Time is money: Let’s open Social Security field offices, not close them

social security card on dollar bills
Image: 401kcalculator.org via Flickr Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/ayZi8V

Thanks to determined, effective resistance by the American people, opponents of Social Security have failed so far to cut our earned benefits. But those opponents have succeeded in forcing neighborhood field offices to close, making those earned benefits more difficult to access.

Under Republican control, Congressional budget cuts to the Social Security Administration (SSA) have resulted in field office closings, massive layoffs, and workload backlogs. Fortunately, Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) has introduced legislation to reverse that death by a thousand cuts.

Moore, whose constituents on the south side of Milwaukee saw the shuttering of their field office, has recently introduced H.R. 7146, the Maintain Access to Vital Social Security Services Act. That important legislation would require SSA to operate a sufficient number of field offices and employ an adequate number of personnel at each field office to provide convenient and accessible services to the public while minimizing wait times.

In addition, the bill would create important checks on a Social Security commissioner who is considering closing a field office. H.R. 7146 would shift the decision-making process from behind closed doors into public view. Once this bill becomes law, SSA will have to provide public notification before a proposed closure, separately notify all relevant elected officials, hold at least two public hearings, and write a public report, if SSA decided to move forward with the closure. This sort of transparency is critical for SSA and Congress to truly understand the potential harm caused by closing or consolidating SSA field offices.

Read more (The Hill) »

Retirement in America is too expensive, so some are going offshore

“Retirement offshoring” is the little-discussed phenomenon of migration from North to South by retirees. A new book examines the lives of expats in Ecuador and their struggle to stay in the middle class.

The movement of “snowbird” pensioners from cold Northern countries to warmer, Southern ones, illustrates that maintaining middle-classness into one’s golden years is getting more and more difficult. It is also the story of the stark inequality between wealthy countries that produce “expats” and poorer countries that send “migrants.”

Read more (The New Republic) »

Have a Social Security Question? Please Hold

on phone looking out window
Image: Julian Carvajal via Flickr Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/73x9CF

Social Security has closed 67 field offices since fiscal 2010 in rural and urban areas alike. For the public, the cuts have meant less access to field offices, and ballooning wait times in the remaining 1,229 offices and on the agency’s toll-free line. It also has meant long delays in hearings on disability insurance appeals and in resolving benefit errors.

Washington state is actually home to one of five “mega” teleservice centers run by the Social Security Administration, and that particular office has seen much larger staff cuts compared to most states. As you might imagine, pay and morale are very low, and attrition is very high: over 1/3 of the workforce lost annually.

Read more (New York Times) »

Delivering on the promise of America’s pension plan: Seven Social Security reforms Congress should enact now

social security scrabble
Image: Simon Cunningham via Flickr Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/2dSkq7v

Social Security benefits are crucial to the economic security of more than 1.3 million Washington residents and their families, and contribute significantly to the economic stability of every region of the state.

Yet some members of Congress are threatening once again to cut Social Security to pay for tax cuts for wealthy individuals and corporations. Raising the retirement age or making other cuts to Social Security is the wrong approach.

Instead, federal lawmakers should act now to “scrap the cap” on taxable earnings and take six other steps to ensure the program meets the needs all workers, families and retirees for decades to come.

Read more: Economic Opportunity Institute »

12 Top Things to Know About Social Security

social security definition tablet
Image: Nick Youngson via The Blue Diamond Gallery/Creative Commons 3, http://thebluediamondgallery.com/tablet-dictionary/s/social-security.html

Understand Social Security: the program that helps secure your future. This informative article from AARP covers everything from how the Social Security Trust Fund operates to COLAs, working during retirement, and beyond.

Read more (AARP) »

Get Ready For A Post-Election Push To Slash Social Programs

abandoned social security office
Image: Alexander Rabb via Flickr Creative Commons, https://flic.kr/p/adYxAX

Republicans want to scale back social insurance programs. They see dignity in retirement and relief from poverty as a burden on government, and an unnecessary extravagance for undeserving beneficiaries.

From 1936 GOP presidential candidate Alf Landon, who called Social Security a “cruel hoax” on American workers, to future President Ronald Reagan’s recorded warnings in the 1960s that Medicare will lead to socialism and the destruction of American democracy, to George W. Bush’s failed attempt to privatize Social Security, Republicans have longed to deny earned benefits, leaving the elderly and the poor stranded.

But frontal assaults are not the only way to mount an attack on social insurance.

Read more (Talking Points Memo) »

Social Security and the U.S. deficit: Separating fact from fiction

social security handwriting
Image: Nick Youngson via Blue Diamond Gallery/Creative Commons 3, http://www.thebluediamondgallery.com/handwriting/s/social-security.html

For decades, some of our most prominent U.S. politicians have been sounding the alarm that Social Security is an important driver of the federal budget deficit. But is that really true?

By law, Social Security cannot contribute to the federal deficit, because it is required to pay benefits only from its trust funds. Those, in turn, are funded through a dedicated payroll tax of 12.4 percent of income, split evenly between employees and employers, levied on income (this year) up to $128,400.

The program’s revenue and expenses are accounted for through two federal trust funds that have operated with large and growing surpluses in recent years, and they finished fiscal 2018 with an estimated $2.89 trillion. By law, Social Security must invest these surplus funds only in special-issue U.S. Treasury notes, which have the same full faith and credit guarantee as any other federal bond.

This article puts a stake in the heart of most every criticism of Social Security you’ve ever heard — it’s a great review and summary of the facts. Now, if only certain elected leaders would read and take it to heart…!

Read more (Reuters) »