Thursday, February 24, 2022

Steps to Take When Moving Into Retirement

I found helpful this recent New York Times article, When You’re Tiptoeing Into Retirement, Take These Key Steps. I thought the setup to the article was spot-on "For many, getting to retirement age is not a simple matter of giving two weeks’ notice. You may want to extend a career or wind down work life or a business. If you’re able, you may want to keep working until you are 70 (and beyond), when you will receive the largest possible Social Security payment. These in-betweeners are slow-walk planning to arrive at the moment when they are not working anymore. What’s involved is a delicate jigsaw puzzle of decisions, nest egg bolstering and financial calculations. This transitory time also presents a meaningful time for reflection and short-term planning."  The article discusses "issues to consider' including the timing of taking Social Security Retirement (and some links to companies you can hire to help you with the decision), phased retirement, financing retirement, including tax planning, and whether to create a plan yourself, or with a professional. "More important, one of your key questions should be, “What do I truly want to do and how do I get there?” Whether you are envisioning partial or full retirement, it helps to have some specific goals."

February 24, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Free Webinar: Social Security Overpayments

Mark your calendars for this upcoming webinar from the National Center on Law & Elder Rights,  on Social Security Overpayments and Low Income Adults. set for February 23, 2022 at 2 eastern.  The webinar will cover the following: "An overpayment of Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits occurs whenever an individual receives more money for a month than the amount that should have been paid by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This training will review the options individuals have when they receive a notice of an overpayment from SSA. Presenters will cover the steps advocates can take to ensure the accuracy of an overpayment claimed by SSA, to reduce or eliminate the amount taken by SSA, and to enforce clients’ due process rights. Participants will also learn about recent changes SSA has made to address some of the problems with the overpayment appeal and waiver processes, and how advocates can be part of the efforts to tackle these problems. "  To register, click here.

February 16, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Statistics, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 4, 2022

Social Security Survivors Benefits for Those LGBTQ Who Could Not Marry

The New York Times reported a few weeks ago that SSA has agreed that those LGBTQ who were in a committed relationship and couldn't marry until marriage equality are entitled to survivors benefits. Social Security Opens to Survivors of Same-Sex Couples Who Could Not Marry

Challenging the policy that limited survivor’s benefits to married couples took years and a class-action lawsuit that bears Ms. Thornton’s name. In November, the agency dropped its Trump-era appeals against Thornton v. Commissioner of Social Security and Ely v. Saul, two federal lawsuits brought by surviving same-sex partners or spouses.

The Social Security Administration now allows gay men and lesbians to receive survivor’s benefits if they can show that they were in a committed relationship and would have married had that been possible. The change could mean greater economic protection for a population with higher poverty rates than American adults overall.

Important and good news!

February 4, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Discrimination, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Social Security | Permalink

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Help in Choosing When to Claim Social Security Benefits

If you ever perused the Social Security website, you know there are a number of choices to make. Although SSA has a lot of info on its website, ever wish you could get some help? That's the subject of a recent article in the New York Times, To Get the Most From Social Security, Log On. "[T]he market for Social Security advice includes a variety of software tools that can analyze your circumstances and retirement income needs, and generate recommendations for getting the most out of benefits. A growing number of financial planners use software to advise clients on claiming, and some workplace retirement plans also offer such options."  The article mentions some of the more complex decisions that need to be made by individual beneficiaries, review some fee for use tools as well as free tools.  Check it out!

Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending me the link.

February 1, 2022 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink

Thursday, November 18, 2021

The Great Resignation Doesn't Mean More on Social Security

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran this article, The latest twist in the ‘Great Resignation’: Retiring but delaying Social Security

For better-off Americans, the pandemic economy created some of the strongest incentives to retire in modern history, with generous federal stimulus, incredible market gains, skyrocketing home values and health concerns drawing many Americans into early retirement.

