Disability, Retirement, Survivors

Protecting the Legacy of Social Security for Future Generations

September 3, 2015 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: September 3, 2015

A diverse group joining hands as a team.Social Security reached a major milestone on August 14 — its 80th birthday. This moment gave all of us the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on the great history and importance of the program to workers and their families. President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935, creating a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens, and protecting them from what he eloquently called the “hazards and vicissitudes of life.” Eighty years later, Social Security remains an essential part of the fabric of American life — providing income security for nearly 60 million people across the country today, including seniors, survivors, people with disabilities, and their families.

But, if we don’t take meaningful steps to strengthen the program for future retirees, the Social Security trust funds will run out of money before the program even reaches its 100th birthday. In fact, the Social Security Disability Insurance Program (SSDI) currently doesn’t have enough money to pay full benefits even for the next two years, which is why the Social Security trustees have warned that it “faces an urgent threat of reserve depletion, requiring prompt corrective action by lawmakers if sudden reductions or interruptions in benefit payments are to be avoided.”

Although the retirement program is in somewhat better shape in the near-term, the aging of the population and retirement of the baby boom population is leading to persistent deficits in that program — about $75 billion of deficits in this year alone. Without action, the combined trust funds will likely run out of funds in the early 2030s, leading to an immediate 20 to 30 percent across-the-board cut for all beneficiaries regardless of age or income. We can’t afford to let that happen, which is why lawmakers should work together to reach a bipartisan solution to fix the program’s long-term finances.

Luckily, there are many ways to strengthen Social Security for future beneficiaries. For example, lawmakers could slow the growth of initial benefits for higher earners, adjust the retirement age for growing life expectancy, adopt a more accurate measure of inflation for cost-of-living adjustments, raise the payroll tax rate, or increase the amount of income subject to the payroll tax.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has created an interactive tool, The Reformer, which allows anyone to design a plan that keeps Social Security sustainable for future generations.

Unfortunately, the longer we wait to act, the fewer choices there will be — and the more pain they’ll cause. If we want Social Security to prosper for another 80 years, the time to act is now.

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 holiday. Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!

Tags: ,

See Comments

About the Author

Maya MacGuineas, President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget


  1. Vickey

    While I am on my break at work we were talking about the social security benefits running out. Why should people get benefits if they have not paid into social security for set amount of years or have been a US citizen for longer that 10 years? Everyone is denied disability the first couple of times but one they get past that hurdle they are set for the rest of thier lives. Can’t there be a check done on these people that are drawing disability and living better than the people working to pay in so they can have disability. Disabled people owning companies in other peoples names to avoid losing thier benefits. Not getting married because they don’t want to loose benefits or working full time under the table so they don’t have to report it. People that were to large to work because of back problems having surgury and now they feel great but them and thier kids are still on disability. Someone has a kidney transplant 40+ years ago while still a child and is still drawing off her parents. This person works as a waitress at a full time job then parties. The one kidney works very well!. I could go on all day long about people that do not deserve benefits. Why don’t we set up stiffer laws so not just anyone can get benefits? I do not want to work any longer so these deadbeats can have money. Cut them off so we can retire!

    • Susie

      You are not necessarily correct with that statement. Yes, there should be a way to check on ones who receive disability and are truly not so. I know many people in my county who receive these benefits for back problems and work 40 plus hours a week lifting dead weight!? and are not caught much less pay into the fund because they
      get paid under the table. I receive SSDI, but I worked 20 years and earned a pension too. I would give my eye teeth if I could work. I tried through the SS “back to work ” program. It was a major hurt for me and crushed my dreams. Eliminate this program, I think not. I
      don’t quality for public assistance, most of us who are truly disabled don’t. Did you know those on disability are allowed to make (not sure now), but back in the 90s could make 900 dollars a month plus disability benefits legally? It’s the SSI funds given to people who have never worked that needs to go. The government provides plenty for these people otherwise.

