KANSAS CITY, Mo. Although Republican presidential candidate John McCain has called Social Security "a disgrace," he still cashes his own retirement check every month.
"I'm receiving the benefits, the system is broken and, unfortunately, my children and grandchildren, according to the trustees of the Social Security system, will not have the same benefits the present retirees have," McCain told reporters Thursday on his campaign bus.
McCain's 2007 tax return shows Social Security benefits of $23,157 for the year, an average of $1,929.75 a month. He said he started receiving the payments "whenever I was eligible."
Asked last week by a young woman at a town-hall meeting in Portsmouth, Ohio, if she is likely to receive Social Security benefits one day, McCain said it is unlikely without fixing the system.
"Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today," he said. "And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed."
Social Security benefits are projected to exceed the system's tax revenues in about nine years. The program's trustees have said the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by 2041 unless the system is changed.
McCain, who will turn 72 next month, was eligible to receive full-retirement benefits when he turned 65. In 2008, the maximum benefit for a person retiring at full retirement age was $2,185.
McCain reported a total income of $405,409 in 2007. As a senator, he is paid $169,300 a year. Last year, he donated $105,467 to charity, his return shows.
McCain's wife, Cindy, reported a total income of more than $6 million in 2006, according to the campaign. She files her tax return separately from her husband and has received an extension for 2007. Heiress to a large Arizona beer distributorship, she is reportedly worth more than $100 million.
People are not required to take Social Security payments, according to B.J. Jarrett, a spokesman with the Social Security Administration.
"An individual does have the right to refuse his/her Social Security retirement benefit. However, Social Security is an entitlement program and an individual would essentially be forfeiting a benefit based upon contributions during his/her working lifetime," Jarrett said.