The surprising twist? Many of these retirees also opted to put off claiming Social Security benefits, an exclusive Washington Post analysis shows. By delaying their benefits, these retirees can expect to collect higher monthly checks in the future.
The data in the article show retirements up about 5% but Social Security Retirement apps down about the same for the same time period.  Do we know what is going on?
 
America’s retiree population grew by about 3 million during the pandemic, about double what would have been expected given pre-pandemic trends, which has been previously reported. But the surprising surge in older Americans delaying Social Security upon retirement is another example of a number of unusual trends roiling the American labor market. Most notably, workers of all ages are quitting jobs in record numbers, in what has been dubbed the “Great Resignation.”
But why is this happening? Perhaps it's the "generous federal stimulus and unemployment insurance payments that enabled retirees to make ends meet in the short term; soaring stock and home prices that fattened retirement accounts; and pandemic-related restrictions at Social Security field offices nationwide that forced seniors to apply online."  We know that the pandemic is a great risk to all of us, but older workers can be even more vulnerable.  Once we are out of the pandemic, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues or reverses.

November 18, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Will the 2022 SSA COLA be "record-breaking"?

I don't know if it will be "record-breaking", but the buzz is that it's going to be larger than that of recent history.  CNBC reported Social Security cost-of-living adjustment could be at least 6% in 2022, the higher amount being due to inflation, but the increase in purchasing power will be tempered by the Medicare Part B premiums and income taxes.   The Senior Citizens League (the source of the estimate) explains its process "Our forecast is based on CPI data through August, and there is still one more month of consumer price data to come in before we get the official announcement in October ... [and] [t]his year is particularly difficult to forecast with certainty... [due to] inflation patterns, caused in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, [which] were unprecedented...."

It won't be long before we get the official news from SSA. Stay tuned....

September 29, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 20, 2021

SSI Recipients and Disaster Related Assistance Webinar

Mark your calendars now for a free webinar,  Pandemic-Related Disaster Assistance for SSI Recipients, hosted by the National Center on Law & Elder Rights. Scheduled for September 21, 2021 at 2 eastern, the webinar description explains:

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recently changed their rules about how pandemic-related financial assistance can affect an individual’s eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or monthly SSI benefit amount. Previously, SSA had been counting many types of assistance as income and resources for SSI purposes, resulting in individuals having their SSI benefits reduced or suspended, or having their applications for SSI benefits denied. However, due to the severity of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SSA has decided they will not count most types of pandemic-related financial assistance against SSI eligibility or benefit amount.

This training will review the guidance issued by SSA on what types of financial assistance they now consider pandemic-related disaster assistance, what steps they will be taking to restore individuals’ SSI benefits, and what advocates can do to assist clients with contacting SSA to access or restore SSI benefits.

To register, click here.

September 20, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs, Social Security, Webinars | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Social Security & Medicare Trustees' Reports

We know they come out every year. This year is no exception. They are out! What do we learn from them? I'll give you the highlights here (those of you who have looked at the reports before know they are long and detailed....)

The Medicare Trustees' Report, released August 31, 2021, is available here.  The introduction explains the impact of COVID, and COVID vaccines, on Medicare, but not "Aduhelm, the Alzheimer’s disease drug that has been recently approved."  The introduction also references potential future scientific advances and how that would be factored into projections.  The one thing everyone wants to know from the Trustees Annual Report is what is the fiscal health of Medicare?  "The estimated depletion date for the HI trust fund is 2026, the same as in last year’s report. As in past years, the Trustees have determined that the fund is not adequately financed over the next 10 years. HI income is projected to be lower than last year’s estimates due to lower payroll taxes."  If you don't have time to peruse the entire report, read the introduction. It's very interesting!

Here's an excerpt from the conclusion:

The Trustees project that HI tax income and other dedicated revenues will fall short of HI expenditures in all future years. The HI trust fund does not meet either the Trustees’ test of short-range financial adequacy or their test of long-range close actuarial balance.


