Last updated: February 16. 2013 5:32PM - 472 Views

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KINGSTON ?? Anne Herman collects Social Security survivor benefits from her late ex-husband??s account.

She said she gets more than she would get if she filed a claim for herself. Herman, 68, of Kingston, had owned the Gateway Peanut Shop in Edwardsville.

??I keep hearing Social Security is good until 2029 or 2034,? Herman said. ??It won??t make much difference to me. Maybe it will to my kids, but that??s their problem.?

But, she noted, ??If I didn??t get that, well let??s say my quality of life would drop dramatically.?

To thousands of Luzerne County seniors like Herman, Social Security is their main income source.

Important locally

Statistics provided by the county Area Agency on Aging point to the importance of Social Security locally:

? In Luzerne County, 77,670 people, nearly 1 out of 4, collect Social Security benefits.

? More are poised to collect soon: There are 84,573 individuals age 60 or older within a total population of 349,194 in Luzerne and Wyoming Counties.

? By 2020, the number of individuals age 60-plus living in Luzerne County will be almost 1 in 3. Now they account for 24 percent of the population.

Seniors depend on SSI

Rachel Pollard, is 71 and she??s quick to say she couldn??t live without her monthly check.

??Congress has been depleting Social Security for years, and they never paid it back,? she said. ??We hear about billions of dollars that we send to other countries. What are we getting back? Nothing, that??s what.?

Pollard, of Plymouth, said she and others shouldn??t have to worry about Social Security, and America should take care of Americans first.

??Charity begins at home,? she said. ??Then, if we can, help other countries.?

Stanley Lagosky, 85, of Parsons, gets $1,200 a month in Social Security ?? his primary source of income.

??I??m glad I have it,? he said. ??If I didn??t, I??d be in the poor house.?

But many people feel payments aren??t high enough and that they aren??t adjusted for cost of living as often as needed.

??I??m glad Social Security is there,? Lagosky said. ??The government can??t give it up; they gotta keep it around. I couldn??t exist without it.?

When he watches TV ads that claim one side or the other will take away Social Security and Medicare, Lagosky puts it all in perspective.

??I can??t live without them,? he said. ??They can??t take them away.?

Joe Sperazza, 66, of Bear Creek, retired early from PennDOT on a disability claim. If Social Security didn??t exist, he wonders, ??where and how could we live without it.?

Sperazza is skeptical of the government. He said Congress doesn??t want the public to know how bad things could get.

??We paid into Social Security over the years,? he said. ??Congress keeps giving itself raises and we get cut.?

John O??Rourke, 74, of Kingston, a self-appointed ombudsman at the Kingston Senior Center, keeps up on the issues and legislation affecting senior citizens.

??Most people are jumping the gun on (Republican vice presidential candidate Paul) Ryan,? he said. ??Social Security and Medicare need to be addressed, but people over age 55 won??t be affected,? said the retired Acme Markets worker.

??The people that paid into it will get it,? he said. ??It may be reduced or they may raise the age requirement, but it will be there.?

O??Rourke said cost-of-living increases have to be given annually. He said some action needs to be taken to make Social Security solvent, and Congress must stop taking money out of the fund.

??If nothing was ever taken out, Social Security would be solvent today,? O??Rourke said. ??The problem is the Social Security fund wasn??t used for the purpose it was established.?

Planning for later years

Dan and Barbara Piestrak of Hanover Township said retirement has been good for them. Dan took early retirement from the State Correctional Institute at Dallas when he was 55, pension in hand. Now 70, Dan says he enjoys fishing, hunting and other hobbies.

??People have to plan. If they only rely on Social Security for retirement, they??re in deep trouble,? he said.

Barbara, 70, retired recently and she??s loving every minute of it.

??After 47 years of marriage and four kids, I love being home,? she said.

Bill O??Boyle, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7218.

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