By now, you’ve probably heard that this year marks the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act. In case you didn’t know, this year is also the 75th anniversary of the payment of the first monthly benefits.
And, today, the Social Security Board of Trustees released the 75th annual report to Congress on the financial status of the Social Security trust funds.
As a quick refresher: The Social Security trust funds include the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) fund. Benefits to retired workers and their families, and to families of deceased workers, are paid from the OASI trust fund. Benefits to disabled workers and their families are paid from the DI trust fund.
The report shows that, combined, the funds now have an additional year – from 2033 to 2034 – before their reserves are depleted. The Old Age and Survivors fund alone also gets an extra year from 2034 to 2035.
Some factors that led to this improvement include (1) faster growth in average wages in the future, because of slower growth in employees’ private health insurance cost – due at least in part to provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and (2) improvements in how we project the earnings of American workers by age.
The DI fund is still projected to deplete its reserves late in 2016. After that, the income collected through taxes will be enough to pay only 81 percent of the scheduled benefits. So, an adjustment to maintain full disability benefits is needed soon.
The president has proposed temporarily reallocating more of the total Social Security payroll tax rate to the disability fund to give Congress more time to consider comprehensive changes to the Social Security program as a whole.
The Social Security program is sustainable, but needs some adjustments. To keep the program solvent after 2034, Congress could choose to increase payroll taxes by about one-third, reduce benefits by about one-fourth, or make some combination of these or other adjustments.
Because of the importance of Social Security to all Americans, we can be confident that Congress will make timely and well-considered adjustments, just as they have whenever needed since 1935.