The Part B and Part D accounts in the SMI trust fund are expected to be adequately financed because income from premiums and general revenue are reset each year to cover expected costs. Such financing, however, would have to increase faster than the economy to cover expected expenditure growth.


The financial projections in this report indicate a need for substantial changes to address Medicare’s financial challenges. The sooner solutions are enacted, the more flexible and gradual they can be. The early introduction of reforms increases the time available for affected individuals and organizations—including health care providers, beneficiaries, and taxpayers—to adjust their expectations and behavior. The Trustees recommend that Congress and the executive branch work closely together with a sense of urgency to address these challenges.

The 2021 Social Security Trustees' Report is available through this page.

According to a summary provided by the SSA & Medicare Trustees, "Based on our best estimates, the 2021 reports show:"

• The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund, which pays retirement and survivors benefits, will be able to pay scheduled benefits on a timely basis until 2033, one year earlier than reported last year. At that time, the fund's reserves will become depleted and continuing tax income will be sufficient to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits.

• The Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund, which pays disability benefits, will be able to pay scheduled benefits until 2057, 8 years earlier than in last year's report. At that time, the fund's reserves will become depleted and continuing tax income will be sufficient to pay 91 percent of scheduled benefits.

 

September 15, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicare, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink

Monday, June 21, 2021

Debt and Elders: GAO Report

This GAO report is a couple of months old, but I think it's important enough to bring it to your attention,  Retirement Security: Debt Increased for Older Americans over Time, but the Implications Vary by Debt Type.

Here are the fast facts from the report:

Older Americans held nearly half of the total debt in 2020—debt that may affect their retirement security. We found that older Americans had significantly more debt in 2016 than in 1989.

We also found that low-income, older Americans had greater "debt stress"—the ratio of debts to assets. In 2016, debt stress was about two times higher for minority households than White households.

Experts said that different debt types (credit cards, housing debt, etc.) have varying effects on retirement security. For example, carrying credit card debt with high variable interest rates may make it difficult for the elderly to save for retirement.

The full report is available here, the highlights here.

June 21, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Other, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 10, 2021

What Happens to Social Security Benefits If the Beneficiary Goes to Jail or Prison?

This semester at Dickinson Law, I've been teaching a comparative law module on Social Security Benefits.  We've been spending more time than usual examining issues associated with basic "retirement benefits" rather than the more complicated topics of Social Security Disability (SSD) and Supplement Security Income (SSI) benefits.  

A group of us ended the semester with an interesting hypothetical.  Imagine that a retired, older client has a DWI -- his second within some number of years -- involving property damage and, thankfully, no direct endangerment to anyone's life or safety.  Assume a damaged mailbox or telephone pole. The state law might treat that as a misdemeanor, but because it is a second offense, it could still mean substantial jail time.  The client is thinking about pleading guilty, even if the sentence is 60 to 90 days.  The older client might be thinking "the faster I get this over, the faster I can get home and headed back in the right direction with my life."

Do lawyers advise such clients of the potential impact of incarceration, whether in a jail or prison, on his or her right to receive  basic Social Security benefits?  This was a new topic for me and of course that sent me scurrying for information.  Here's what I've read so far:

  • The Social Security Administration has a December 2019 brochure, entitled "What Prisoners Need to Know."  
  • Federal statutory law currently provides, at 42 U.S.C. Section 402(x)(1)(A), that "no monthly benefits shall be paid" to any individual who is "confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution or correctional facility pursuant to his conviction of a criminal offense" for 30 continuous days or more.  Does this mean the trigger for loss of benefits is 30+ days of confinement for any crime, even a misdemeanor? While a related regulation, at 20 CFR Section 404.468, provides that no monthly benefits shall be paid if the confinement is for a "conviction of a felony," (my emphasis added) it may be that regulation's language reflects pre-1999 statutory law.  See e.g., amendments to Section 402(x) set forth in  P.L. 106-170 (Dec. 17, 1999), 113 Stat. 1860, an act with the ominous name of "Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act." 
  • Cases explain that since 1983, the statutory mandate to suspend payments applies to basic retirement benefits, as well as SSD and SSI, and can also trigger a demand for refunds of any SS program funds "overpaid" during confinement, potentially reducing any future benefits the individual would otherwise receive once out of  jail. See e.g., Zipkin v. Heckler, 790 F.2d 16 (2d Cir. 1986). 
  • Attempts to challenge the application of Section 402(x) by arguing the law violates substantive due process, equal protection or is unconstitutional as a bill of attainder or ex post facto law have not met with success.  See e.g., Butler v. Apfel 114 F.3d 622 (9th Cir. 1998).

