Linda Sánchez Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Social Security Benefits for Widows and Widowers

March 17, 2017
Press Release
Lawmaker says, “Losing your spouse should not also lead to financial ruin.”

Washington, DC – Representative Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus and a member of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee, today introduced H.R. 1583: Protecting Our Widows and Widowers in Retirement (POWR) Act:

“Losing a spouse is devastating, and the financial distress of also losing their income only adds to the pain," said Rep. Linda Sánchez. “The POWR Act ensures that in their darkest hours, those on Social Security will still be able to have some financial security and peace of mind. Instead of losing half of their monthly household income, seniors will be able to keep a little more of their combined benefits. After a lifetime of hard work, seniors deserve to retire with dignity in their later years. And losing your spouse should not also lead to financial ruin.”

Nancy Altman, Founding Co-Director of Social Security Works – “Among Social Security's most important protections are the monthly survivor annuities, currently paid to over four million widows and widowers. But these benefits are very modest and often represent a drastic drop in family income. Women and men who have just lost their spouses should not also face a substantial loss of income that puts them at risk of poverty. The POWR act takes the important step of increasing survivors' benefits so that widows and widowers can live with dignity."

Kevin Prindiville, Executive Director of Justice in Aging – “Justice in Aging supports Rep. Sanchez’s efforts to ensure that older adults who recently lost a spouse do not also lose their economic security. Everyone who has an aging grandparent, parent, or other loved one can understand why this bill is important to the well-being of surviving spouses.”


According to the National Academy of Social Insurance, women suffer a greater financial hit following the loss of a loved one. The NASI has said, “The benefits are important to women because wives tend to earn less than their husbands and they typically outlive their husbands – both because women live longer than men, on average, and because wives tend to be a few years younger than their husbands.”

The average widow sees a 33 to 50 percent reduction in Social Security benefits after the death of her spouse. However, on average, an elderly person needs 79 percent of the income received while both were alive to maintain their standard of living. The POWR Act which would create an alternative benefit equal to 75 percent of the combined income received while both spouses were alive. Congresswoman Sánchez first introduced this legislation in 2016.

H.R. 1583: Protecting Our Widows and Widowers in Retirement (POWR) Act currently has 16 co-sponsors.