Disability, Retirement, Survivors

Celebrating Social Security and Building on Its Proven Success

September 3, 2015 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: September 3, 2015

A group of diverse people join hands in cooperation.Social Security has transformed the nation. Before its enactment, growing old was something to be feared.  People worked as long as they could, but when they grew old or became disabled, they invariably lost their jobs and had no choice but to move in with their children. If that was impossible, they literally went to the poorhouse.  At the time Social Security was enacted, every state but New Mexico had poorhouses. The vast majority of poorhouse residents had once been independent workers.  Also, when wage earners died, there was often insufficient income for children to remain with their widowed parents and siblings.But Social Security has changed all of that.  Today, the wages and salaries of nearly all workers are insured by Social Security against loss as the result of death, disability, or old age.  Retirees, widow(er)s, children who have lost parents, our soldiers wounded in combat, and other working Americans who have become disabled are among the nearly 60 million beneficiaries who receive Social Security’s guaranteed, monthly income.

Social Security works so well and is so popular because it embodies the best of American and religious values — rewarding hard work, taking responsibility for ourselves and our families, honoring our parents, caring for our neighbors, and managing our resources prudently and responsibly.  By law, Social Security cannot pay benefits unless it has sufficient income to cover all costs — without a penny of borrowing.  According to the most recent Trustees Report, Social Security ran a surplus of $25 billion last year alone and has an accumulated surplus of $2.8 trillion.

Thanks to dedicated, hard-working civil servants, Social Security is extremely efficient.  It spends less than one penny of every dollar on administration.  The rest is paid in benefits.  It is also extremely affordable.  Social Security’s actuaries project that at the end of this century, it will cost only 6.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product, a much lower percentage than what many other countries pay on their counterpart Social Security programs today.  It is 95 percent funded over the next 25 years; 88 percent funded over the next fifty years.

Its one shortcoming is that its benefits are extremely modest by virtually any measure.   That is why a growing number of elected leaders and Social Security experts are proposing plans to expand those modest benefits, while ensuring that all benefits can be paid over the long term.  As the wealthiest nation in the world, at the wealthiest moment in our history, we can certainly afford to expand Social Security’s modest benefits.

Whether we, as a nation, decide to expand Social Security’s benefits, keep them at their scheduled levels, or cut them is most definitely not a matter of affordability.  Rather, that choice is a matter of values and priorities.

Note: In honor of Labor Day, we have invited Maya MacGuineas and Nancy Altman as  guest bloggers on Social Security Matters.  We thank them for taking the time to share their narratives with our followers and allowing us to showcase the diversity of individuals in support of Social Security on this important holidayHave a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

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About the Author

Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, and Chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition

President of Social Security Works, and Chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition


  1. Roseana y.

    The author of this blog is out of touch with the real world. Please feel free to live with me and my husband for one month or just one week. I hope no disabling injury befalls you or yours. Of course, they have you to help them. I have PTSD. The SSA doctors are sadly lacking in PTSD pathophysiology knowledge and too inept to go to PubMed. How do they earn their CEIs? At the pharmaceutical company’s seminar in Las Vegas, Nevada? I am frustrated.

  2. MJean

    Please stop giving money to healthy people under age 65 (fraudulent claims that are too easily approved)!
    Please stop sending money to dead people (recipients pocket it)!

    • eliedith


    • Teresa

      Yeah, I have seen those people on disability that do drugs. However, I am completely disabled. I would love to work and feel complete again. I applied, but was denied twice after years of fighting. You should think of all the people like me that are in constant pain and debilitating weakness that get denied! Social Security should be ashamed of itself! I have three kids and was sole breadwinner until I fell ill. Now what am I supposed to do? The doctors said I was disabled, my state said I was disabled, the person that’s supposed to find a suitable job in the hearing couldn’t find one. What was this judge’s ruling based on? Not evidence!

  3. Norma C.

    I retired this May 2015 and find myself living check by check!!! I grossed $2400.00. Per month and now I get $1212.00!!! $1178.00 less per month…
    How can I live on less than half my income… Who takes the time to see if the person can stay at the cost of living that they have earned and lived on!!..
    It’s not fair nor equal…I’ll eventually will have to see where I can survive. How demoralizing !!! Yet the rich get richer, and everyone else has to beg to live on.. It’s becoming a land of opportunity for illegals , we the people of the United States are pushed aside so as to use our countries’ riches for other countries!
    TAKE CARE OF ALL OUR OWN …. FIRST!!!! All other countries protect invasions into their countries first!
    Help our country first…. We are being taken advantage of…

    • Ck


    • poorman

      Had you worked at a job that provided a pension you would be getting twice with SS and a pension. I made sure I had a job that provided us the opportunity to have money taken out and they matched that money, so we could have a pension after we retired.

    • Joe h.

      To blame the illegals for your trouble is wrong. It sounds that you did not anticipate your retirement or made plans how to survive. It just stupid to expect the government to take care of you when you retire , the government does not have any money it only distributes the money it takes from us the hard workers of America. SSI ITS only a supplemental income, that problem is many people are expecting to survive of SSI. Besides too many people are scamming the system and even politician are in the scam. depleting a Fund that if is left alone could be and is self sufficient fund.

      • Teresa

        If the government is not going to supply the insurance, then they should never had made me pay in those decades!

  4. Joan C.

    When will the GPO be repealed?

  5. jim

    Expand social security, make it untouchable for funding anything else and please repeal the wep/gpo theft of social security benefits from state and federal employees.

  6. Mary A.

    Nancy Altman’s report on Social Security Matters says Social Security ran a surplus of $25 Billion last year and Maya MacGuiness’ report Protecting Social Security for Future Generations says there are $75 Billion in deficits this year. Which is it? Looks like somebody took $100 Billion !!!


  7. Lori

    Not to sound negative but I also don’t understand why there is a deficit in the social security fund – but a question I have is when is the social security fund going to stop being used for purposes other than social security? I believe I read that started years ago (was it by Lyndon B Johnson?) with the promise that it would all be paid back to social security and as I understand it that has not happened. Give the money back and I am sure there will be billions of dollars in surplus that should have been there all along..

    • Jim

      A couple of points. First there is no pot of money that is available to pay out to SS beneficiaries. The money collected is immediately loaned to the federal government. I don’t know at what rate but I bet the interest rate is low. While there is a surplus in terms of IOU’s from the federal government, when it comes to repaying the debt watch for taxpayers and Congress work for ways to negate on the promise. Second, the rate of return on your SS contributions is about 1% assuming you live long enough to get payments. Republicans wanted to change this low return by allowing, not requiring, SS payers to put the money in a separate account and invest it in safe investments. Unions and Democrats did not like this idea as it would cut off the low interest loans SS makes to them.

      • D h.

        Corrupt CONgress and the Adminstration don’t mind using our tax dollars to bailout banks and Wall St. Corruption- or endless wars for Big Oil ! INCREASE SS and Medicare and see that Americans have a decent life till they die!

    • Ray F.

      Lori, Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system. Social Security taxes collected from today’s workers pay the benefits of today’s retirees. Any funds in excess of what is needed to pay today’s benefits are invested in special issue, U.S. Government, interest-bearing securities. This investment – the purchase of U.S. Government securities – is what constitutes the “borrowing” that people are sometimes concerned about. Any funds that have been “borrowed” from the Social Security Trust Funds have always been paid back in full, plus interest. Please check out our Trust Fund Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

  8. Collyn

    So we had a $25B surplus last year, but this year we are in a $75B deficit – so far. What is up with that?

    • Nail P.

      Nowadays Social Security is very important. I need this for my entire life especially when I will be work and rest in the house or my office with a recliner chair and sleep on with the reading books. My favorite site is: http://bestofoffice.com/

  9. Jean L.

    What is the percentage of income someone would get from Social Security at time of retirement if that person paid social security for 30 years and have a 10 years pension from a private compamy? Thanks for your time.

    • Ray F.

      Good question Jean! If you have average earnings, your Social Security retirement benefits will replace only about 40 percent, and you’ll need to supplement your benefits with a pension, savings or investments.
      For retirement benefits, we use the highest 35 years of earnings to compute your benefit amount. If you do not have 35 years of earnings, we will use all of the earnings on your record and factor in $0.00 earnings for each of the remaining years. The earliest a person can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits is age 62, but if you start receiving retirement benefits at age 62, you will only get 75% of the full retirement benefit amount. To help you plan for the future, you can use our Retirement Planner and you can also create a my Social Security account to verify your earnings, get your Social Security Statement, and much more.
      We hope this information helps!

    • Ice

      I wish to get across my affection for your generosity supporting people who really want assistance with this important field. Your very own commitment to passing the message all over had become certainly powerful and have coliuntanly helped folks much like me to attain their pursuits. Your amazing warm and friendly suggestions means a great deal to me and somewhat more to my peers. Thank you; from everyone of us.

  10. Robert P.

    Please send me a record of my wages. you have record of. The last one I saw did not include a bunch of wages and I have been at the social security max for years.

    • Ray F.

      Hello Robert! You can access your latest earnings record online at any time by creating a my Social Security account. With a my Social Security account, you can also review estimates of your retirement, disability, and survivors benefits and the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid. To make corrections on your earnings record, you will need to contact your local office.

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