Social Security Trustees Report for 2014

The 2014 OASDI Trustees Report, officially called “The 2014 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds,” presents the current and projected financial status of the Social Security trust funds. 

OASDI stands for Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (Social Security). There are separate OASI and DI Trust Funds, with information about each in the Trustees Report. 

Dated July 28, 2014, the full report is available at http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/TR/2014/index.html 

It is well worth your time to read at least the report Highlights and Conclusion, both of which are short.  

Short and long-range Social Security program solvency forecasts are provided using different economic possibilities. Overall, the Trustees Report contains much the same forecast for Social Security solvency as last year.  

While not expected to continue for many more years, it may surprise you to read that overall combined Social Security income is exceeding overall expenses with asset reserves still growing. As since 2010, costs exceeded tax income in 2013. 

From the Highlights: 

At the end of 2013, the OASDI program was providing benefit payments to about 58 million people: 41 million retired workers and dependents of retired workers, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 11 million disabled workers and dependents of disabled workers. During the year, an estimated 163 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes. Total expenditures in 2013 were $823 billion. Total income was $855 billion, which consisted of $752 billion in non-interest income and $103 billion in interest earnings. Asset reserves held in special issue U.S. Treasury securities grew from $2,732 billion at the beginning of the year to $2,764 billion at the end of the year. 

From the Conclusion: 

Under current law, the projected cost of Social Security increases faster than projected income through about 2035 primarily because of the aging of the baby-boom generation and relatively low fertility since the baby-boom period. Cost will continue to grow faster than income, but to a lesser degree, after 2035 due to increasing life expectancy. Based on the Trustees’ best estimate, program cost exceeds non-interest income for 2014, as it has since 2010, and remains higher than non-interest income throughout the remainder of the 75‑year projection period. Social Security’s theoretical combined trust funds increase with the help of interest income through 2019 and allow full payment of scheduled benefits on a timely basis until the trust fund asset reserves become depleted in 2033. At that time, projected continuing income to the combined trust funds equals about 77 percent of program cost. By 2088, continuing income equals about 72 percent of program cost. 

The Trustees project that the OASI Trust Fund and the DI Trust Fund will have sufficient reserves to pay full benefits on time until 2034 and 2016, respectively. Legislative action is needed as soon as possible to prevent depletion of the DI Trust Fund reserves in 2016, at which time continuing income to the DI Trust Fund would be sufficient to pay 81 percent of DI benefits. Lawmakers may consider responding to the impending DI Trust Fund reserve depletion as they did in 1994, solely by reallocating the payroll tax rate between OASI and DI. Such a response might serve to delay DI reforms and much needed corrections for OASDI as a whole. However, enactment of a more permanent solution could include a tax reallocation in the short-run. …

The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually and give workers and beneficiaries time to adjust to them. Implementing changes soon would allow more generations to share in the needed revenue increases or reductions in scheduled benefits. Social Security will play a critical role in the lives of 59 million beneficiaries and 165 million covered workers and their families in 2014. With informed discussion, creative thinking, and timely legislative action, Social Security can continue to protect future generations.

 

DDS makes disability decisions

Q: Do Social Security employees have medical training so they can evaluate medical information for disability application decisions? 

A: Local Social Security employees do not make medical decisions for disability applications and do not evaluate medical evidence for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications. 

Whether a person files online or by personal interview, when a disability application is received, Social Security representatives review it to verify that the non-medical eligibility requirements are met. For example, the SSA employee will verify that an applicant for Social Security disability meets the work requirement or that a person filing for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) meets the income and resource requirements of that need-based program. If these non-medical requirements are not met, they will complete the application to a denial since a medical decision would not be required. 

When non-medical requirements are met, the local office reviews application materials for completeness, including applicant details to describe the disabling impairments, medical treatment, medical releases and related employment and vocational information. 

For the actual medical decision, the disability claim goes to a State agency, usually called a Disability Determination Service (DDS). These state agencies, fully funded by the Federal Government, are responsible for developing medical evidence and making the initial determination on whether or not a claimant is disabled or blind under the law. Samples of DDS decisions from all the States are reviewed within Social Security to maintain national requirements. 

Following a national, step-by-step disability evaluation process, DDS employees make the disability decision and return the application to the local Social Security office for additional work as needed. Depending on the decision, this could be to complete any remaining development before payment begins or, if a denial, holding a file for the appeal period.

National my Social Security Week

If you receive Social Security benefits or have Medicare, you can use a mySocial Security online account to:

1. Get your benefit verification letter;

2. Check your benefit and payment information and your earnings record;

3. Change your address and phone number; and

4.Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment.

 If you do not receive benefits, you can use a mySocial Security online account to:

A) Get yourSocial Security Statement to review:

          1) Estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits;

          2) Your earnings once a year to verify the amounts we posted are correct and see the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

B) Get a benefit verification letter stating that:

          1) You never received Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare; or

          2) You received benefits in the past, but do not currently receive them or

          3) You applied for benefits but haven’t received an answer yet.

Get your free personal online my Social Security account today! http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/

 

SSI Recipients by State and County, 2013

Last week I posted information about the annual publication OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County, 2013, containing Social Security beneficiary information to the individual county level.

Newly released is the publication SSI Recipients By State and County, 2013, containing local area data for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  

Administered by the Social Security Administration, but very different from Social Security, SSI is a cash assistance program providing monthly benefits to low-income aged, blind, or disabled people, including children.

People can receive both Social Security and SSI if the individual program requirements are met. SSI Recipients By State and County, 2013 shows the number of SSI recipient’s also receiving Social Security (OASDI) benefits.

