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!

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About the Author

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

President of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget


  1. Marcy

    Has anybody actually looked at their Social Security Benefits Statement? I know I’ve paid in less in 40 years of working than what I will gain back in payments. Even if I had invested that money over the last 40 years, it is doubtful that I would have ever earned the amount of money that Social Security will be paying me on a monthly basis once I retire. Granted there is always the chance that I won’t live 25 years and there isn’t any death benefits, but I’m more concerned about my time while I’m here, than my grown family once I’m gone.

  2. Victoria

    Great comments from everyone. The government stole the funds paid into social security by hard working individuals. Social security should be for individuals that have paid for it over a life time. My husband and I paid into social security for over 30 to 50 years. We deserve to collect what we paid into it. I agree that if you are earning a good income now but qualify for SS there should be restrictions and limits. Also for those that have only paid into it for a short time.

  3. Lillian

    It is time that all funds go in and no loans come out. This money is supposed to be used for the benefit of those who are getting social security and not to use for everything under the sun. If the funds were used correctly this would not be happening.This is not supposed to be used as a slush fund!

  4. Barbara C.

    As someone who has practiced Disability law for almost 30 years I can assure you that the financially healthiest individuals face crushing debt when disability prevents them from working. And for those of you who are unaware of the Republican rule changes due to go into effect in 2016 which will result in a roughly 20 % cut in SSD benefits I invite you to do some research. I also remind those with short memories to think back to the economic collapse of 2008 and the very recent near collapse of European and Asian markets which have caused horrific losses to many of our citizens. So when you think of privatizing Social Security funds please see very clearly that the same foxes in charge of the henhouse in 2008 and again more recently in the global markets will be thrilled to take your life long savings and pillage the only system that has stayed consistent for decades. And a reminder that the SS Fund has been borrowed against to decrease deficits on other parts of the budget for years. If we want to completely destroy the only reliable safety net for the elderly and the disabled we will eviscerate our entire economy. As someone who is a high wage earner (mostly from the insurance part of my practice) I would gladly pay FICA taxes on my full salary and not cap it at some arbitrary figure. Trust me, our economy, and our moral compass, depend on sustaining Social Security benefits.

    • Tatiana

      It is good to know you are there. Do you know if Social Security Survivor’s Insurance will be affected in 2016?

  5. Felix M.

    Hey. I worked for 45 years. I don’t get enough to last from month to month. Instead of sending BILLIONS over seas and letting the illegals draw our money. How about a RAISE. I can’t live off of a one percent raise whenever they decide to give us one.

  6. Felix

    Hey. I worked for 45 years. I paid into Social security the whole time. I am 66 years old. Who wants to hire an old man? My social security hardly gets me food from one month to the next. Instead of sending BILLIONS over seas. I don’t mind helping others! How about a RAISE for us.

    • Tatiana

      I agree. Hear hear.

  7. paul b.

    short comes in life disabled and out of work what is the government suppose to do when funds run out do you put phy.on the street corners to treat there patients or what becomes of us

  8. Chris

    It’s my understanding that two recent Presidents were allowed to ‘borrow’ [i.e., rob] SS to spend elsewhere within the Federal Govt. When will this $$ be returned? And, if Congress and the Senate had to contribute and depend on SS like the common person, the situation would have been resolved long ago.

    • Susan B.

      If you think politicians are worried about not getting Social Security, you’re not paying attention to what type of people are in Congress. They don’t need the pittance they would get from Social Security. Politicians aren’t going to fix Social Security because it can’t be fixed. It has to be phased out and replaced with personal savings. Just eliminating the SSA could provide billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayers.

    • eliedith

      those two presidents were clinton and W bush

    • Ray F.

      Hi Chris. 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.
      Also, all members of Congress, the President and Vice President, Federal judges, and most political appointees, were covered under the Social Security program starting in January 1984. They pay into the system just like everyone else.

    • Tatiana


  9. virginia

    Simple solution is to remove the SS cap on wages so everyone pays the same percentage. After all, the higher earners get larger benefits. Also all representatives of Congress need to live with the same responsibilities as all Americans and pay their share into the fund and also receive and pay for health care benefits like all Americans. The president is the only person who should not have to pay like the rest of us.

    • Susan B.

      The President shouldn’t have to pay Social Security. Are you kidding me? Do you think he’s a poor dirt farmer? You know what’s going to happen if they take the cap off earnings? As soon as they do it and the money starts rolling in, then those same people will be “means tested” to ensure that they will NEVER get any of the money they contributed. This is not a socialist country YET….but we’re getting closer and closer every day. Have you ever talked to a person who lives under a Socialist government? Be careful what you wish for. It never is what you think it is….free stuff for everyone but “rich” people. There is no way the rich people can pay for everything for everyone. Wake up!

      • 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

      • eliedith

        Just because you lift the cap does not make the system socialist. I am French and socialism is where everything is universal and there is no market driven system. lifting the cap does not do that. all it does is allow more funds to be slightly more equally distributed. that is not socialism as it will never be completely equal. it just allows everyone to have their fair share so the system does not go broke. it is unfair that people who are rich and can afford more, should pay less than someone who does not have two centimes to rub together

      • Tatiana

        Hallelujah you mean we are getting closer to becoming a more civilized socialist democracy like Norway, Sweden, Canada, and Denmark? That’s great! I didn’t know that I don’t have to worry anymore about not being given my disability benefis in the future due to a fascist thieving government then. Thanks for the good news! I wish Bernie Sanders would win then we’d be a lot closer and I wish all the libertarians and republicans would die. Then we’d have a decent country with decent people only and Universal healthcare. Yay! Thanks Suze.

  10. Patti

    I think SS is used for too many other things that it was originally intended for. I think there are a lot of people that depend on it to make ends meet and I don’t think it should be eliminated. I keep hearing that eventually SS will run out of money, then why don’t they increase the rate, it hasn’t been increased in years. The max has been raised but if the rate were increased a little bit then we all could pay a little more and spread it around, then maybe SS will be there when we all reach retirement age. We all are getting closer everyday.

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