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SSA OIG — Audit Report: Improper Use of Children’s Social Security Numbers

April 3, 2014 Comments off

Audit Report: Improper Use of Children’s Social Security Numbers
Source: Social Security Administration, Office of Inspector General

As part of the Annual Wage Reporting process, the Social Security Administration (SSA) verifies the names and SSNs on Wage and Tax Statements (Form W-2) to ensure the reported name and SSN is accurate before SSA posts the information from the W-2 to the Master Earnings File. When SSA’s data indicate a wage earner is a child age 6 or younger, SSA places the earnings in the Earnings Suspense File (ESF), a repository for unmatched wage items, and assigns a Young Children’s Earnings (YCER) indicator. SSA mails notices to employers and employees to confirm the children legitimately earned the wages. However, SSA does not have a process for children between ages 7 and 13. SSA posts these children’s wages to their earnings records.

In addition, if the data include a date of death, SSA places in the ESF all the earnings reported after the year of death and assigns an Earnings After Death indicator. SSA sends notices to the employers and employees to confirm employment.

The purpose of this audit was to determine whether employees were improperly using children’s SSNs for work purposes.

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Social Security Programs Throughout the World: The Americas, 2013

April 3, 2014 Comments off

Social Security Programs Throughout the World: The Americas, 2013
Source: Social Security Administration

This fourth issue in the current four-volume series of Social Security Programs Throughout the World reports on the countries of the Americas. The combined findings of this series, which also includes volumes on Asia and the Pacific, Africa, and Europe, are published at six-month intervals over a two-year period. Each volume highlights features of social security programs in the particular region.

The information contained in these volumes is crucial to our efforts, and those of researchers in other countries, to review different ways of approaching social security challenges that will enable us to adapt our social security systems to the evolving needs of individuals, households, and families. These efforts are particularly important as each nation faces major demographic changes, especially the increasing number of aged persons, as well as economic and fiscal issues.

Social Security Programs Throughout the World is the product of a cooperative effort between the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA). The ISSA is the principal international institution bringing together social security agencies and orgranizations around the world. Founded in 1927, the ISSA is located at the International Labour Office in Geneva.

Previous editions of this report, which date back to 1937, were issued as one volume and were prepared by SSA staff. With the introduction of the four-volume format in 2002, however, the research and writing has been contracted out to the ISSA. The ISSA has conducted the research largely through its numerous country-based correspondents, as well as its social security databases and other types of data that are drawn together to update this report. Social Security Programs Throughout the World is based on legislation in effect in July 2013, or the last date for which information has been received by SSA or ISSA.

Perspectives: Immigrants and Retirement Resources

March 14, 2014 Comments off

Immigrants and Retirement Resources
Source: Social Security Administraton

The extensive literature documenting differences in wages between immigrant and native-born workers suggests that immigrants may enter retirement at a significant financial disadvantage relative to workers born in the United States. However, little work has examined differences in retirement resources and retirement security between immigrants and natives. In this article, we use data from the Health and Retirement Study linked with restricted data from the Social Security Administration to compare retirement resources of immigrants and natives. Our results suggest that while immigrants have lower levels of Social Security benefits than natives, when holding demographic characteristics constant, immigrants have higher levels of net worth. The estimated immigrant differentials vary a great deal by number of years in the United States, with the most recent immigrants being the least prepared for retirement.

Characteristics of Noninstitutionalized DI and SSI Program Participants, 2010 Update (released February 2014)

March 10, 2014 Comments off

Characteristics of Noninstitutionalized DI and SSI Program Participants, 2010 Update
Source: Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) produces several statistical publications based on the data used to administer the Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Although these data are extensive, they do not capture many of the economic and demographic characteristics of program participants. To better understand those beneficiary populations, SSA matches information from its administrative records with data collected by the Census Bureau in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). DeCesaro and Hemmeter (2008) contains tables describing the characteristics of DI and SSI program participants based on 2002 data. This note updates those tables with data for 2010.

