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From the category archives: Social Security

Another Trump Whopper – This One on Social Security

Since immigration is a key issue for Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign, we knew it was only a matter of time before one of the biggest Social Security myths would work its way into campaign rhetoric – and so it has, in a new Trump for President campaign ad:

In Hillary Clinton’s America, “illegal immigrants … [are] collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line.” –voice-over in a Donald Trump campaign ad, Aug. 19, 2016

As we’ve reported many, many times, undocumented workers do not receive Social Security benefits.  In fact, because they don’t have legal Social Security numbers what frequently happens is they end up contributing but not collecting:

“Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, has reported that unauthorized immigrants contributed about $12 billion a year to Social Security, adding an estimated $300 billion over the years to the Social Security trust fund. During the most recent attempt to reform our immigration system in 2007, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)estimated granting permanent status would generate $57 billion in additional revenue over a decade.”

Fact checkers took a look at the new Trump campaign ad and came to the same conclusion, earning Trump his 42nd “Whopper” ranking:

“The Republican presidential nominee makes a bizarre claim that undocumented immigrants will collect Social Security under a Clinton presidency. In general, people in the United States illegally are not eligible to collect Social Security benefits. They must be granted some type of lawful status — either by obtaining legal status or being granted deferred action. Even then, it’s not accurate to say they are “skipping the line.” People who obtain lawful status under DACA need to work for at least 10 years, pay taxes and reach retirement age before they are eligible to receive Social Security benefits.

Trump has already earned 41 Four-Pinocchio ratings. We would have liked to see the nominee finally stick closer to the facts in his first general-election ad. Unfortunately, this ad is — to borrow a line from its script — “more of the same.” The broad assertion in this ad is just not supported by facts, and thus earns Four Pinocchios.”

You can read more about what Immigration reform means for Social Security in our Issue Brief.  Here are some basics:

  • As legal status is granted to current undocumented immigrants, allowing workers to step out of the shadows, contributions to the Social Security program will increase. The CBO estimated that reform would increase the growth of the economy by as much as 1.3 percent.
  • Social Security trustees project that an increase in immigration of 100,000 persons a year would improve the long-term actuarial balance of the Social Security’s trust fund by about 3.5% of the projected 75-year deficit.
  • The immigrant population, in particular undocumented workers, is very young. In fact 59% arebetween 25 and 44 years of age. History has shown that their children, as legal second- generation Americans, would make measureable contributions to our nation and economy. A Pew research study of the 20 million adult U.S.-born children of immigrants shows that these adult children have median incomes and homeownership rates similar to the general U.S. population. In fact, second generation adult children of immigrants have a lower poverty rate and higher college graduation rates. All of these demographic factors are potentially good - not bad - news for Social Security.


Social Security Reverses Cell Phone Rule

Good news from the Social Security Administration today...it has reconsidered new security rules which required users of its online portal to confirm their identity via text.  Since only a quarter (27%) of adults ages 65 and older own smartphones, this decision makes perfect sense.  

The SSA website says: 

​​"We removed the requirement to use a cell phone to access your account. While it’s not mandatory, we encourage those of you who have a text capable cell phone to take advantage of this optional extra security. We continue to pursue more options beyond cell phone texting."

 NCPSSM has urged SSA acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin to investigate using email or other forms of verification which are more accessible to Social Security beneficiaries. 

Happy Anniversary Social Security

For 81 years, Social Security has provided an economic lifeline to average Americans.  Without this vital program 41 percent of elderly Americans would live in poverty but with Social Security, only 10 percent of seniors are below the poverty line. Of course, Social Security serves more than just retirees.  People with disabilities, survivors, spouses and children also depend on the benefits earned through the program. 

American understand, first hand, how important Social Security is to their own economic security; however, Social Security’s economic contributions to communities, counties, and states continue to be misunderstood and often ignored in Washington’s fiscal debates.

In 2014 alone, Social Security delivered a $1.6 trillion fiscal boost nationwide as benefits were spent and cycled through the economy. A new online report by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation provides a detailed look at the significant economic impact generated by Social Security benefits. Social Security Spotlight delivers data on beneficiaries by state, county, Congressional district, race/ethnicity, age and gender. 

