Finding Value—and my Social Security—in light of Budget Cuts

January 9, 2017 • By

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Last Updated: January 14, 2021

man and woman on computerEvery payday, you have Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and Self-Employed Contributions Act (SECA) taxes deducted from your paycheck. Nearly all of these contributions are used to pay Social Security benefits to more than 60 million retired, disabled, and widowed workers and their children, as well as to Medicare beneficiaries. A very small amount also helps pay for the work it takes to manage Social Security programs.

Providing Social Security services to the public is a big job. We have fewer than 64,000 employees in offices across the country handling millions of transactions yearly — taking applications, answering questions in person and on the phone, verifying benefit amounts, and reviewing appeals, among other things. The cost of doing these services is less than one penny out of each dollar paid in FICA and SECA taxes, which is a very good value.

Lawmakers in Congress decide each year how much money we can use to manage our programs and pay our staff. Because that hasn’t been settled yet, we’re operating under a continuing resolution (CR) with less funding than last year. This is not new for us. In fact, the amount we have to run our programs is 10 percent lower than it was in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. At the same time, the number of beneficiaries we serve has gone up by 13 percent. So, we have fewer resources to serve more people.

We made some difficult decisions because of these latest budget limits. During the past year, we began a hiring freeze that will reduce our staff to the lowest level since FY 2013. We use a lot less overtime now, which affects our ability to reduce critical backlogs. Over a million people are waiting for a hearing to see if they are eligible for disability benefits.

Today, we are taking another cost-saving step. We will mail fewer paper Social Security Statements. Paper Statements will only be sent to people age 60 and over, who are not getting benefits and don’t have a my Social Security account. This will bring down the costs of processing and mailing paper Statements by $11.3 million in FY 2017.

We know that our cutbacks will affect many of you, but we have no choice. We will continue to serve you and work for you as best we can. Congress has until April 28, 2017, to pass a spending bill for the full year or pass another CR. While we can’t predict our budget level for the rest of the fiscal year, we think there may be more bumps in our journey together. We’ll do our best to get through them so you will have a secure today and tomorrow.

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About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. Yvonne

    Thank you for all do! We can pray that we will continue to receive our benefits and that those in the future will receive them also…
    Everything in America will questionable after 1/19/2017
    God have mercy on us!

    • Colleen H.

      Amen , as we need all the help from God we can receive! WE are scared of being unabel to live on what we get now with cost of living going up!
      We are counting on our soon to be New President to save us as most others want to just take what we worked for and let those that used it not pay us back. That is definitely criminal in my mind and most others as well….

  2. tony

    When you send a young person a social security statement, they know they cannot get retirement. They see that their disability payment is higher than their retirement and try to scam to get disability.


      I do not believe that SS ‘statements’ begin arriving until the person has accrued 10 years of documented employment. On top of that I can’t recall seeing one before the age of 50 and I had already worked for 30+ years by then. So enlighten me as to what young person sees a SS statement? How young are you saying?

      • Ann

        I started getting mine in my 20s. You don’t need 10 years of work to be insured for disability. My statements started with my disability amount. When I had enough work, it added in my retirement amount.

        • Ray F.

          In addition to meeting our definition for disability, individuals must have worked long enough–and recently enough–under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance program. You must have earned the required number of work credits within a certain period ending with the time you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

  3. Lil

    My suggestions are as follows:
    Pay Social Security to “American Citizens” only; then you would not have to create so many checks.
    Be sure you are paying only the living beneficiaries not those who have passed away. In my field of work, I see too many times where you have paid mega dollars to individuals who do not have rights to the funds for reasons that they have never pain any money into the system or they have long ago passed away. It is important to keep your records clean and accurate. I know you, now, have a shortage of employees; however, that has not always been the situation.
    I hope you will better monitor the payment of the funds in the future and when you pay someone incorrectly, you take all necessary steps to get the funds back – with interest if time has passed. This includes jail time if necessary! I sincerely feel that this will keep the creeps who continue to steal from the Social Security system to take a second thought before they do it again.

    • AKA

      SS is only paid to citizens, there has to be fraud otherwise. SS does monitor payments paid to those over 90 to prevent paying dead people. It is hard to monitor things when SS continues to have their staff reduced.

      • Brendan

        This is incorrect. Non-US citizens who are lawfully present in the United States work and pay FICA taxes. They are entitled to Social Security benefits as long as they meet the same criteria as apply to citizens. SSA also has totalization agreements with certain other countries’ old-age pension programs that credits US citizens for income earned and taxes paid here and abroad in order to insure them for disability and retirement benefits.


      Dear Misinformed & Misguided, if you want to tell the gov’t how to conduct business run for office. It is painfully obvious that any idiot can be President.

  4. Fahmi N.

    Thanks for all the good work you do for us.

  5. Edna

    Thanks for the important work you do!

  6. Dave

    Before America had all these social programs what did people do?

    • Joe K.

      Hunted and fished and farmed and put food on the table.

      • Carlos M.

        Hard to hunt or fish to many rules, regulations, permits and licenses to afford. Especially after you finally get approved for disability. Since you’ve lost everything, with no money during the approval process.

        • Mary

          During the good old days if you were disabld you would live at the mercy of a relative, in the county poor house if there was one or on the streets.

      • Lucinda

        Oh Ashley. This is fabulous. It flows, it packs a punch with few words.I too want to write someday. About this journey…I keep journaling, knowing that someday they will be a book because God is taking me somewhere and I don’t want to forget it and I want to write it down so others can se7…He&#821e;s always working.

    • John O.

      Welfare. They got it directly from taxes.

      • Margaretta

        Sur le forum, j’ai quand même lu des mecs qui avec 2 grand chelem de plus, cad 8, considéreraient Nadal comme le GOAT, je sais pas trop comment mais bon, c’est te dire. Globalement y a plus de pro Federer, des mecs qu’on réfléchit un peu plus que savoir si Nadal en a une plus grosse, qui s&1#782;exprime.Hier ça faisait mal, voir plus de soutien pour Ferrer -Simon à côté c’est McEnroe- que pour Federer.


      Which ones? The ones that let you take a shower in clean water? The ones that plow the snow? The ones that allowed you the ability to post your nonsense via the ‘Internet’? When your house catches fire, call your neighbors and form a bucket brigade genius. All the self-haters on here are hilarious … ya know all the ones too stupid to recognize that the ‘gubbermints’ they rail against are ‘We-The-People’. ‘Hunt & Fish, ROTFLMAO … wowzers it must be hell inside those heads. Flat hilarious!

    • Ann

      There were Old Age Homes. They picked elderly who were living on the streets and moved them into group homes. Large, filthy, overcrowded homes. But still more humane than being on the street. It is shocking to see the pictures of life without a social safety net like SSA.

  7. Steve C.

    Join a UNION!!??
    Unions are one of the largest problems for our country, they teach work less get more, there was a time they were necessary not today. Work 8 hrs and get paid for 8 hrs, if you dont wanna flip burgers, better yourself and get a big boy / girl job.
    The Trust Fund should only be used for its original intended use.
    Theres too many handouts today because weve grown accustomed to living on handouts too long.

    • John B.

      I was in a Union and it helped us get a raise every year for 25 years that I worked for the company. Now, I get a good pension and social security. That’s $39,400 a year, so it pays to work many years.

      • enrique

        Yes you and everyone else got a raise, no matter how much effort and productivity you put forth. Why exert any effort to better yourself when you are guaranteed a raise no matter how hard you try


      BS. Another misguided & misinformed Kool-Aid guzzler. Your entire comment is incorrect on all counts. Nice try & thanks for playing. But HEY, keep posting your ignorance, it is amusing, cheap entertainment.

  8. tony

    The SSA doesn’t pay interest on backpay to people who are approved for disability. If it takes them 2 years to get approved, then the trust fund is making interest on that money.

    The wait time weeds out the people trying to scam Social Security. Scammers want quick money. They move onto their next scam after they been denied by the DDS because they don’t want to wait 2 years and be unemployed without any money. You have a bunch of people dropping out after the DDS and now there will be more knowing the wait will be longer.

  9. Dinah

    You would have a lot more to work with if Congress would stop borrowing from the Social Security trust fund. Congress must raise taxes on the 1% who can afford it to pay for the country’s expenses, not grab it from social security!

  10. doc

    Has the amount borrowed out of Social Security by the government been repaid??? It was into billions if not > trillions. See GSA figures.

    • Joe K.

      It will never be repaid. The debt will be monetized and inflation will run like a dog.

    • AKA

      Nothing was borrowed out of the trust funds. Treasury notes cover what was used for other purposes. What did happen though was a transfer of some 500 Billion from the Medicare trust fund to pay for Obamacare implementation.

      • Marc

        FALSE. A tax increase on only the very wealthy paid for the ACA. You have been misinformed.

    • Ann C.

      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.

      • Mandelbrot S.

        You actually believe that bullfeces?

        A Ponzi sceme always looks like a good deal, until it starts to fall aprt unde the shere weight on numbers of an increasing number people expecting to collect from a decreasing number of people foolish enough to pay in any more than they are forced to by Big Government.

        Please, look up “Ponzi Scheme” on the more reputable traditional reference publications that now offer their expert views on the Web instead of periodicals printed at the expense of trees.

        Mandelbrot Set.


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