Social Security — Same-Sex Couples — FAQs

February 27, 2014 Comments off

Same-Sex Couples — FAQs
Source: Social Security Administration

  • What should I do if I think I might be eligible for benefits?
  • When will Social Security begin paying benefits to same-sex married couples and surviving spouses?
  • Do I qualify for benefits if I am now in, or the surviving spouse of, a civil union or other legal same-sex relationship?
  • Do I qualify for benefits if I live in a place that prohibits or does not recognize same-sex marriages or other legal same-sex relationships?
  • How does the recent Supreme Court decision about the Defense of Marriage Act affect Social Security benefits?
  • Will Social Security recognize a same-sex marriage if the ceremony took place in a foreign country?
  • What if I apply but Social Security decides I do not qualify for benefits? Will I receive a penalty or fine?
  • I am in a same-sex marriage. Could that affect my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment?
  • I get Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Must I tell Social Security I am in a same-sex marriage?

African Americans: Description of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Participation and Benefit Levels Using the American Community Survey

February 3, 2014 Comments off

African Americans: Description of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income Participation and Benefit Levels Using the American Community Survey
Source: Social Security Administration

African Americans encounter significant economic disadvantages, making them a critical focus for social insurance programs. Examining how the African American population uses Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI, or Social Security) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments clarifies the role these programs play in supporting at-risk populations.

Earlier research has explored various facets of the relationship between Social Security and African Americans. For instance, many studies investigate African Americans’ low retirement benefit receipt rates relative to whites (Abbott 1977, 1980; Thompson 1975; Huntley 1979; Parsons 1980; Gibson 1987, 1991, 1994; Farley 1988; Hayward, Friedman, and Chen 1996; O’Rand 1996; Gendell and Siegel 1996; Choi 1997; Hendley and Bilimoria 1999; Gustman and Steinmeier 2004; Bridges and Choudhury 2007, 2009; Favreault 2010). Others examine the prominent role of children’s benefits for African Americans (Newcomb 2003/2004; Tamborini, Cupito, and Shoffner 2011). This analysis contributes to that body of research by using a relatively new, publicly available, and comprehensive data source, the American Community Survey (ACS), to document the demographic and economic characteristics of African American OASDI beneficiaries and SSI recipients. It is designed to lay the groundwork for future detailed analyses of how African Americans interact with Social Security and related programs.

In this note, we first discuss the strengths of the ACS and the methodology of this analysis. Next, we present the demographic and economic characteristics of the African American population in the 2009 ACS. Then, we present ACS data on OASDI and SSI participation and benefit levels, comparing African American participants with overall participants in three age distributions: the full age range for which benefit statistics are available in the ACS (15 or older), working age (18–61), and retirement age (62 or older).

Growth in New Disabled-Worker Entitlements, 1970–2008

November 19, 2013 Comments off

Growth in New Disabled-Worker Entitlements, 1970–2008
Source: Social Security Administration

We find that three factors—(1) population growth, (2) the growth in the proportion of women insured for disability, and (3) the movement of the large baby boom generation into disability-prone ages—explain 90 percent of the growth in new disabled-worker entitlements over the 36-year subperiod (1972–2008). The remaining 10 percent is the part attributable to the disability “incidence rate.” Looking at the two subperiods (1972–1990 and 1990–2008), unadjusted measures appear to show faster growth in the incidence rate in the later period than in the earlier one. This apparent speedup disappears once we account for the changing demographic structure of the insured population. Although the adjusted growth in the incidence rate accounts for 17 percent of the growth in disability entitlements in the earlier subperiod, it accounts for only 6 percent of the growth in the more recent half. Demographic factors explain the remaining 94 percent of growth over the 1990–2008 period.

