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Social Security - reform

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[Opinion] New Approach to Social Security's Full Retirement Age Would Eliminate 83% of Cash Shortfall
"[The Save Our Social Security Act of 2016 (S.O.S. Act)] may be best remembered as providing a unique solution to Social Security's full retirement age that would eliminate a whopping 83% of the program's budgetary shortfall ... The S.O.S. Act would continue raising the FRA by two months per year between 2022 and 2034 until it hits age 69 in 2034. At this point, the FRA would be indexed to longevity ... At the same time, the maximum age for delayed retirement credits would increase in step with the full retirement age, keeping a three-year gap in place." (Motley Fool)
Proposed 'Social Security 2100 Act' Cuts Taxes, Strengthens Benefits, Ensures Social Security Through This Century
"Over 11 million Social Security recipients would see a tax cut ... [The bill provides] a modest increase for all beneficiaries starting in 2016, equivalent to 2% of the average benefit.... [and improves] the annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) formula ... The new minimum benefit will be set at 25% above the poverty line rather than below it.... [The bill would] phase in an increase in the contribution that, for the average worker, equals an additional 50 cents per week every year to keep the system solvent.... This legislation would apply the payroll tax to wages above $400,000." (Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.))
Estimated Effect on Social Security Solvency of Proposed Social Security 2100 Act (PDF)
24 pages. "Assuming enactment of [the Social Security 2100 Act], we estimate that the combined Social Security Trust Fund would be fully solvent (able to pay all scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis) throughout the 75-year projection period ... In addition, under this proposal the OASDI program would meet the further conditions for sustainable solvency, because projected combined trust fund reserves would be growing as a percentage of the annual cost of the program at the end of the long-range period." (Office of the Chief Actuary, U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
Older People's Willingness to Delay Social Security Claiming
"[H]alf of the respondents would delay claiming if no work requirement were in place under the status quo, and only slightly fewer, 46 percent, with a work requirement. [The authors] also asked respondents how large a lump sum they would need with or without a work requirement. In the former case, the average amount needed to induce delayed claiming was about $60,400, while when part-time work was required, the average was $66,700. This implies a low utility value of leisure foregone of only $6,300, or about 10 percent of older households' income." (Michigan Retirement Research Center [MRRC])
CBO Explains Options for the Future of the Social Security Program
"While delivering testimony at Congressional hearings in February, CBO's Director was asked a number of questions about potential changes to Social Security. Because answers during hearings are inherently brief, this blog post provides some additional information." (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
[Opinion] The Dangers of Cutting Future Retirement Benefits for the Young
"Social Security ... faces a long-term imbalance in cost and revenue, but the gap is manageable. More importantly, future retirees will need Social Security more, not less, than their parents did.... [L]ongevity is rising.... Savings alone cannot hedge against longevity risk ... 57 percent of near-retirement households (age 55-64) that participate in workplace retirement plans are covered by a traditional pension, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security; just 30 percent for age 35-44 are covered." (Reuters)
OIG Report: $1 Billion Paid by Social Security to Individual Representative Payees Who Do Not Have a Social Security Number (PDF)
20 pages. "SSA is required to obtain the SSNs of representative payee applicants. SSA uses the representative payee's SSN to [1] verify the payee's identifying information; [2] determine whether the payee applicant is receiving Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income; [3] determine whether the applicant is a convicted felon; and [4] determine whether the applicant previously served as a representative payee and has a history of poor payee performance or misuse.... [OIG estimates] that 22,426 beneficiaries had an individual representative payee who did not have an SSN, and SSA had not followed its policy to retain the paper application.... From April 2006 to September 2016, SSA paid these representative payees about $1 billion." (Office of the Inspector General [OIG], Social Security Administration [SSA])
Estimates of the Financial Effects of the Proposed 'Social Security Expansion Act' (PDF)
21 pages. "Assuming enactment of the proposal, we estimate the year of depletion of the combined OASI and DI Trust Fund reserves would be extended from 2034 under current law to 2078[.]" (Office of the Chief Actuary, U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
CBO Now Projects 31% Cut in Social Security Benefits Will Be Needed by 2031