Back to our hypothetical.  The client might be planning to go home after 30, 60, 90 days or more in jail, but what if the client was depending on SS retirement income -- reflecting his life-time work record -- in order to keep making house payments for that time? 

Originally the theory of suspending federal SS payments focused on "disability" payments, because the confined individuals were being maintained at public expense and their inability to work is a consequence of their criminal conviction, not their disability.  But what of the 1983 amendment, expanding the suspensions to SS retirement income?  In the Zipkin case linked above, at page 18-19, the Second Circuit rejected any distinction:

"We can perceive no reason why prisoners whose retirement benefits are suspended would have a need for replacement of income while prisoners whose disability benefits are suspended do not.  Rather, prisoners, as a group, do not have the need for a continuing source of income that nonprisoners typically may have. . . .  Social Security retirement benefits are designed to satisfy certain baseline economic needs, reasonably predictable when a worker retires. . . . They are not benefits held in trust and payable per se." 

It is a tough world, right?  But does it need to be this tough?  According to the Social Security Administration's recent statistics, among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, "21% of married couples and about 45% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income."  Feel free to add your own thoughts in the "comments."

May 10, 2021 in Crimes, Current Affairs, Ethical Issues, Federal Cases, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security, State Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 3, 2021

Webinar on Social Security Auxiliary Benefits

Mark your calendars for May 11 at 2 eastern for Title II Auxiliary Benefits: Social Security Benefits You’ve Never Heard of and Who is Eligible for Them.

When most people hear about “Social Security benefits,” the first thought that comes to mind is income for older individuals who have retired from work. It’s true that the Social Security system provides a foundation of retirement income that permits older adults to live in dignity, with over 46 million retired workers receiving benefits each month.

However, the Social Security system is also the foundation of economic security for millions of family members of retired, disabled, or deceased workers. In addition to retirement benefits, Social Security offers disability insurance protection to workers and their spouse and children, as well as life insurance that pays monthly survivors benefits to dependents if the worker dies.

Join this training to learn more about the eligibility requirements for benefits for spouses and ex-spouses, children, and parents. About one American family in four receives income from Social Security benefits, and many more could receive this income if they knew they were eligible. These benefits offer an opportunity to provide more financial stability to eligible older adult households.

To register, click here.

May 3, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Programs/CLEs, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 29, 2021

ABA BIFOCAL Latest Issue Released

The ABA Commission on Law and Aging has published vol. 42, Issue 3 (Jan.-Feb.2021),  its current issue of BIOFOCAL. The issue contains several articles, including a couple on Social Security Rep Payees, with the lead article, How Does Social Security Select Representative Payees for Adults? Results of an Independent Research Study

Almost four million older adults and adults with disabilities have representative payees appointed by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to manage their Social Security or SSI payments. How does SSA determine if a payee is needed? How do SSA staff select a payee? How do they choose an individual versus an organizational payee?  What are the considerations in long-term care residential facilities serving as the payee?  What about guardians serving as payee? How and to what extent does SSA maintain consistency in payee determinations?

In 2018, the Social Security Advisory Board (SSAB) charged researchers at Virginia Tech and the ABA Commission on Law and Aging to conduct an independent study focusing on these compelling questions.  The study team addressed SSA processes for selection of payees for adults. The underlying assumption was that a better understanding of selection practices ultimately could lead to process improvements, as well as a reduction in the potential for misuse and abuse of beneficiary funds while maintaining beneficiary rights.

