Starting this September, the Social Security Administration (SSA)
will resume mailings at five-year intervals to workers who have not
signed up to view their statements online, an agency spokesman told
Reuters. The statements will be sent to workers at ages 25, 30, 35,
40, 45, 50, 55 and 60, he said, adding the agency would continue to
promote use of the online statements.
The SSA stopped mailing most paper statements in 2011 in response to
budget pressures, and saved the SSA $70 million annually — about 50
cents per mailed statement. But the decision has been a sore point
with some critics, who argue the statement provides a valuable
annual reminder to workers of what they can expect to get back from
payroll taxes in the future.
The annual statement includes an estimate of monthly benefits at
various claiming ages, and for disability claims. It explains how
benefits are calculated, and displays the worker's history of income
subject to Social Security tax.
The SSA budget is funded mainly by the same payroll tax revenue used
for paying benefits but Congress, which approves the agency's
budget, has approved less than the agency's request in 14 of the
past 16 years. In fiscal 2012, for example, SSA operated with $11.4
billion, just 88 percent of the amount requested.
The cuts have led to sharp reductions in SSA customer service.
Nationwide, staff is down to 62,000 from a peak of 70,000 in the
So far, only 10 million American wage earners — just 6 percent of
all workers — have signed up at the site. (www.1.usa.gov/1d3xvuZ).
Critics note that many of the workers who will be most reliant on
Social Security in retirement are least likely to have Internet
access, including low-income and non-English speaking minorities.
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The partial restoration of mailed statements was made possible by an
improved budget outlook. The SSA's fiscal 2014 budget was boosted to
$11.7 billion and President Barack Obama's fiscal 2015 budget
request is $12 billion.
"It's a step in the right direction," said Nancy Altman, co-director
of Strengthen Social Security, an advocacy group. "But the mailings
shouldn't be limited to workers who haven't signed up (for) online
accounts. Just because people have signed up, it does not mean that
they revisit it to check their earnings statements."
For more from Mark Miller, see
@ReutersMoney or at
(Editing by Lauren Young and Frances Kerry)
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