The Projected Effects of Social Security Benefit Increase Options for Older Beneficiaries

November 19, 2013 Comments off

The Projected Effects of Social Security Benefit Increase Options for Older Beneficiaries
Source: U.S. Social Security Administration

Many reform plans designed to return the Social Security program to long-term solvency also include a benefit increase targeted toward older beneficiaries. Policymakers use two core rationales for such targeted increases. First, older beneficiaries tend to be more economically vulnerable and reliant on the income Social Security provides. Second, certain benefit reductions (such as changes to cost-of-living adjustments) can compound over time, and including a benefit increase for older retirees in a larger reform plan can ameliorate those reductions.

Generally, the benefit increase proposals provide slightly larger monthly benefits starting at around age 80, but can vary along multiple lines. This policy brief analyzes two options, and projects their respective effects. The two options vary in how the benefit increase is calculated:

  • The Individual PIA plan provides an increase of 5 percent of the individual’s primary insurance amount (PIA), which is the benefit an individual will receive based on lifetime earnings, if retirement benefits start at the normal retirement age.
  • The Average PIA plan provides an increase of 5 percent of the average PIA for all retired workers, rather than an individual’s own PIA.

We analyze those two particular provisions because they appear in various publicly available reform plans. Both 5 percent targets may appear identical when described only as “a 5 percent benefit increase,” but they can produce different outcomes for beneficiaries.

Our analysis focuses on beneficiaries aged 85 or older in 2030 and we express the results as percentage differences from scheduled benefits under current law. We do not project the relative costs of the proposals.

The analysis is based on data from the Modeling Income in the Near Term model, version 6 (MINT6). MINT6 includes data for respondents to the 2001 and 2004 Surveys of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), matched to Social Security administrative records through 2009. For 2010 and later, MINT6 projects life events, earnings, and benefits for those respondents.

Just Released — Top 10 Baby Names For 2012

May 10, 2013 Comments off

Top 10 Baby Names For 2012

Source: Social Security Administration

1 Jacob Sophia

2 Mason Emma

3 Ethan Isabella

4 Noah Olivia

5 William Ava

6 Liam Emily

7 Jayden Abigail

8 Michael Mia

9 Alexander Madison

10 Aiden Elizabeth

New From the GAO

May 8, 2013 Comments off

New From the GAO

Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Transportation Worker Identification Credential: Card Reader Pilot Results Are Unreliable; Security Benefits Need to be Reassessed. GAO-13-198, May 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-198
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654432.pdf

2. Internal Revenue Service: Preliminary Observations on the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request. GAO-13-599R, May 3.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-599R

Testimonies

1. Social Security Administration: Preliminary Observations on the Death Master File, by Daniel Bertoni, director, education, workforce, and income security issues, before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-13-574T, May 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-574T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654412.pdf

2. Homeland Security: DHS and TSA Continue to Face Challenges Developing and Acquiring Screening Technologies, by Stephen M. Lord, director, forensic audits and investigative services, before the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-13-469T, May 8.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-469T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654420.pdf

3. Department of Energy: Observations on Project and Program Cost Estimating in NNSA and the Office of Environmental Management, by David Trimble, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Senate Committee on Armed Services. GAO-13-510T, May 8. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-510T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654424.pdf

SSA — Preliminary Observations on the Death Master File

May 8, 2013 Comments off

Preliminary Observations on the Death Master File

Source:

The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) procedures for handling and verifying death reports may allow for erroneous death information in the Death Master File (DMF) because SSA does not verify certain death reports or record others. SSA officials said, in keeping with its mission, the agency is primarily focused on ensuring that it does not make benefit payments to deceased Social Security program beneficiaries. As a result, it only verifies death reports received for individuals who are current program beneficiaries, and even then, only for those reports received from sources it considers to be less accurate. For example, SSA officials consider death reports from states that have pre-verified decedents’ name and SSN to be highly accurate, so SSA does not verify that the subjects of these reports are actually deceased. It would, however, verify a report received from a source such as a post office. SSA verifies no death reports for individuals who are not beneficiaries, regardless of source. Because there are a number of death reports that SSA does not verify, the agency risks including incorrect death information in the DMF, such as including living individuals in the file or not including deceased individuals. Specifically, for death reports that are not verified, SSA would not know with certainty if the individuals are correctly reported as dead. SSA also does not record some deaths because incorrect or incomplete information included in death reports generally prevents SSA from matching decedents to SSA records. For example, if SSA is unable to match a death report to data in its records such as name and Social Security Number (SSN), it generally does not follow up to correct the non-match and does not record the death.

