Monday, April 11, 2011

Social Security Suspends Annual Statements

By Emily Brandon

The Social Security Administration has recently decided to stop mailing annual Social Security statements to workers to save money. Suspending mailings for all workers over age 25 beginning this month is expected to save approximately $30 million in fiscal year 2011 and $60 million in 2012.

“These annual Statements cost us approximately $70 million each year to print and mail,” SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue told a Senate appropriations committee in March. “In order to conserve funds, we will suspend the current contract and stop sending out these statements.”

Statements were previously sent out about three months before your birthday, so workers born in July or later won’t get a paper statement this year. SSA plans to eventually resume mailing statements to people age 60 and over. The agency is working on an online option for younger workers to download their statements.

SSA mailed out 152 million Social Security statements to workers in fiscal year 2010. These 4-page mailings list your entire earnings record and give you an estimate of your expected retirement benefit, the approximate amount you will get each month if you become disabled, and how much your family will receive if you die in the coming year. The statements also give a concise overview of the program and allow you to check your recorded earnings and taxes paid for errors.

Workers can get an estimate of their retirement benefits online using SSA’s retirement estimator tool. But this tool does not provide all the information that appears in the written statement, such as estimates of disability and survivor’s benefits and your complete earnings record. And young workers who don’t yet have the 40 credits of work necessary to qualify for a retirement payout can’t use the tool yet.

SSA began mailing statements to all workers age 25 and older on Oct. 1, 1999, due to provisions of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989. The law specifically outlined what information needs to be included in the mailing. The statements were intended to educate workers about their benefits, allow employees the opportunity to review the accuracy of their earnings record, and be a financial planning tool to help individuals make retirement decisions. These statements were mailed only to individuals age 60 and older between 1995 and 1999. Statements have been available upon request since 1988. Social Security benefit statements were the largest customized mailing ever undertaken by a Federal agency.

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