"[CBO] is now reporting that the combined Social Security retirement and disability trust funds will be depleted in fiscal year 2029 -- five years earlier than the trustees of the two funds had projected earlier this year in their annual report.... CBO's projections on the following are lower than those by the Social Security Trust Fund trustees: [1] earnings subject to the program's payroll tax [2] labor force participation rates, productivity growth, lower inflation ... [3] fertility rates ... [4] real interest rates ... in the long run[.]" (ThinkAdvisor)
CBO Supplement to 2016 Long-Term Projections for Social Security
"This report presents additional information about CBO's long-term projections for Social Security in the form of 12 exhibits that illustrate the program's finances ... In addition to presenting projections of scheduled, or full, Social Security benefits ... this report provides projections of payable benefits, which would be less than the scheduled amounts once the trust funds were exhausted ... The appendix presents information about CBO's demographic projections[.]" (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
Millennials Will Need to Save More Under Rep. Sam Johnson's Social Security Reform Proposal
"[W]hile most participants in Social Security would experience some degree of benefit reduction relative to current law under the Johnson proposal, benefits for Millennials and generations that follow would be most affected.... [W]hile the anticipated reductions for Millennials relative to current law are significant, they are not much larger than reductions required if no reform action is taken.... Millennials may want to factor proposals like this one in their current spending/savings decisions." (Ken Steiner, FSA Retired)
Overcoming Barriers to Retirement Security for Women: The Role of Social Security (PDF)
16 pages. "Enhancing Social Security benefits would be an effective strategy for improving women's retirement security -- especially for women 75 or older, who face a significantly greater risk of poverty than their male counterparts. Expanding benefits would require increasing system revenue beyond what is necessary to close the projected long-term shortfall. Provisions that increase benefits for low earners, caregivers, or older seniors, or modernize benefits for certain marital statuses such as the divorced and survivors, would address the challenges that women particularly face." (National Academy of Social Insurance [NASI])
Estimates of the Financial Effects on Social Security of H.R. 6489, the Social Security Reform Act of 2016 (PDF)
30 pages. "Assuming enactment of the plan, we estimate that the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds would be fully solvent (able to pay all scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis) throughout the 75-year projection period, under the intermediate assumptions of the 2016 Trustees Report. In addition, under this plan the OASDI program would meet the further conditions for sustainable solvency, because projected combined trust fund reserves would be growing as a percentage of the annual cost of the program at the end of the long-range period." (Office of the Chief Actuary, U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
[Opinion] Why Is the American Academy of Actuaries Painting Such a Rosy Picture of Social Security's Long-Term Financing Problems?
"Under either set of assumptions, we are talking about significantly higher tax revenue shortfalls than the 23% figure claimed to 'fix' the System in the [American Academy of Actuaries'] Social Security Game. If you prefer to think in terms of necessary benefit reductions rather than required tax increases, the percentages are about 25% under the Trustees' assumptions and about 30% under the CBO assumptions.... It appears likely that those with relatively higher incomes (young and old) will be asked to bear a significant portion of the increased cost in this next round of System reform." (Ken Steiner, FSA Retired)
[Opinion] Would Lifting the Taxable Earnings Cap Make Social Security Solvent? (PDF)
"What would happen if the taxable earnings cap were lifted entirely? The Social Security Trustees calculated different 'solvency provisions' and how they would affect the funding gap. Three are discussed [in this article]." (National Center for Policy Analysis [NCPA])
The Social Security Retirement Age (PDF)
10 pages. "The full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which workers can claim full Social Security retired worker benefits. The size of the monthly benefits is affected by when the worker claims benefits. The worker's age when claiming benefits is compared with the FRA, and adjustments are made depending on the number of months before or after the FRA the worker claims benefits.... The FRA was 65 at the inception of Social Security, but has been gradually increased upwards, to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Claiming benefits past age 70 does not increase the monthly benefits." [Report R44670, Oct. 28, 2016] (Congressional Research Service [CRS])
[Opinion] Looking in the Wrong Places for Social Security Reform
"[At] some points in the program's history, a significant portion of workers had earnings above the tax cap, but this was in the earlier years of its operation when more than a quarter of workers were above it. Over the past 30 years this share of workers has fluctuated in a narrow band around 6 percent. Looking at it another way, the percentage of total earnings that are subject to the tax was 82.7 percent in 2014. While this is slightly below the high point in the early 1980s, it is just below the average since 1950." (Cato Institute)
Updated Estimate of Financial Effect on Social Security of the Bipartisan Policy Committee Reform Plan (PDF)
26 pages. "Assuming enactment of the plan, the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds would be fully solvent throughout the 75-year projection period, under the intermediate assumptions of the 2016 Trustees Report.... Enactment of the twelve provisions of the Commission's plan would change the long-range OASDI actuarial deficit from 2.66 percent of taxable payroll under current law to a positive actuarial balance of 0.11 percent of payroll under the plan." (U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
[Opinion] Got Those 'Conflicting Social Security Deficit Estimate' Blues Again
"Common sense tells us that rather than waiting to have Congress make very significant changes to the Nation's retirement program every thirty years or so to put it back into actuarial balance, it would be preferable to have minor changes made on a more frequent basis.... [A]utomatic adjustments to the system's tax and/or benefit structure [would] maintain the system's actuarial balance.... This is what is done in almost all financial programs funded using basic actuarial principles." (Ken Steiner, FSA Retired)
Testimony: Comparing CBO's Long-Term Projections with Those of the Social Security Trustees
"For some time, both CBO and the Social Security Trustees have projected that, if full benefits were paid under the formulas specified in current law, the program's spending would rise significantly during the coming decades. In contrast, total revenues for the program are anticipated to grow more slowly than outlays: The faster growth projected for total benefits than for total revenues means that a shortfall in the program's finances is expected to continue. Although both CBO and the Trustees project such a shortfall, they differ in their assessment of its magnitude. This testimony describes that difference and the major factors that contribute to it." (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
The Life Cycle Model, Replacement Rates, and Retirement Income Adequacy
"A replacement rate calculation more consistent with the life cycle model would compare retirement income to an average of real earnings calculated over a significant number of years. Such an approach would find substantially higher replacement rates for the typical retiree." (Andrew G. Biggs, American Enterprise Institute, via SSRN)
Financial Effects on Social Security of the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2016 (PDF)
21 pages. "Assuming enactment of the proposal, ... the funding for the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds would be sufficient to extend the projected year of reserve depletion from 2034 to 2048 ... [E]stimates for the combined trust funds are consistent with an intent to reallocate the total payroll tax rate as needed to equalize the years of reserve depletion and the actuarial status of the two separate trust funds." (Office of the Chief Actuary, U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
Distributional Effects of Applying Social Security Taxes to Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Premiums
"This policy brief analyzes how applying the Social Security tax to employer-sponsored health insurance premiums could affect Social Security beneficiaries.... [F]or most Social Security beneficiaries aged 60 or older from 2017 to 2080, benefits would gradually increase and the poverty rate would decrease faster than the rate under current law. Counting employer-sponsored health insurance premiums as wages for Social Security purposes would increase Social Security taxes for most individuals and those taxes would increase more than Social Security benefits for individuals at all earning levels." (Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
[Opinion] A Longevity Insurance Benefit for Social Security: An Innovation from the Past
"A longevity insurance benefit as part of Social Security would be particularly desirable as part of a reform package to restore solvency if the package also included a reduction of benefits, such as raising the Normal Retirement Age. The longevity insurance benefit would reduce or eliminate the adverse effects of such a cut on the most vulnerable age group. A simple form of such a benefit would be to exempt persons age 82 and older from any benefit cuts." (National Academy of Social Insurance [NASI])
Social Security Changes Likely Soon
"The S.O.S. Act charts a course of least resistance in the changes it proposes to keep Social Security solvent. If these changes don't result in a meaningful improvement in Social Security's funding outlook, the following more painful changes may be in the offing: Means testing.... Increases to the payroll tax.... Longevity indexing.... Incentives to keep working." (Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants)
How Work and Marriage Trends Affect Social Security's Family Benefits
"Social Security's spousal and survivor ('family') benefits were designed in the 1930s for a one-earner married couple.... Single mothers who were never married are not eligible for family benefits, nor are divorced women who were married less than 10 years. These women often find it harder to earn an adequate Social Security benefit on their own, as their work opportunities are constrained by child-rearing duties. Policy experts have suggested ways to help: Earnings sharing among married couples could raise benefits for women who later become divorced. Caregiving credits could help mothers regardless of their marital status." (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College)
Spending for Social Security and Major Health Care Programs in the Long-Term Budget Outlook
"CBO projects that spending for Social Security would increase noticeably as a share of the economy -- from 4.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016 to 6.3 percent in 2046 -- if current laws generally remained unchanged. Spending for the major health care programs is projected to grow even faster: Net outlays for those programs would increase from 5.5 percent of GDP now to 8.9 percent in 2046." (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
[Opinion] We Need a Bipartisan Solution for Sustaining Social Security
"The [Bipartisan Policy Center's] package of reforms to Social Security is balanced, containing a roughly even mix of revenue increases and benefit savings (such as increasing the retirement age to reflect increasing longevity and using a more accurate measure of inflation for cost-of-living adjustments). In addition to greatly improving work incentives, [these] policies would ensure the program's sustainability for 75 years and beyond, according to modeling by the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration." (U.S. News & World Report)
Proposed Changes to Social Security: SSA Actuary Estimates Financial Effects (PDF)
22 pages. "H.R. 5747, the S.O.S. Act of 2016 ... includes seven provisions with direct effects on the Social Security Trust Funds.... Assuming enactment of the proposal, the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds would be fully solvent throughout the 75-year projection period, under the intermediate assumptions of the 2015 Trustees Report." (U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
Proposed Changes to Social Security for Public Employees: SSA Actuary Estimates Financial Effects (PDF)
"[This letter provides an] estimate of the financial effects on the Social Security Trust Funds of the amendment in the nature of a substitute ... for H.R. 711, the 'Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act of 2015' ... This amendment would generally replace the windfall elimination provision (WEP) with a new formula that you have referred to as the 'Public Servant Fairness Formula' (PSF). The proposal would also provide for a rebate payment starting in 2018 for individuals affected by the current WEP." (Office of the Chief Actuary, U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
Independent Citizens Advisory Committee Report on Sonoma County, California, Pension Issues: Findings, Conclusions, and Recommendations
99 pages, dated June 2016. "[Recommendations include:] [1] Aggressively pursue the sharing of pension costs with employees through continuing supplemental payments ... beyond 2024, sharing normal costs 50/50, and assuming some of the risks of plan gains and losses.... [2] Implement a new tier that is a hybrid plan of defined benefits and defined contributions, which [the Committee deems] to be a more effective plan to meet pension reform objectives than current plans.... Until this can be achieved, negotiate for ever higher employee contributions through collective bargaining, since this is the best tool available to control pension costs available to the County in the short term." (Sonoma County Independent Citizens Advisory Committee on Pension Matters)
Proposed Changes to the Social Security Program, Described and Grouped by Category
"Recent Reports call for informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislation to address expected future deficits. Many policy makers have developed proposals and options to address this long-range solvency problem. Listed [in this article] is a broad range of policy options that would address Trust Fund solvency and other issues related to Social Security benefits and financing. Many of these options are part of comprehensive proposals intended to restore Trust Fund solvency." (U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
Social Security's Financial Outlook: The 2016 Update in Perspective
"The 2016 Trustees Report shows virtually no change: Social Security's 75-year deficit is 2.66 percent of payroll, just a hair below the 2015 projection. The deficit as a percentage of GDP remains at about 1 percent. Trust fund exhaustion is still 2034, after which payroll taxes still cover about three quarters of promised benefits. The shortfall is manageable, but action should be taken soon to restore confidence in the program and give people time to adjust to needed changes." (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College)
How to Raise the Retirement Age for People Who Want to Work
"One idea is to raise the normal retirement age to, say, 70, but make it easier for older people to go on disability.... A streamlined alternative would be to base the normal retirement age on a worker's occupation -- raising it higher for deskbound jobs.... A sliding scale would seem suitable for an aging workforce, since getting old is one long process of sliding downhill in terms of ability to work.... [T]he share of people working above the traditional retirement age, while higher than in recent decades, remains lower in percentage terms than it was in the 1940s and 1950s." (Bloomberg)
[Opinion] Commission Proposes Comprehensive Changes to Strengthen U.S. Retirement System