A number of federal agencies access the DMF for the purpose of matching it against data in their files, but the conditions of access depend on a variety of legal and other factors. Currently SSA shares a full version of the DMF with six federal agencies that it has determined meet legal requirements for accessing the file, which include being an agency that pays federal benefits. By law, SSA can require reimbursement for the cost of sharing the data, however various factors affect what the agencies actually pay. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Personnel Management pay nothing to receive the file, whereas the Department of Defense annually pays more than $40,000. A number of other federal agencies–including several that administer programs that pay benefits– purchase a partial version of the DMF that is publicly available through the Department of Commerce’s National Technical Information Service (NTIS). NTIS reimburses SSA for receipt of the file. The partial DMF does not include state reported data and, according to SSA officials, has about 10 percent fewer records than the full DMF (roughly 87 million, compared to 98 million). Thus, agencies accessing this version of the file, such as the Department of Labor’s Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, may be missing deceased program participants. If agencies want access to the full DMF, they must formally request it. SSA makes determinations about their eligibility on a case-by-case basis. SSA officials said they were not aware of written standards or guidelines to follow in making these determinations.

Social Security Board of Trustees: Projected Trust Fund Exhaustion Three Years Sooner Than Last Year

April 23, 2012 Comments off

Social Security Board of Trustees: Projected Trust Fund Exhaustion Three Years Sooner Than Last Year
Source: Social Security Administration

The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2033, three years sooner than projected last year. The DI Trust Fund will be exhausted in 2016, two years earlier than last year’s estimate. The Trustees also project that OASDI program costs will exceed non-interest income in 2012 and will remain higher throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.

In the 2012 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

  • The projected point at which the combined Trust Funds will be exhausted comes in 2033 – three years sooner than projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient non-interest income coming in to pay about 75 percent of scheduled benefits.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.67 percent of taxable payroll — 0.44 percentage point larger than in last year’s report.
  • Over the 75-year period, the Trust Funds would require additional revenue equivalent to $8.6 trillion in present value dollars to pay all scheduled benefits.

+ The 2012 OASDI Trustees Report

Income of the Aged Chartbook, 2010

April 9, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Social Security Administration
Since 1941, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has periodically surveyed the aged to determine their economic status. The first national survey was conducted in 1963. In 1976, SSA’s Office of Research and Statistics began compiling a biennial series of reports on the income of the aged based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in its Current Population Survey. These SSA reports are published under the title Income of the Population 55 or Older.
The most recent edition of that publication is based on 2010 data, which, along with special tabulations, form the basis of this chartbook. This publication covers the population aged 65 or older. The unit of analysis here, with the exception of measures of poverty and family income of persons, is the aged unit, which is a married couple living together or a person who does not live with a spouse. A married couple’s age is defined as the age of the husband—unless he is under age 55 and the wife is 55 or older, in which case it is the age of the wife. The race and Hispanic origin of a married couple are determined by the husband. The unit of analysis for poverty is persons aged 65 or older. The 2010 sample represented 12,162,000 couples and 17,478,000 single units. The single unit may be a widow(er), a divorced or separated person, a legally married person who does not live with a spouse, or a person who never married. This unit of analysis allows one to measure the economic status of the entire noninstitutionalized aged population separately from that of the family or household in which the unit may live.

