 and S. 697.

These are not nameless faces.

These are real widow's stories.

As a retired widow's daughter, I was asked what my mother and her friends feared most in their current financial situation. Their response was, "not having enough to eat!" After interviewing them, this is what they had to say, along with my own personal experiences.

They all ran out of money about a week to a week and a half before the next check arrived. Can you imagine? This does not include other necessities such as clothing, doctor visits, and medicine. My mother spends an average of $300 out-of-pocket per month on medicine alone and that is with Medicare and a supplemental insurance policy.

God forbid they should need a plumber. Maintenance and repairs on their cars and home are not done because there is no money for such "luxuries." Almost all of the elderly people I know wear glasses -- what happens when they need new ones or a new prescription? At the end of the year when property taxes are due, those that still have their own homes have difficulty paying those taxes. They cannot set money aside when they don't have enough for monthly expenses! Many other widows are in the same situation as my mother -- not because they didn't save for their retirement -- but because nursing home expenses and expenses of final care ate up their savings.

Some folks ask why they don't move into an assisted living environment? The answer is because their retirement checks are too small. While assisted living does give you a roof over your head, meals, and utilities, it does not pay for the supplemental health insurance policy, medication, clothes, toiletries or other of the necessities. Some of my mother's friends chose assisted living and were able to get by the first year. Unfortunately, they didn't count on the terms changing and now they don't have enough money to pay their expenses.

These widows are not indigent or homeless, but they are very close to the edge. They have a constant, nagging worry of where the money will come from for their every day necessities. No wonder they all suffer from high blood pressure!

In my mother's case, she will never go hungry or be without a place to live as long as I am alive, but she does have a great deal of pride and treasures her independence. I try to help when and where I can, but I have to be careful and sensitive of my mother's feelings.

How can such a system be so cruel as to put these ladies in such a position? They are still at the stage in life where they should not have to depend on their families to make ends meet.

I could go on and on, but I won't. Suffice it to say it is a crying shame what these elderly women have to endure. I think those who are opposed to this bill (H.R. 1140, S. 697) should try to go about their daily activities without a single penny in their pocket or checking account for an entire week. Make it so they can buy nothing and cannot stock up for the trial. They should also say a little prayer that nothing goes wrong with their health, their home or their car.

For our Congressmen, Senators and those of us still in the workforce, we have the comfort of knowing such a trial is only temporary and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. For these widows, it's a way of life. Not only is there no relief in sight, but they have endured this situation far too long.

These women don't want charity -- they want what should be rightfully theirs through the Railroad Retirement pension fund.

Support H.R. 1140 and S. 697!


2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers