Sam Burnett is tired of the bickering and partisan divide in Washington, especially when it relates to policies that will affect senior citizens' finances and health.
"I think there are people looking for answers to this big problem we have of everybody disliking everybody else's point of view. We have to bring in some kind of civility, respect for everybody even if they're disagreeing. I think that's part of my task.
"There are people hurting. We need to exchange ideas. I think we can make some change," he said.
Mr. Burnett, 80, is one of 17 Ohioans selected by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare to go to the nation's capital next week to meet with congressional and administration officials to share their concerns about Social Security, Medicare, and the coming Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.
Swanton resident Elizabeth Kramer also will be at the summit to represent Ohio, which has more representatives than any other state.
Chief among Mr. Burnett's speaking points is that Americans are living longer than ever. While that's great, it creates a new set of problems.
"We find out the quality of life is now changing," said Mr. Burnett, a West Toledo resident.
He illustrated the point by his own experiences. A former elementary school administrator, Mr. Burnett retired and went to work for Aldersgate United Methodist Church in West Toledo.
"When I started working with seniors at the church level, it was [ages] 75 to 85," he said. "Now I'm working with 85 to 103. Because we're living longer, health care is very important and finances are very important."
Officials with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare say more than 100 advocates will travel to Washington for the three-day summit, which is to begin Tuesday.
Ernie Powell, the committee's national grass-roots director, said, "Our goal is to drive home the point that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are to be protected and not cut. They're such a vital lifeline to the economic and health survival of our members." He said more than half of those on Social Security rely on the program for 90 percent of their income.
Committee officials said they also want to challenge the idea that cuts to those programs are inevitable.
Mr. Burnett said he has three main concerns -- increases in the age at which people can collect benefits, means testing, and cost-of-living increases.
"What we're asking for them to take a look at is redefining how they figure the consumer price index for seniors," Mr. Burnett said. "We'd like to have them add to that criteria energy costs and medication costs. That would have an impact on how much of an increase they would get in Social Security."
The trip to Washington isn't Mr. Burnett's first as an advocate for older Americans.
Last July, he spent two days talking with leaders including Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on Social Security issues.
Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6134.