A pdf of the full issue is available here.

January 29, 2021 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Dementia/Alzheimer’s, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Social Security Proposal to Restrict SSDI Benefits?

The Hill ran an item a couple of weeks ago, Social Security Administration is preparing to bar 500,000 Americans from getting benefits.

SSA’s proposal, as described in press reports, would make it harder for older workers to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. By law (not regulation), SSA is required to consider age, education and work experience when determining whether a person meets the statutory definition of disability.

The implications are far reaching-if this proposal is passed.

In short, SSA’s proposal to tighten SSDI benefits fails to even advance past a very basic question about the suggested policy: What is the point? Looking at recent or modern data, the current system routinely denies benefits to older individuals with serious health problems and diminished prospects in the modern economy. Amplifying these outcomes by trying to get even more denials is not a rational policy approach.

The proposal would also exacerbate inequality in the United States along the lines of race and income. More than 25 percent of denied Social Security disability applicants are Black, a percentage that far exceeds the percentage of African Americans in the overall working age population. Additionally, nearly 40 percent of denied applicants live in poverty. SSA’s proposal to get more denials seems out of touch with regard to many of the serious problems facing the country.

It remains to be seen whether the administration will continue to push this through before President-elect Biden takes office.  Although the change could be undone, wouldn't it be nice if it just didn't happen?

Thanks to my colleague, Professor Mark Bauer, for sending me the article.

December 23, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 14, 2020

COVID and FInancial Harm

There's absolutely nothing good at all about COVID. I could list a number of ways it has harmed us, beyond health implications, but I just want to share one article with you from the New York Times, Female Workers Could Take Another Pandemic Hit: To Their Retirements.

Now, the pandemic recession is disproportionately damaging the careers of women — so much so that some experts call it a “shecession.”

In November, the national unemployment rate dipped to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent, the Labor Department reported last week. But the pace of job growth has stalled, and millions have dropped out of the labor market altogether, especially women. One recent study found a disproportionate decline in employment for women of prime working age, 25 to 55, compared with men — and especially so for mothers.

The losses sustained are not just right now-but must be factored over time, including "missed wage growth, retirement savings and Social Security benefits."  Here is a great visual for this: a calculator developed by the center for American Progress.

The article discusses the importance of Social Security and includes info about President-elect Biden's plans for Social Security, which would

award work credit to people who cared for children or other relatives. It would also expand benefits for widows in certain circumstances, and bump up benefits for seniors who had collected payments for 20 years. Finally, it would adopt a new yardstick to determine Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment — the CPI-E, an experimental Labor Department inflation measure designed to more accurately reflect the inflation experienced by seniors, especially health care expenses.

This is a good article-I plan to assign it to my students in the spring.

BTW, a shout out to the health care workers, first responders, essential personnel, everyone, who is keeping us going through this pandemic.  And to the scientists who created the vaccine, THANK YOU!!!!

December 14, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Other, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

How SSA Hold Harmless Works

Concomitant with the announcement of the Medicare premiums for 2021 comes a blog post from SSA explaining how the hold harmless provision works. How the Hold Harmless Provision Protects Your Benefits explains that with some exceptions,  "the “hold harmless provision” protects ... Social Security benefit payment from decreasing due to an increase in the Medicare Part B premium... To qualify for the hold harmless provision, [the recipient] must: .... Receive Social Security benefits or be entitled to Social Security benefits for November and December of the current year [and the recipient's] Medicare Part B premiums for December and January [are] deducted from [the SSA] monthly benefits."

Read the blog here.

December 2, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Social Security, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Health & Income Security Gaps For Older Americans of Color

This is not a happy article for the day after Thanksgiving-but it is a darn important topic.  The Conversation published this article, Nearly two-thirds of older Black Americans can’t afford to live alone without help – and it’s even tougher for Latinos explains that

Older Americans who want to live independently face serious economic challenges. Half who live alone don’t have enough income to afford even a bare-bones budget in their home communities, and nearly 1 in 4 couples face the same problem.

