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'It’s a scare tactic': Woman files complaint about group's Social Security mailer

Joanne Earle, 84, says a mailer she received regarding Social Security benefits uses scare tactics to try and get people to send in money.

An 84-year-old Tigard woman told KATU a mailer she received regarding Social Security benefits uses scare tactics to try and get people to send in money.

The Social Security Administration said it has nothing to do with the document.

The Seniors Trust, the group that sent the mailer, did not immediately respond to two emails, a voice mail and a Facebook message a KATU reporter sent Thursday requesting comment.

Joanne Earle, the woman who received the mailer, said she's filing a complaint about it with Oregon's Department of Justice.

"I am confused. I am concerned," Earle said, describing her feelings after receiving the mailer last month.

It's signed by a man named Gordon Neff, executive director of The Seniors Trust, which is based in Washington, D.C.

"It's a scare tactic," Earle said regarding the mailer, which asks readers to submit a Social Security ballot and donate $15 to the group within five days.

It says the ballots will be sent to Congress to convince them to protect Social Security benefits.

Earle said the section that concerns her most reads, "Failure to submit this ballot could result in an absentee default vote and loss of the $65 a month Social Security raise, loss of the fair COLA (cost-of-living adjustment) and loss of the expanded Social Security benefit guaranteed by S.427."

S.427 is a federal bill aimed at expanding Social Security benefits.

"Kind of makes me think that I could be left out (of) the $65 a month Social Security raise," Earle said. "As a senior, I can't afford to just lose out on something, you know. That $65 would mean a great deal to me."

The bill, S.427, is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.

A spokesman for him told KATU, "Sen. Sanders has nothing to do with this mailer."

And the Social Security Administration said, "Neither Mr. Neff nor The Seniors Trust is associated with the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration will not write, call, or email individuals soliciting for donations or ballot votes."

Oregon's Department of Justice said it's received no previous complaints about the group, which is registered with the state's charitable activities division.

Tax records show in 2015 it raised nearly $6 million.

"I read this and I didn't understand it," said Earle. "I'm sure that there's a lot of people out there, retirees, that are confused and they are hopeful that, you know, something is going to work out for them."

Earle said she gets as many as three pieces of mail per month from political groups asking for donations.

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