      • eliedith

        there are people with neurological disabilities who cannot hold a job because they lack mobility, perception, coordination, visual spatial, judgment, but may be very intelligent and can talk abt what they know but cannot do anything. should these people just starve and die? they need ssdi to survive. i think SSI should go as that is welfare. ssdi is for people who tried to work, paid into the system and couldnt keep a job because employers are impatient and the person cannot pass probation on any job. a person like that needs disability payments so they are not on the street corner

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your comment, Vickey. If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of Social Security benefits we encourage you to report it. Social Security conducts periodic medical reviews to make sure individuals receiving checks are still eligible to get them. The review depends on how severe the individual’s medical condition is and the likelihood it will improve.
      We also have work provisions that can encourage people on disability to return to the work force. These rules make it possible for people with disabilities receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to work and still receive their benefits. For SSI beneficiaries, the law requires them to report their wages monthly, and we monitor their work activity and pay them benefits accordingly. The amount of their SSI benefit is based, in part, on their income and available resources. For more information read our publication Working While Disabled – How We Can Help.

    • Tatiana

      Hahaha! You have a really skewed idea of who is on disability. A child who had a kidney transplant 40 years ago. Lady you make trump look less intellectually challenged. You need to get real and come into the real world. People on disability are on it for a reason. Stop inventing things because it conveniences you.
      Torture victims Ptsd victims you think they should work? They can;t even Sleep and God forbid a disabled vet gets triggered and brings a gun to your job then what? You DON’T THINK.

  2. Fred

    The problem is not the citizen, it’s the government! The Government used SS for there wars, I really don’t understand it? I thought it was in a trust.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Fred. Please check out our Trust Fund Frequently Asked Questions page for more information.

    • PP

      Exactly! Oh, I’m sure the Suit & Tie better than thou politicians did a good job covering their tracks.
      Seems like everyone I know that wears a tie is a crook whether its my doctor, pastor, insurance agent etc… are all double dipping.

  3. Geraldine L.

    The shortfall wouldn’t be happening if the government would have kept their hands off of the
    money. It should have NEVER been touched, it
    was supposed to be kept as a separate entity for
    the people that paid in all their working lives. The
    government keeps dipping into the money and yet
    we are still trillions of dollars in national debt. It
    doesn’t make any sense. STOP IT ALREADY!!

    • PP

      The Vietnam War, late 60s to 70s was really when SS funds started to get funneled away and missing. That money was just sitting around so they used it to pay for the war or isbth at time-line a sheer coincidence?

  4. Collyn

    You are so right, Sharon. Making the wage limit for all SS Wages would heal a lot of wounds. And you are so wrong Regina, there is no savings account on earth that will provide the same benefit for life that Social Security does.

    • Susan B.

      That says it all, Collyn. Social Security is a better deal than you could ever get anywhere else because it’s guaranteed that when the money you contributed runs out, you’ll get other people’s money. Then, what are they supposed to get? Eventually, you run out of other people’s money. It makes no sense and there is no magic about it.

    • Regina S.

      That’s funny. If the SS program were so grand and it actually offered security then there would be no need to try and protect it because funds are running out. They are not running low because its not being funded, so where is the cash going? I’d rather keep mine in my own bank thank you!

      • Tatiana

        It is running out because of the thieving govt stealing funds FROM IT to pay for wars and salaries. It is a wonderful system and the whole world Europe and Canada and every first world country on Earth has one. The only sociopaths like you Regina, live in America.
        You have no regard for anyone but yourself. WHat a miserable life you must lead. I am rich in friends and loved ones I would rather be rich in love than in money and thankfully most americans are not like you.

  5. Timothy S.

    Social Security,
    Needs everyone’s protection we need to work very
    hard to see that it happens.

  6. Rick R.

    The one answer to the puzzle confronting funding of SS is NOT to allow efforts to privatize the program and cause the monies deducted from citizen’s wages to be put into any plan involving Wall Street, similar to what happens to 401k deuctions. The Stock Market is too fragile, mercurial, and unstable to which to trust our future financial secutity. The stock market bombs out and takes all the invested mony with it leaving the bemneficiariews with nothing while all the bankers, brokers and financial traders make a killing when the money goes in and then when the market tanks. The simple act of doing away with the taxable wage limit and then slightly increasing the SS tax rate is the way to go. Had Congress not robbed the Reserve Fund for their budgetary general reveue shortfalls, then the fund would still be solvent. Laws must be enacted to stop Congress from robbing the trust fund and substituting unredeemable IOU’s to finance their irregular budgetary shortfalls and “hide the pebble” accounting political schemes.