Those numbers add up to at least 11 million older adults who are struggling to make ends meet, a new analysis shows.

The numbers are worse for older people of color. Dramatically higher percentages of Black, Latino and Asian older adults live on incomes that don’t meet their cost of living, even with Social Security. That can mean skipping needed health care, not having enough food, living in unhealthy conditions or having to move in with family.

These disparities often reflect lifelong disadvantages that add up as people of color encounter structural racism and discrimination that shape their ability to buy property and save for the future.

The authors used some data available about elders "to measure the true cost of living for older adults. It tracks expenses for housing, health care, transportation, food and other basics, county by county. We paired the index with state-level income data to determine the percentage of people who don’t have enough income to cover their cost of living." The results show that "disadvantages people of color face can extend through their lifetimes and can pass on to future generations."  Not only is income security an issue, so is health security "[s]ecuring and protecting health into later life is also more challenging for many people of color."

The results also showed state by state variations. The article concludes with various recommendations:

Today’s older adults who are struggling financially can’t go back, but there are several ways to help them now:

  • Policies can promote affordable housing and affordable health care, which represent the biggest components of older Americans’ budgets.

  • Governments can promote mechanisms that allow people to keep working into later life, which allows people to continue generating income and building wealth, and also delays drawing down other income sources such as pensions or Social Security benefits.

  • Social Security and Medicare — the foundations of a secure retirement for millions of Americans — are essential for these groups. Older people of color rely more heavily than their white counterparts on Social Security and are at heightened risk when these programs are threatened.

  • Making sure government assistance programs such as SNAP benefits for food and housing subsidies are accessible to the people who need them can also help. Ensuring access includes providing information in multiple languages and hiring outreach workers who understand the population’s needs.

Thanks to Professor Naomi Cahn for sending me the link to the article.

November 27, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 23, 2020

Changes to Social Security for Those Still Working?

A little over a week ago, the Motley Fool ran this article, Working and Collecting Social Security? Big Changes May Be on the Way in 2021. The article opens discussing the importance of Social Security to recipients. "Without this guaranteed monthly benefit, the elderly poverty rate would be close to 40%, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (it's under 9% with Social Security payouts)." For those who are working, there are changes coming, according to the article.

"Some choose to continue working, either part-time or full-time, while collecting their retired worker benefit from the program. If you're one of these people, or you expect to claim benefits very soon while continuing to stay employed in some capacity, you should be aware of a handful of changes expected to occur in 2021." 

The retirement earnings test amount (a formula that provides a deduction from SSA checks based on earnings amount for those who claim Social Security before reaching their full retirement age) is being increased (the article does a good job of explaining the earnings test).

Back in August the president issued an administrative order for a payroll tax deferral through the end of the year and for those who chose the deferral, 2021 is just around the corner when they have that bill coming due. Also in 2021, the payroll tax earnings cap will increase.  

The full article is available here. My thanks to my dear friend and colleague Professor Feeley for sending me the article.

November 23, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Two Updates from SSA

Last week I received two emails from SSA that I thought I'd share with you. The first concerned the unveiling of SSA's new electronic Consent Based Social Security Number (SSN) Verification (eCBSV) service.   You might be thinking "say what?"  Well here is the info you need to know, straight from SSA

Our new electronic SSN verification service helps reduce synthetic identity fraud by comparing agency records with data provided electronically by approved participants,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “This is an important online service that helps us provide participants and their customers fast, secure, and more efficient SSN verifications.”

Social Security created eCBSV, a fee-based electronic SSN verification service, to allow select financial institutions and service providers, called “permitted entities” and including subsidiaries, affiliates, agents, subcontractors, or assignees of a financial institution, to verify if a person’s SSN, name, and date of birth combination matches Social Security records. Social Security needs the person’s written consent and will accept an electronic signature in order to disclose the SSN verification to the permitted entity. eCBSV returns a match verification of “Yes” or “No.” eCBSV does not verify a person’s identity.