When looking up your state or county information, note that benefit amounts are shown in thousands of dollars.

Social Security disability, retirement or both?

Q: My brother is 64 years old but in poor health even though he still works full-time. His doctors are telling him to retire. The doctors say he should qualify for disability. What would be the best for him? Social Security or disability? 

A: Just to be clear, retirement, survivors and disability benefits are all Social Security, just different parts. 

Social Security disability information is here. Your brother should especially look at the Disability Planner section. 

Since the disability definition for Social Security purposes is based on ability to work, not just health, it is unlikely that a disability application by your brother would be approved as long as he continues working full-time, assuming no employer subsidy or special considerations that allow him to work. 

In general, if working in 2014 and having earnings that average more than $1,070 a month, a person cannot be considered disabled. Usually disability clients file for benefits after they stop working or have greatly reduced work activity. With that, the decision to file or not is his.  

Only your brother can decide what is best for him. He can file an application for Social Security disability or retirement. Disability benefits are not reduced for age. Retirement benefits are reduced for age if started when the person is younger than full retirement age (FRA).

Since your brother is at least the minimum SSA retirement age of 62, another available option is for him to file for both disability and retirement (reduced for age) benefits at the same time. 

If he does this, retirement benefits could be received while the disability application is pending. If disability is not approved, his retirement benefits continue at the reduced rate. If the disability application is approved, the benefit amount is reviewed and increased although not to 100 percent. Final amounts would be based on the number of months that he received a reduced retirement.

OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County (2013)

The annual Social Security Administration publication OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County (2013) is available.  

Quoting from the preface: 

This annual publication focuses on the Social Security beneficiary population—people receiving Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) benefits—at the local level. It presents basic program data on the number and type of beneficiaries and the amount of benefits paid in each state and county. It also shows the numbers of men and women aged 65 or older receiving benefits.”

In your state or county, how many people receive Social Security monthly benefits?

How is that divided between Social Security retirement, survivors or disability benefits?

How much money does that bring in to your local economy?

Find out here. 

As of December 2013, 18.3 percent of the entire United States population received a Social Security retirement, survivors or disability benefit. Including family members, this was approximately 70 percent retirement benefits, 11 percent survivors, and 19 percent disability.

In North Dakota, 17.1 percent of the population received Social Security benefits, 17.5 percent in Minnesota, 19.3 percent in South Dakota and 20.5 percent in Montana. What about where you live?  

When looking up your state or county information, keep in mind that benefit amounts are shown in thousands of dollars.

What SSA widow / widower benefits are not age based?

My preceding post was about Social Security survivors benefits to a widow or widower based on age, payable once the eligible person is at least age 60.

This leads to the question of what widow or widower Social Security survivors benefits are not based on age. There are two, each with its own requirements.

At any age, Social Security survivor benefits might be payable to a widow or widower if a child of the deceased also receives suvivors benefits on that record. The surviving parent must be taking care of the child and the child must be younger than age 16 or disabled.

Since taking care of the eligible child is the reason for payment of benefits, age of the surviving parent does not change the amount payable to the widow or widower. However, their individual benefits for a year can be reduced by employment earnings due to the annual earnings test, just as for a person receiving Social Security retirement. Amounts paid to the widow(er) can potentially lower amounts payable to eligible children. For these reasons, people otherwise eligible for this type of benefit sometimes choose not to receive it, especially if working full-time.

The other is based on disability, with an age requirement. Called disabled widow(er) benefits, these can be paid if the person is at least age 50, but not age 60, and determined to be disabled within a certain period of time. Exceptions exist but usually the disability must have started within seven years of the spouses death.

Not being discussed today, divorced spouses of a worker who dies can receive the same types of survivors benefits as a widow or widower, provided that the marriage lasted 10 years or more and other requirements are met.

Read the booklet “Survivors Benefits” (SSA publication 05-10084) for general information about Social Security survivors benefits.

 

For Congressional staff and now You: learn about SSA disability

On May 27, 2014, Congressional staff learned about the Social Security disability program when Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, keynoted a Capitol Hill presentation by SSA executives.  

Now you can watch this presentation.

This was a teaching session, not a committee hearing.

Included were details about the growth, solvency and sustainability of the disability program by Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration.

Other sections were about who receives disability, basic eligibility requirements and the disability process including the initial claim and different levels of appeal.

You can watch the video of this teaching session or just see the slides used.

I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity. Information is easily understandable, without technical jargon. 

After introductions, Stephen Goss’s presentation begins at about 6:45 in the video. Other Social Security executives discussed program information after his portion until about 1:00:00 when audience questions began. The full video is about 1:17:34 in length with several guest introductions and comments included during the session.

Update: Social Security and same-sex marriages

Following is a Social Security press release dated June 20, 2014.

 Social Security Defines Policy for Same-Sex Married Couples

Agency Extends Benefits Broadly, Subject to Legal Constraints

Social Security has published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship. These instructions come in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. 

This latest policy development lets the agency recognize some non-marital legal relationships as marriages for determining entitlement to benefits. These instructions also allow Social Security to begin processing many claims in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or non-marital legal relationships.  We have consulted with the Department of Justice and determined that the Social Security Act requires the agency to follow state law in Social Security cases. The new policy also addresses Supplemental Security Income claims based on same-sex relationships.

As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “We are bound by the law within the Social Security Act, and we have to respect state laws.  We remain committed to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity, and respect.”

If a person believes he or she may be entitled to or eligible for benefits, they are encouraged to apply now.

To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.