    • Susan B.

      I agree….you cannot trust the government to run anything. How about putting the money that is taken from you and your employer (matching amount) and put it in CD’s or Treasury Bonds or some other “protected” investment vehicle? Had you been able to do that from the beginning, you wouldn’t be worrying about taking money from the rich to ensure that you have a decent retirement. What is wrong with this country is the “entitlement” mentality that has been encouraged by the Federal Government. The chickens are coming home to roost…thus the Social Security Administration is now sending out emails like this to people of retirement age. Let’s get some NEW ideas for providing individual retirement money other than changing the rules of this broken system. I know, I know…..you’re entitled to get a check for the rest of your life regardless of how much you and your employers contributed during your working life. You should only get back what you put in. How about that for an idea?

  7. Deborah K.

    Please let us senior voters know which Presidential Candidate will work diligently to ensure Social Security is properly funded. Social Security has been a life saver for most seniors. Praise God for all who work to keep us informed about the threat of lack of funding for security of Social Security!!

    Sincerely, Deb

    • Susan B.

      Yes, Deb, it’s been a “life-saver” but that was never the intent, was it? Not according to what this article says. You should have saved some money for retirement too, don’t you think? It is totally UNFAIR to the younger workers in this country to have to fund your retirement because you didn’t save enough for yourself. I am not mean-spirited 30 year old. I am 67 and still working and have deferred taking Social Security. The Federal Government has used Social Security Disability as a funding source for unemployment benefits because of the poor condition of our economy. Social Security needs to be phased out and replaced with another form of individual tax-free savings for retirements.

      • Marcy

        Deb, you may have deferred your Social Security, but that means you will actually be drawing more money when you do start drawing. I myself am waiting to start drawing Social Security because:
        1. I’m still healthy & productive
        2. My monthly check will be more and my savings that I’ve accumulated over the past 40 years will last longer.
        3. Over the period of time, I hope to live, I will actually collect more money than if I hadn’t deferred it.
        Yes, I think we should all be responsible for subsidizing our golden years, but social security is a major source of our retirement income.

        • eliedith

          not everyone is well enough to earn enough money not to depend on ssa in retirement.

      • Lillie B.

        what about the Family Members that worked for years and soon as their time came to retire they passed away never got the ssa..

      • Tatiana

        Ha! Phased out? And what do you propose to do with disabled children today will they be grandfathered in? When and how?

    • Maryellen

      Keep these arcitles coming as they’ve opened many new doors for me.

  8. Dr. M.

    So many people depend on their Social Security. What reducing payments will do is put the older eople at risk. What are they supposed to do? Go get jobs? Congress should get real….actually learn how most of America lives. I know they are all wealth 1%’s that have no concept of living from check to check. We are governed by the wealthy! Sick.

    • Tatiana

      So true, Dr. Kamlay.

  9. Sharon

    As a business owner, I feel that corporate America can do a little more as well as individuals. Do not have a cap on the social security wages. It really is a small amount to each and everyone of us, but will go a long way to help build the balance. Also, I strongly believe the Federal government employees (congressman, senators etc.) should all pay into the fund as well. The people of the US are paying their wages, so let them contribute a little of ‘our’ money back in too!

    • Cari

      I agree 100%! Eliminate the cap and collect SS from congressman.

      • Steve B.

        There should be only one system and all government workers, Senetors, and, Congressmen should have to pay into the SS. System. They should not have there own which they devised for themselves. If they had to follow the same rules as SS security is for us then they would not mess around with it and for sure they would not let it go under funded.
        One system for all, not the two system, ours and theirs.

        • Lisa L.

