In early 2017, the Social Security Administration (SSA) suspended the mailing of Social Security Statements, which have been described as the most important financial planning tool that Americans will ever see, to workers under the age of 60. The move came despite a measure in the Fiscal Year 2014 funding bill requiring the SSA to “significantly restore” the mailing of earnings statements. In response to Congress’ 2014 directive, the agency resumed mailing a statement every five years to every American ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 who has not signed up for online statements.
The Social Security earnings statements, first mailed in 1999, helped to educate workers about their benefits, and allowed employees the opportunity to review the accuracy of their earnings records in order to make informed retirement decisions.
The SSA's elimination of the mailed annual earnings statement for workers under the age of 60 is more than an inconvenience. It means wage-earners have to take it upon themselves to confirm the accuracy of the figures that the government uses to calculate Social Security benefits. Americans have also lost an important and dependable financial-planning tool for making insurance and retirement decisions.
The Social Security Administration now provides the earnings statements online, but considerable barriers still exist for many Americans. Not only are these statements not readily accessible without the Internet, but citizens must create an online account and provide sensitive personal information and a Social Security number in order to see them. For the one-third of Americans without Internet access and those with cybersecurity concerns, it won't be possible to access the online statement.
While it is possible to order a mailed copy, few Americans know about it. And low-income earners who need it most are unlikely to seek it out. The end of the annual mailed statement marks the loss of yet another important government service.
Members of Congress are considering the impact of the elimination of the mailed annual earnings statement and are speaking out in favor of its return.
"Discontinuing the annual Social Security statement needlessly eliminates a critical source of information for Americans as they make insurance, financial, and retirement planning decisions. The statement is an important reference document for three key reasons: (1) it gives workers a critical tool for understanding their Social Security benefits, (2) it lists important points of contact within the Social Security Administration, and (3) it encourages workers to make sure their future benefits are not reduced or impaired by erroneous agency records when they reach retirement age."
-Senator Bill Nelson (and others) Letter to Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue, 6/14/2011
The Social Security Administration should reinstate mailing of the annual earnings statements to all Americans, not just those over the age of 60. The statement is a valuable planning tool for all American wage-earners, providing them with essential information to plan for their financial future.