"By far the most controversial recommendations to strengthen our retirement system are the ones regarding Social Security.... The Commission notes that their proposed package of changes would not only solve the 75-year actuarial deficit, but it would also result in 'sustainable solvency' as that term is defined by the Social Security actuary.... [T]hese conclusions are valid only if the 2015 Trustees assumptions are exactly realized (or are more favorable) and not changed over the next 75 years." (Ken Steiner, FSA Retired)
Social Security Disability Insurance: Participation and Spending
"Under current law, CBO projects, the number of DI beneficiaries would rise by 0.8 percent per year over the next decade; excluding the effects of inflation, the average benefit would rise by 0.9 percent per year and total spending on benefits would rise by 1.9 percent per year, on average.... [U]nder current law spending would exceed income after 2018, and the trust fund would be exhausted in 2022[.]" (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
[Opinion] Obama's Misguided Reversal on Social Security Expansion
"[Obama had] previously supported a change in the way benefits were adjusted each year that would have reduced the growth rate of benefits over a long timeframe in the interest of improving the program's fiscal trajectory.... [He recently] signalled that he no longer believed 'all options were on the table' to address solvency concerns and instead supports further expansion.... If his favored reforms are implemented it will increase the economic distortions introduced by Social Security and do nothing to address its serious fiscal problems." (Cato Institute)
[Opinion] Should Congress Raise the Social Security Full Retirement Age to 70?
"If the full retirement age were raised, future retirees with high lifetime earnings can expect to receive some compensation when their monthly benefits are cut. Because they can expect to live longer than today's retirees, they will receive benefits for a longer span of years after 65. For low-wage workers, there is no compensation. Since they are not living longer, their lifetime benefits will fall by the same proportion as their monthly benefits." (The Brookings Institution)
[Opinion] What Went Wrong with the 1983 Social Security Fix?
"[T]here are two problems with any proposed reform options that simply reduce Social Security's 75-year actuarial deficit to zero: [1] Given the projected costs of the program, limiting the actuarial balance calculation to 75 years ignores projected annual deficits expected to occur after the end of the 75-year projection period. Over time, these deficits will emerge in the actuary's annual calculations. [2] There exists no process in current law to automatically adjust the System's tax rates to maintain a balance between system assets and system liabilities." (Ken Steiner, FSA Retired)
[Opinion] Raising Social Security Retirement Age Will Hurt When Early Retirement Is Unavoidable
"Nearly half of Social Security beneficiaries retire early and, therefore, face a permanent reduction in their benefits. Raising the retirement age would only increase the number of people facing this permanent reduction in benefits.... [T]hese benefit cuts disproportionately affect low-skilled workers with the least education, who are the mostly likely to take early retirement.... Retirement is not an easy decision for many workers and many are forced to retire, even if they are not ready." (National Public Pension Coalition)
[Opinion] Some Problems with Raising the Social Security 'Full Retirement Age'
"In fact, raising the 'full retirement age' would cut Social Security Old-Age Insurance benefits by the same proportion for rich and poor alike, and for people whose life expectancies are long or short.... In plain English, 'raising the full benefit age from 67 to 70' is simply a 24 percent across-the-board cut in benefits for all new claimants, whatever their incomes and whatever their life-expectancies." (The Brookings Institution)
Why a Lump-Sum Payment Should Be Part of Social Security
"A group of researchers sought to think of a new way to get people to delay claiming benefits, work longer and have all that happen without Social Security suffering financially. In a nutshell, we set out to design a way to give people the benefit increases they would receive if they delayed claiming, but instead of giving them that increase as part of a monthly payment, we would give it to them as a lump sum at their later claiming date. The money turns out to be quite substantial, from $60,000 to $80,000 to $170,000. And lo and behold, people like this idea. In our experimental survey, we found people would delay claiming benefits for about half a year, and they would work about a third to a half of the extra time. All of that takes place without costing Social Security a penny." (MarketWatch)
Chief Actuary Cost Estimates for Proposed Changes to Social Security Disability Insurance (PDF)
"[This information is provided] in response to the request for estimates of the financial effects on Social Security of a number of potential proposals that may be considered for addressing financial shortfalls of the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program. All estimates provided in the enclosed table are based on the intermediate assumptions of the 2015 Trustees report.... [M]any of these estimates represent preliminary estimates that, given more time and careful focus, would be done in more detail with possibly somewhat different results. However, for the purpose of gaining an understanding of the order of magnitude of the effects of these proposals, we believe this table will be useful to you and the readers of the SSDI Solutions Initiative report." (U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