          I have to agree. If our elected reps had to live with the same taxes, health insurance, etc. I’ll bet they’d be pretty unhappy. I worked and paid into SS for 44 years and I’d like to continue to receive it. I worked for some real b*****s and I deserve something for that alone (lol). My complaint is with SS Disability. Between lawyers and liars they’re bleeding the funds. I would love a job exposing that fraud. But even better is to be elected for just one term in DC and leave with govt. health insurance and my same salary. What a deal.

        • PP

          I agree with you and I also believe that politicians should have term limits no more than 8 yrs because THEY serve us, NOT us serve them.

      • Karen

        I also agree with no cap & congress paying their share. We need to save SS. My husband worked 40 years & lost his job due to bankruptcy. Because of his age, he can not find a job. SS has been a life saver for us! By the way, I’ve been working all my life & I’m still working & it’s hard to save money & pay bills at the same time. I thank GOD for SS & hope it continues to thrive. If we would take all of the illegal collectors of SS off then there should be enough money to pay the honest person.

    • Dr. M.

      Federal employees do pay into Social Security. The old Federal Pension system was changed in 1984. They have IRA’s like everyone else. lease get up with the year, 2015.

      • Regina S.

        It did not change until the mid 90’s.

        • Kathy

          Regina, you are incorrect. Under the 1983 Social Security Amendments, all members of Congress and top executive-branch officials (including Cabinet secretaries, the President, and Vice President) paid Social Security tax beginning in 1984. So did ordinary civil servants newly hired by the federal government after 12/31/83, although those who were already employed could choose to stay with the old plan. See https://socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v46n7/v46n7p3.pdf.

    • eliedith

      I also agree, eliminate the cap completely. all wages and income should be subject to SSA payroll FICA tax. that would solve the entire problem. also congress should by their share.

  10. Regina S.

    I for one am tired of paying into Social Security knowing I will never get anything back out of it. We need to eliminate the program all together. I am very capable of saving and putting my hard earned dollars into a savings account that will guarantee me that I’ll have these funds available to me, when I need them.

    • Dr. M.

      I guess you have quite an income. Something not everyone has. You probably believe it is their fault for being lazy etc. I hear opinions such as your from wealth 1%’s. Most I know did not make the money themselves. Many inherited it.

      • Regina S.

        I’m laughing! This coming from a DR. Kamlay. Know that I’m far from being a in 1%’s class. I would much rather have my weekly deductions put into an account that I will be able to use. Yes I understand the pitfalls to not having the program but there are plenty more pitfalls by keeping it.

        • Catherine A.

          Have you ever invested in the Stock Market? Because I have. And I am a fairly well-to-do woman because of it–partially because I lived below what I made, and not only invested that which I saved, but because I learned how to survive, and thrive, even, on less. I still do not have some of the possessions many people believe are “necessary” and I do not miss them. Be that as it may, the stock market is not as stable as it once was, the pensions I used to supplement my Social Security no longer exist for those who will be retiring soon, and I was very lucky to have some of the privileges I have. I am grateful for all of these, but there is no way everyone in the United States will be as lucky as I have been. We need Social Security because what you will need at my age is stability. Income stability. You cannot “fend for yourself” when you are older–you just can’t, no matter how well you planned, how healthy you are, or how lucky you have been. People fail. We fall apart–some more quickly than others. You will, too, and when you do, it would be too late for you if all you have is your luck and your talents and your privilege. We need Social Security because we cannot count on luck.

          • Lillie B.

            I agree to the fullest I.m 88yr old and i hope we can keep it I worked lot yr for it.

          • Tatiana

            Thank You, Catherine for such an eloquent response. I am glad to know that not all Americans have become sociopaths like the original poster to whom you’ve replied. Thank You again.

          • Marlene M.

