Bipartisan bill aims to reinstate mailed Social Security earnings statements

Document is an important retirement planning tool; many have lost access to the annual statement

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WASHINGTON, DC—Consumer Action and its allies in the Coalition for Paper Options heralded the Know Your Social Security Act, national bipartisan legislation that would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reinstate the mailing of annual earning statements, which currently are available only online for workers under 60. The bill was introduced by Representatives John Larson (D-CT) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

The annual statement, which summarizes each wage earner’s recorded earnings and projects future Social Security retirement benefits, is a crucially important financial planning tool. Yet, in 2017 the Social Security Administration took it on itself to stop mailing the statements to workers. A report released in February 2019 by the Social Security Administration’s Inspector General highlights a tremendous decline in overall access since the primarily online-only policy took place.

The legislation would again require statements to be mailed until the wage earner creates an account at the Social Security online portal. This would allow the Social Security Administration to economize as online participation grows, but it would not force wage earners into online access before they are ready or able to manage it.

“While wage earners over age 60 still receive printed Social Security earnings statements unless they have signed up for online access, all evidence indicates that the vast majority of Americans now simply do not receive them at all—online or otherwise,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action. “Compared to 2010 when 155 million Social Security Statements were mailed to U.S. wage earners, the Inspector General report shows that just 31 million Americans received a statement in 2018—either online or by mail. In other words, well over 124 million wage earners are missing this essential foundation to their retirement security."

"Social Security statements are vital tools to inform the American people about their earned benefits,” said Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works. “The near-elimination of these statements in recent years is an attack on our Social Security system. Social Security Works strongly endorses the Know Your Social Security Act, which clarifies the existing law to make it clear that Social Security statements must be mailed to every single beneficiary every single year."

“The Know Your Social Security Act represents a balanced approach to this issue,” said John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Paper Options. “It puts the paper statement into the hands of citizens until they feel ready to opt in to electronic delivery. And over time, this legislation will save the Social Security Administration resources without forcing Americans into e-delivery."

The legislation will be referred to the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees.

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