WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, has written a letter to Commissioner Michael Astrue urging him to reconsider the decision announced by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to suspend the production and mailing of Social Security Earnings Statements.
“The annual earnings statement is an invaluable tool to help Americans plan for their retirement,” said Senator Cardin, a member of the Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy Subcommittee. “In 1999, Congress passed legislation requiring the distribution of the earnings statement to ensure that Americans have accurate information regarding their Social Security benefits. I strongly urge Commissioner Astrue to comply with the law and the intent of Congress.”
The Social Security Administration mails out approximately 152 million Social Security statements to workers over age 25 every year. These four-page mailings list a worker’s entire earnings record, providing an estimate of their expected retirement benefit, the approximate amount they will get each month if the worker becomes disabled, and how much a worker’s family will receive if the worker dies in the coming year. The statements also allow workers to check for any errors in their recorded earnings and taxes paid.
The SSA has announced that 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 a worker’s complete earnings record. Additionally, workers who don’t yet have the 40 credits of work necessary to qualify for a benefit payout will not be able to use the estimator.
“Americans deserve to have accurate, complete information about Social Security and the estimator does not provide comprehensive information about retirement benefits or allow workers to check their earnings record for accuracy,” said Senator Cardin.
The text of the letter to Commissioner Astrue from Senator Cardin is below:
June 13, 2011
The Honorable Michael J. Astrue
Social Security Administration
6401 Security Boulevard
Baltimore, Maryland 21235
Dear Commissioner Astrue:
I urge you to reconsider the recently announced decision by the Social Security Administration to suspend the production and mailing of Social Security Annual Earnings Statements.
Since 1999, the Social Security Annual Earnings Statement has given Americans an indispensable retirement tool to ensure that every worker has an in-depth knowledge of where their hard-earned money is being saved. The statement also ensures that Americans can verify that their earnings have been reported accurately, and it provides a check against clerical errors. The agency’s expenditure represents a small cost for a large and tangible benefit.
Social Security represents the largest source of retirement income for most Americans.
An Annual Earnings Statement that includes lifetime earnings information tells workers how much money they have put into the Social Security system and allows them to plan for the amount of benefits that they will receive. This is essential to constructing a well-planned retirement. I understand that SSA provides an Annual Earnings Estimator online, however, the estimator does not provide comprehensive information, as it omits a worker’s lifetime earnings and estimated disability and survivor benefits.
Finally, the distribution of Annual Earnings Statements is required by statute, in sections
1143(c)(1) and (2) of the Social Security Act. Congressional intent was to ensure that Americans have available an accurate and updated record for their own financial planning. The document also has the positive effect of bolstering education about and confidence in the Social Security program. I am concerned that the original intent of this legislation is not respected under the recent policy change.
I look forward to your prompt response.