            Very well said?
            I myself am a registered nurse and everyone says how rich we are. Well I am forntunate in 1986 when I found a program that granted me two years worth of college and daycare to get some kind of degree because even back then at 26 I was getting close to prostitution just to by groceries. I help everyone close to me and some strangers when I can and will be happy just to buy a truck to pull a 5th wheel to live in after all is said and done.
            I have learned to live minimally and can’t wait to get out of the hole of working my but off only to have half my wages taxed and possibly never get the help I will need. I’m 59 and I DON’T want to be homeless. I pray to God every day for my health to continue because so many others benefit from the little bits of extra I can give. Selflessness is difficult but doable!

      • EMN

        very true although an inherited some of money or house does not matter it belongs to whom ever it is left to and ssdi is still payed in by us the working class who pays the gov debts and should be there for us when we really need it and mostly not giving it with no ??? asked to all the undocumented and there after market family that follow after they give birth my opinion .. your a doctor lets just say you graduated from collage 3.5 an A student and the other doctor graduated by the skin of his teeth a C- you both are still called doctors !!!!! right dont let others ignorance and arrogance bring you to there levels………… said with respect (I dont think the person has checked the % return on savings nor cd “s either 1 to maybe if your lucky 1.7%welcome to the world) 🙂 🙂

      • Jim

        Ever notice families of slaves aka Black folks who now want to be paid for work are now called Lazy?

    • Bruce M.

      Your’e dreaming. Very few workers have the knowledge or resouces to save and invest the kind of money needed generate the level of income Social Security provides.

    • Brenda D.

      Regina, you may have the ability to put funds into a savings account now, but what about a few years down the road? What if you get cancer and can no longer work? What if you get disabled and can no longer work? Who’s going to fund your savings account then?

      • Ron

        Social Security is a safety net – not a savings account – indeed what happens if you have a good income then become disabled and cannot add to your savings account…Some people who have good incomes stop paying social security above $100K. Even those people can become disabled and cannot continue adding to their ‘savings account’! No one has all the answers, however, social security has provide some of the relief for the questions over the 80 years!

        • EMN

          in home care that is a loved one caring for a mom dad granny and one maybe two private hire CNA nurse i promise you will cost you apox 75,000.00 to 90,000.00 dollars and that my friend is living frugal like the old timers from the great depression of the 20’s and they believed in hording hiding there money and living on peanuts and water that is for real just got done with my dad and mom in laws after 3 1/2 years ripe age of 91 they lived the most calm understanding people one would ever know the BEST for they knew what life is and was not like the SPOILED USA is today it is not owed you must work for it honestly

      • George

        I have EMPHAZYMA on OXYGEN ALL NIGHT & part of the day. I worked my BUTT off paid into SS. I’m unable to work & the BASTARDS keep denying me for SSD & SSI. HELL, I paid into it why CAN’T I get when needed?? I have other problems but, the WORTHLESS SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION tell me I can work & DISSCRIMINATE AGAINST NE DUE NOT 50 yrs old. They don’t UNDERSTAND I take breathing treatments 3-4 times DAILY. COUGHING SPELLS. Cracked 3 ribs on left side & 4 on right side but, they still won’t assist me in anyway. I feel their WORTHLESS. I tried getting jobs & constantly DENIED due the company doesn’t want the RESPONSABILITY of my situation. WHAT THE HELL!!!!

    • Bob L.

      It was a socialist policy from the beginning. Sounded great at the beginning, but responsible people can save their own money.We don’t need the government’s interference!

      • Regina S.

        I with you there Bob!

      • Eric T.

        Those against social security have been shown good reasons why it is important. If you are disabled, social security is there to help. Many here have shown how important having social security is. Yes, if you can work, then save your money. But if you can’t, then social security is here to fill that need.

      • Catherine A.

        Government interference? Social Security is funded ONLY by those who work and those who employ them–up to a point. And that point is way, way too low to sustain itself. The uber-rich who make over $117K a year stop paying the excess into Social Security. That cut-off needs to be upped–a lot. That, in and of itself, will fund the Social Security Trust fund for decades, depending on what the cutoff is.

        • Jaun

          Totally agree that the cap should be raised… Although I’m not sure that 117K is “uber-rich*.

