Given its attraction to money-seekers of all kinds, a senior citizen’s mailbox provides a steady stream of material for Whistleblower. Betty Silber of Edina was suspicious enough of a letter she had received last month that she forwarded it to Whistleblower.

The red-white-and-blue letter asked whether she would accept $5,000 to settle a longstanding gripe about seniors getting shortchanged by Social Security. The letter came from The Senior Citizens League and asked for a contribution to “help pay for your national campaign.”

Congress has indeed long debated boosting compensation for seniors born between 1917 and 1921, the so-called “notch” between people born before and after. The league’s letter indicated that a $5,000 payment, available to those born between 1917 and 1926, had taken a “major step forward.” In fact, it looked so much like a done deal that the League asked seniors how they wanted their money – either in four annual payments or a monthly increase in their checks.

Doug Nguyen, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said the “Notch Victim Register” is merely a solicitation for money for lobbying.

“That’s all it is. It’s a lobbying letter for seniors to send in money thinking that it’s going to be, quote, the final settlement,” Nguyen said. “Legislative proposals are rarely settled or final.”

“Unfortunately for a lot of unsuspecting seniors, they end up sending money that will just go to a lobbying cause that’s not having any chance of success any time soon,” he said.

I wasn’t expecting Nguyen’s crisp response to the letter. So I talked to Brad Phillips of The Senior Citizens League, an offshoot of a veterans group called the Retired Enlisted Association.

Phillips didn’t deny that the letter was an appeal for non-tax-deductible contributions to a lobbying effort. But he said that more legislators than ever have signed on to the “notch victim” compensation bill.

As people born during those years die, the cost of the legislation (unlike most in Washington) is actually going down, he said.

Phillips pointed out that the letter does say, on the back, that the group will refund the contribution if a senior isn’t happy with the group. “I think that letter fits into a really vital part of grassroots legislative advocacy, telling them there is progress, this can happen.”

Silber is still dubious. “These are lobbyists?” she asked Whistleblower. “I think it’s misleading.”

How many solicitations do you get from Washington lobbyists?
 

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