Behavioral and Psychological Aspects of the Retirement Decision

December 21, 2011 Comments off
Source:  Social Security Administration (Social Security Bulletin)

The majority of research on the retirement decision has focused on the health and wealth aspects of retirement. Such research concludes that people in better health and those enjoying a higher socioeconomic status tend to work longer than their less healthy and less wealthy counterparts. While financial and health concerns are a major part of the retirement decision, there are other issues that may affect the decision to retire that are unrelated to an individual’s financial and health status. Judgment and decision-making and behavioral-economics research suggests that there may be a number of behavioral factors influencing the retirement decision. The author reviews and highlights such factors and offers a unique perspective on potential determinants of retirement behavior, including anchoring and framing effects, affective forecasting, hyperbolic discounting, and the planning fallacy. The author then describes findings from previous research and draws novel connections between existing decision-making research and the retirement decision.

The Evolution of Social Security’s Taxable Maximum Wage Threshold

September 28, 2011 Comments off

The Evolution of Social Security’s Taxable Maximum Wage Threshold
Source: Social Security Administration

Major Findings

  • The tax max has been in place since Social Security’s founding, but Congress has modified it over time to address several policy goals, such as improving system financing and maintaining meaningful benefits for middle and higher earners.
  • Although the nominal value of the tax max has grown from $3,000 in 1937 to $106,800 today, in inflation-adjusted dollars the tax max declined from 1937 until the late 1960s, and then grew once it was indexed to wage growth in 1975. In wage-adjusted dollars, the tax max has remained roughly constant since the mid-1980s.
  • The percentage of workers with earnings above the tax max (“above-max earners”) fell from 15 percent in 1975 to about 6 percent in 1983 and has remained at that level since.
  • Historically, an average of roughly 83 percent of covered earnings have been subject to the payroll tax. In 1983, this figure reached 90 percent, but it has declined since then. As of 2010, about 86 percent of covered earnings fall under the tax max.
  • The percentage of earnings covered by the tax max has fallen since the early 1980s because earnings among above-max earners have grown faster than earnings among the rest of the working population.

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2011

August 25, 2011 Comments off

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2011
Source: Social Security Administration

Fast Facts & Figures answers the most frequently asked questions about the programs SSA administers. It highlights basic program data for the Social Security (retirement, survivors, and disability) and Supplemental Security Income programs. Most of the data come from the Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin, which contains more than 240 detailed tables. The information on the income of the aged is from the data series Income of the Population 55 or Older. Data on trust fund operations are from the 2011 Trustees Report.

The tables and charts illustrate the range of program beneficiaries, from the country’s oldest to its youngest citizens. In all, about 59.2 million people receive some type of benefit or assistance.

+ Full Document (PDF)

Social Security Board of Trustees: Projected Trust Fund Exhaustion: One Year Sooner

May 14, 2011 Comments off

Social Security Board of Trustees: Projected Trust Fund Exhaustion: One Year Sooner
Source: Social Security Administration

The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the financial health of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined assets of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds will be exhausted in 2036, one year sooner than projected last year. The DI Trust Fund, while unchanged from last year, will be exhausted in 2018 and legislative action will be needed soon. At a minimum, a reallocation of the payroll tax rate between OASI and DI would be necessary, as was done in 1994. The Trustees also project that OASDI program costs will exceed non-interest income in 2011 and will remain higher throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.

In the 2011 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:

  • The projected point at which the combined Trust Funds will be exhausted comes in 2036 — one year sooner than projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient non-interest income coming in to pay about 77 percent of scheduled benefits.
  • The point at which non-interest income fell below program costs was 2010. Program costs are projected to exceed non-interest income throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.22 percent of taxable payroll — 0.30 percentage point larger than in last year’s report.
  • Over the 75-year period, the Trust Funds would require additional revenue equivalent to $6.5 trillion in present value dollars to pay all scheduled benefits.

+ The 2011 OASDI Trustees Report

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