Social Security: A Key Retirement Source for Women (PDF)
"One-quarter of women ages 65 and older rely on Social Security for nearly all of their family income. In 2014, Social Security kept one-third of older women out of poverty, yet they still are more likely to be in poverty than older men. Married and widowed women are more likely to have income from Social Security than divorced or never-married women." (AARP)
SSA Cost Estimate for Proposed Elimination of Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision from the Social Security Act (PDF)
"Assuming enactment of the proposal effective for all benefits payable for entitlement in January 2017 and later (without regard for when the beneficiary became initially entitled), we estimate the increase in benefit obligations for the OASDI program would reduce the OASDI long-range actuarial balance by 0.13 percent of taxable payroll and would change the projected year of reserve depletion for the combined OAS I and DI Trust Funds from 2034 under current law to 2033 under the proposal." (U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
[Opinion] CBO's Social Security Projections No Cause for Alarm
"CBO judges that Social Security's combined retirement and disability trust funds will need replenishing by 2029, while the trustees put that date at 2034. Even if lawmakers very unwisely took no steps to shore up the program, it could still pay the large majority of scheduled benefits after that -- more than two-thirds according to CBO, three-fourths according to the trustees -- from scheduled tax revenues." (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
[Opinion] Got Those 'Conflicting Social Security Deficit Estimate' Blues
"Whose assumptions are a better estimate of future system experience? The Trustees'? The CBO's? Alicia's Technical Panel's? I have no idea. And frankly, no one does (now that Yogi has passed).... Since we don't know what the future holds, we need to solve our best estimate of the size of the problem in the near future. But equally important, we also need to use sound actuarial principles to ensure that the system automatically maintains its actuarial balance in the future when actual experience deviates from assumed experience (because trust me on this one, it will)." (Ken Steiner, FSA Retired)
What the Growing Longevity Gap Means for Social Security
"While many people will live significantly longer than their parents and grandparents, some groups have seen no gains, and others (such as poorer women) may have lost years of life. This troubling development makes Social Security less progressive ... and some widely discussed changes, like raising the full retirement age, could make things worse." (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
CBO's 2015 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information
"This report presents additional information about CBO's long-term projections for Social Security in the form of 15 exhibits that illustrate the program's finances and the distribution of benefits paid to and payroll taxes collected from various groups of people. Any harm that rising debt would cause to the economy was not factored into the long-term projections published in this report. The appendix presents more information on CBO's demographic projections. A list of definitions of common terms appears at the end of the publication." (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
Social Security Policy Options, 2015 (PDF)
98 pages. "This report considers 36 policy options that are among those commonly proposed by policymakers and analysts, divided into five groups according to the elements of the Social Security program that they would modify ... The effects of an option on the Social Security system's finances are presented first, followed by a discussion of the distribution of those effects among people in various birth cohorts and according to lifetime household earnings ... By itself, no individual option presented here could create long-term stability for the Social Security program." (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
[Opinion] Social Security Reform -- Some Solutions Are More Sustainable Than Others
"While reducing the 75-year actuarial deficit is a reasonable first step, there are two problems with any proposed reform options that simply reduce Social Security's 75-year actuarial deficit to zero: [1] Given the projected costs of the program, limiting the actuarial balance calculation to 75 years ignores projected annual deficits expected to occur after the end of the 75-year projection period. Over time, these deficits will emerge in the actuary's annual calculations. [2] There exists no process in current law to automatically adjust the System's tax rates to maintain a balance between system assets and system liabilities." (Ken Steiner, FSA Retired)
[Opinion] New Budget Deal Is Cutting Your Social Security Benefits and It's a Good Thing
"The budget agreement will remove a lot of the claiming strategies by extending the deemed filing rules up to age 70, simplifying the Social Security claiming decision for millions of Americans.... [T]his move shows that the Government is not afraid to make the tough decisions necessary to ensure the long-term success of the program.... A reduction in these aggressive claiming strategies will keep more money in the Social Security system and will improve its long-term financial stability." (Forbes)