Next, SSA's latest blog post is about Social Security in plain language.

Some of the terms and acronyms people use when they talk about Social Security can be a little confusing. We’re here to help you understand all you need to know.

We strive to explain your benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to communicate clearly in a way “the public can understand and use.” This can be particularly challenging when talking about complicated programs like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare. If there’s a technical term or acronym that you don’t know, you can easily find the meaning in our online glossary.

November 4, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 5, 2020

New GAO Report: Retirement Security for Women

The GAO has released a new report, RETIREMENT SECURITY: Older Women Report Facing a Financially Uncertain Future. Here are the highlights:

In all 14 focus groups GAO held with older women, women described some level of anxiety about financial security in retirement. Many expressed concerns about the future of Social Security and Medicare benefits, and the costs of health care and housing. Women in the groups also cited a range of experiences that hindered their retirement security, such as divorce or leaving the workforce before they planned to (see fig.). Women in all 14 focus groups said their lack of personal finance education negatively affected their ability to plan for retirement. Many shared ideas about personal finance education including the view that it should be incorporated into school curriculum starting in kindergarten and continuing through college, and should be available through all phases of life.

Individual women's financial security is also linked to their household where resources may be shared among household members. According to the 2016 Survey of Consumer Finances, among households with older women, about 23 percent of those with white respondents and 40 percent of those with African American respondents fell short of a measure of retirement confidence, indicating their income was not sufficient to maintain their standard of living. The likelihood of a household reporting high retirement confidence rose in certain cases. For example among households of similar wealth, those with greater liquidity in their portfolio and those with defined benefit plan income were more likely to report high retirement confidence.

The full report is available here.

October 5, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Retirement, Social Security, Statistics | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Social Security Trustees Report for 2020

With everything else we had going on, this one slipped past me. The SSA Trustees released their annual report in April. Here's the summary from the press release (note-this doesn't include COVID-19 impact analysis)

The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASI and DI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2035, the same as projected last year, with 79 percent of benefits payable at that time.

The OASI Trust Fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as last year’s estimate, with 76 percent of benefits payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund is estimated to become depleted in 2065, extended 13 years from last year’s estimate of 2052, with 92 percent of benefits still payable.

In the 2020 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

  • The asset reserves of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds increased by $2.5 billion in 2019 to a total of $2.897 trillion.
  • The total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed total annual income, for the first time since 1982, in 2021 and remain higher throughout the 75-year projection period. As a result, asset reserves are expected to decline during 2021. Social Security’s cost has exceeded its non-interest income since 2010.
  • The year when the combined trust fund reserves are projected to become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, is 2035 – the same as last year’s projection. At that time, there would be sufficient income coming in to pay 79 percent of scheduled benefits.

“The projections in this year’s report do not reflect the potential effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Social Security program. Given the uncertainty associated with these impacts, the Trustees believe it is not possible to adjust estimates accurately at this time,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “The duration and severity of the pandemic will affect the estimates presented in this year’s report and the financial status of the program, particularly in the short term.”

Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:

  • Total income, including interest, to the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds amounted to $1.062 trillion in 2019. ($944.5 billion from net payroll tax contributions, $36.5 billion from taxation of benefits, and $81 billion in interest)
  • Total expenditures from the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds amounted to $1.059 trillion in 2019.
  • Social Security paid benefits of $1.048 trillion in calendar year 2019. There were about 64 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 3.21 percent of taxable payroll – higher than the 2.78 percent projected in last year’s report.
  • During 2019, an estimated 178 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
  • The cost of $6.4 billion to administer the Social Security program in 2019 was a very low 0.6 percent of total expenditures.
  • The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 2.8 percent in 2019.

The full trustees' report is available here.

June 2, 2020 in Consumer Information, Current Affairs, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Social Security | Permalink | Comments (0)