        • DJ

          $117,000. uber rich? LOL

      • lynn

        Part of the problem is we don’t have enough responsible people, what about all the irresponsible people who don’t save for retirement. Some how, some way, those who are responsible will end up paying for those who aren’t, and I hate to say it, but I believe there are alot of irresponsible people in the U.S.

      • Tatiana

        And you would deny the disabled, Bob? I prefer European and Canadian socialism to the barbaric psychopathy of people like you in the United States who have no regard for anyone but themselves. Look up the definition of psychopath. If you have no regard for your fellow humans suffering then you are lacking in empathy and thereby a psychopath. Darwin said that empathy makes us human. What does that make you and Americans like you?
        It’s people like you who make the disabled who count on Social Security terrified of what will happen to them when their parents die because they know they are living amongst a sea of sociopaths-republicans and libertarians.

      • greg

        The majority of Americans have saved less than $1500 for their rainy day emergency fund and never learned how to save. Social Security was created to have a modest base each month when we get older. It is imperative to keep this life support, in addition to put a fire under the Congress’s ass to promptly start to replenish Social Security and Medicare NOW.

    • eliedith

      Most people do not make that much that they can save like that especially if they are chronically ill or disabled. When your medical bills are higher than your income, its hard to save.

      • EMN

        live within your means forfit that beer or dance bar night on the 1st or the 15th of every month PLAN it dont work without one i make a good weekly pay check but i only us one check a month to live and still save from that one what do you want fun and luxury now or a piece of mind and relaxation later you pick

    • Richard R.

      How could the SS Trust Fund could ever run out of money? I invested about the same amount in my 401K retirement fund (12%) that the Government confiscated from my pay. I have over one million in my retirement. What did the Government do with the money they took? I can answer my own question; gave it out to non-workers!

      • Tatiana

        Congratulations on being a miserable millionaire. I hope you’ve learned that money doesn’t make you happy-look how hateful and bitter you are!

    • Mr H.

      You may wanna think again… Nothing is guaranteed!

    • PP

      Actually your wrong, Social Security will always be around and you’ll get allot more out of social security in money and benefits than you ever paid into it. Yours and my chief complaint is the ultra high Federal Taxes (FICA) that we pay 1/3rd out of our pay checks. In other words for every dollar we make, .33 cents is taken for FICA. Thats where all OUR money’s going.

    • Terry D.

      When I was a young man I was always told to plan your retirement around social security. I did that along with some small investments as I could afford them. I am retired now and I am making it OK, but if Social Security wasn’t there it would be a different story. I think there are many things the government can do to prop up the system. I have a friend who is a doctor and his wife was a professor at a local university. They receive a combined 5000.00 a month from Social Security, 2500.00 each. They have made millions in there life time and I am glad for them. But, the question is, do people that have been lucky or that have been financially successful need these benefits after they reach a certain income. In stead of them drawing social security let them take that same amount as a deduction on there taxes. He and I have discussed this option and he would prefer it to receiving the cash.

    • Michael M.

      Take your republican privledged ass back to the golf course

    • Tatiana

      Nice of you to think only of yourself, however there are those who are disabled whose parents PAID into the system so you should grin and bear it and be happy that you are ABLE to work and save money. You will need to continue to contribute whether you like it or not so that we do not live in a sociopathic society only very near to one based on your selfish response.

    • Tatiana

      selfish stansbury.

    • Idalia

      Haha, shouldn’t you be charging for that kind of knwgdeloe?!

    • Amber

    • Jolyn

    • Hannah

    • Bobbo

    • Florence

    • Johnie

    • Caroline

    • Wilma

    • Tommy

    • Cathy

    • Jean

    • Lawanda

    • Katherine

    • Peggy

    • Veronica D.

      Are you crazy. We need to get rid of the ceiling where they cut off paying into. Everyone needs to pay, no exceptions regardless of whether they have another retirement plan like teachers etc. What you are suggesting is self serving.

    • Jim

      If you don’t get anything from SS it will be because Congress stole all the money out of the lock box to pay for Tax cuts and unfunded Wars. So quiet crying. get involve, I am sure your GOP tell your rep & Sen hand the hell off.

Comments are closed.