| CHICAGO, April 19
CHICAGO, April 19 Paper Social Security benefits
statements, which used to be mailed out every year and then fell
victim to budget cuts, are going to make a partial comeback.
Starting this September, the Social Security Administration
(SSA) will resume mailings at five-year intervals to workers who
have not signed up to view their statements online, an agency
spokesman told Reuters. The statements will be sent to workers
at ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60, he said, adding the
agency would continue to promote use of the online statements.
The SSA stopped mailing most paper statements in 2011 in
response to budget pressures, and saved the SSA $70 million
annually - about 50 cents per mailed statement. But the decision
has been a sore point with some critics, who argue the statement
provides a valuable annual reminder to workers of what they can
expect to get back from payroll taxes in the future.
The annual statement includes an estimate of monthly
benefits at various claiming ages, and for disability claims. It
explains how benefits are calculated, and displays the worker's
history of income subject to Social Security tax.
The SSA budget is funded mainly by the same payroll tax
revenue used for paying benefits but Congress, which approves
the agency's budget, has approved less than the agency's
request in 14 of the past 16 years. In fiscal 2012, for example,
SSA operated with $11.4 billion, just 88 percent of the amount
The cuts have led to sharp reductions in SSA customer
service. Nationwide, staff is down to 62,000 from a peak of
70,000 in the 1990s.
So far, only 10 million American wage earners - just 6
percent of all workers - have signed up at the site.
(www.1.usa.gov/1d3xvuZ). Critics note that many of the workers
who will be most reliant on Social Security in retirement are
least likely to have Internet access, including low-income and
non-English speaking minorities.
The partial restoration of mailed statements was made
possible by an improved budget outlook. The SSA's fiscal 2014
budget was boosted to $11.7 billion and President Barack Obama's
fiscal 2015 budget request is $12 billion.
"It's a step in the right direction," said Nancy Altman,
co-director of Strengthen Social Security, an advocacy group.
"But the mailings shouldn't be limited to workers who haven't
signed up (for) online accounts. Just because people have signed
up, it does not mean that they revisit it to check their
For more from Mark Miller, see link.reuters.com/qyk97s
(Follow us @ReutersMoney or here
Editing by Lauren Young and Frances Kerry)