Social Security Should Change New Cell Phone Security Rule

As we first reported last week, new federal online security rules have led the Social Security Administration to require all new and current account holders to SSA’s online portal,  my Social Security, to have a text-enabled cell phone to access their account online. 

Since only a quarter (27%) of adults ages 65 and older own smartphones this new rule is baffling.  NCPSSM President/CEO, Max Richtman, has urged Social Security’s Acting Commission, Carolyn Colvin, to change the new requirement:

We are concerned that the new authentication requirements will mean that millions of Americans will find themselves cut off from this convenient avenue of service delivery. That’s why we urge you to move quickly to protect seniors by expanding your authentication procedures to include options that can be used by those who do not have text-capable cell phones. One option would be to send an authentication code to mySocialSecurity account holders via email. Such an expansion would go a long way in ensuring that seniors will continue to be able to access their accounts.

We understand the dilemma SSA confronts in making individuals’ personally-identifiable information available to them through an online service portal such as mySocialSecurity.

“Too little security can compromise the privacy of millions of Americans. Authentication procedures that are overly-rigorous or that offer too few options can close off an important avenue of service delivery and lead to increased phone and walk-in traffic in local Social Security offices. We urge you to review the new authentication procedures with the goal of striking the right balance between access and security. Establishing an authentication option based on email or a person’s landline telephone would significantly increase the number of account holders who would continue to have access to the services that mySocialSecurity so admirably provides.”

You can read our entire letter here


Social Security Offices Close, Staff Furloughed and Waits Increase if SSA Budget is Cut by Congress Yet Again

As the baby boom generation ages and a record number of Americans retire, it’s hard to imagine why Congress has chosen this time in history to continue slashing the administrative budget for the Social Security Administration. It’s a glaring example of Washington’s penny-wise and pound-foolish budget approach and its real-world impacts on the lives of millions of average Americans.  It’s especially hard to understand given that the Social Security Administration isn’t funded by general revenues. As we’ve reported before, American workers’ contributions through the payroll tax support Social Security:

“In fiscal terms, there’s no earthly reason for Congress to be stingy with Social Security’s administrative budget. The money comes out of workers’ payroll taxes and the system’s other revenue, not from the general treasury. And it’s spent with painstaking care: The Social Security Administration is one of the government’s most efficient agencies, with a core administrative budget of 0.7% of benefits, devoted to upholding a decades-old reputation for superb customer service.” ...Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times columnist

Today, the Washington Post reports on what the latest round of cuts proposed by Republicans in the House and Senate would mean for the Social Security Administration:

 “There would be up to two weeks of furloughs for all employees,” the agency said in information obtained by The Washington Post. “During this time, our offices would be closed to the public.  Additionally, a full hiring freeze would cause service degradation and long wait times and delays.  As a result, many Americans may wait longer to receive the benefits they have been planning to use during their retirement, and the most vulnerable of our citizens will have to wait even longer for disability claims decisions, causing more hardship and frustration for millions of families. 

It’s not like Social Security is operating in the flush now. Since 2010, its operating budget has shrunk 10 percent after inflation while the number of beneficiaries rose by 12 percent. President Obama has proposed an $11.1 billion administrative budget for fiscal year 2017, $522 million more than this year. House Republicans have proposed $772 million less than the president’s budget, according to SSA figures, while Senate Republicans would reduce agency spending by $582 million. The administrative budget is separate from the trust fund that pays benefits to recipients.”

Unfortunately, this effort is nothing new. “Starve the beast” and shrinking government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub" are long-held goals for Congressional conservatives.  Today’s budget cutters are continuing that decades-long campaign to diminish successful government programs which, since the vast majority of the American public of both parties supports them, can’t be killed outright.

“Cutting staff when SSA is processing historically high claims is irresponsible and a sign that the Republicans who voted for this cut are not interested in providing tax payers with good service regarding SSA,” said Witold Skwierczynski, president of the American Federation of Government Employees SSA Council. “Instead they appear to be creating a scenario that insures the collapse of the program and will enhance the push to privatize it.  If the public loses trust and faith that the federal government can administer SSA, they will look to privatization proposals as an alternative.”...Washington Post, August 9, 2016 

It’s August recess for Congressional Members which means they’re in their districts attending town halls, meeting constituents and in many cases running for re-election. Now's the time to ask:  Do you support Congressional budget plans to cut Social Security’s administrative funding? 

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