GAO Report: Answers to Key Questions About Social Security's Future
92 pages. Updated Oct. 2015. "This guide -- first issued in 2005 -- is intended to describe, in a concise and easy-to-understand way, the complexities of Social Security, the challenges the programs face, and the options available to address these challenges. The first section of this guide explains how Social Security works ... The second section explains the programs' financial and other challenges ... The third and fourth sections present a wide array of options that have been proposed to address challenges for the OASI and DI programs, respectively.... [T]he fifth section of this guide provides a framework for evaluating the various policy options." [GAO-16-75SP, published Oct. 27, 2015, released Oct. 27, 2015] (U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO])
[Opinion] 'Yes' to Increasing the Social Security Retirement Age
"A major factor driving Social Security spending higher is that people are living longer, healthier lives. More people reach retirement age, and once they do, they live longer.... Yet, Social Security's eligibility age is slated to increase by only two years -- to age 67 -- and even that 'extended' age won't take effect until 2027. Life expectancy tables and fiscal prudence suggest that's simply not enough. Lawmakers should increase the Social Security retirement age, gradually and predictably, to reach 70 over the next two decades, and then index the age to life expectancy." (Romina Boccia, via SouthCoast Today)
[Opinion] Raising Everyone's Retirement Age Undercuts a Key Goal of Social Security
"Workers who delay claiming Social Security for one additional year, say, from 63 to 64, after the full retirement age is raised from 67 to 68 would see little change in their monthly pension, but would receive it for one less year. The delay seems fair if the worker has enjoyed the same improvement in life expectancy as fellow workers. It doesn't seem so fair if the worker has seen little or no gain in life span. It's easy to identify a group that has missed out on recent life expectancy gains -- workers who earn low wages throughout their careers." (The Brookings Institution)
Can Social Security Be Solvent?
"Social Security is expected to run short of funds to pay all promised benefits in less than 20 years. However, none of the most popular reform options, including raising the retirement age, cutting cost-of-living adjustments, and raising the cap on earnings covered by Social Security, are enough to permanently close the funding gap without additional changes." (Urban Institute)
Social Security Coverage for State and Local Government Workers: A Reconsideration
"This paper reviews and extends discussion on whether state and local government workers [SLGW] should face mandatory coverage in Social Security. Relative to earlier work, we focus on links between this issue and recent developments in state and local pensions. Although some of the issues apply equally to both existing and newly hired SLGWs, it is most natural to focus on whether newly hired employees should be brought into Social Security." (The Brookings Institution)
A Multidisciplinary Review of Research on the Distributional Effects of Raising Social Security's Early Entitlement Age
"[This paper] reviews literature that can be used to help evaluate proposals to increase the retired-worker beneficiary's early entitlement age (EEA), which is currently age 62. Many of these proposals seek to identify workers who would be unable to work past age 62 and include provisions intended to relieve the hardship or vulnerability thought to be imposed on those workers by the EEA increase. This paper reviews the relevant social science literature using a multidisciplinary approach to capture the interaction between social insurance philosophy and empiricism that exists in that literature." (U.S. Social Security Administration [SSA])
Evaluating the Impact of Social Security Benefits on Health Outcomes Among the Elderly
"Higher Social Security benefits due to amendments to the Social Security Act in the 1970s led to significant improvements in elderly health outcomes.... [H]igher Social Security income led to significant decreases in depressive symptoms but only in the case of households whose primary Social Security beneficiary had less than a high school education.... [These] findings suggest that cuts to Social Security benefits could potentially have significant negative impacts on the functional limitations and cognitive function of older adults, while increases in benefits could lead to improvements in health outcomes." (Center for Retirement Research at Boston College)
Funding Bills Include Cuts in Social Security Services
"Social Security Administration (SSA) administrative funding would face more cuts under the House and Senate committee-approved appropriations bills for 2016, which would mean more cuts to staffing and field office hours, longer waits for appointments and phone calls, and more backlogs for disability appeals and other critical work.... Even without adjusting for inflation, the Senate Labor-HHS-Education bill would cut nearly $250 million from SSA's regular administrative funding, compared with 2015 -- harsher even than the House bill, which would freeze funding at 2015 levels." (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

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