When Will Social Security Statements Become Available?

Much of the information formerly provided by Social Security statements remains inaccessible.

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For workers with birthdays in July or later in the year, your Social Security benefit statement isn’t in the mail. The Social Security Administration suspended the mailing of annual paper benefit statements to taxpayers in March 2011. Eventually SSA plans to make the statement available online for all workers and resume mailings to individuals age 60 and older, but has not yet set a definitive date when either of these communications will begin taking place.

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Copies of Social Security statements are currently unavailable. Some of the information provided in the statements, such as an estimate of your future retirement benefits at various claiming ages, is available online using SSA’s retirement estimator tool. However, other facts from the statement including your earnings record and estimates about disability and survivor’s benefits are not currently provided through other channels.

Officials estimate that paper and online statements may be resumed in early 2012, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report. A timeline for implementation of these projects is expected this summer. When the mailings resume, SSA plans to allow anyone to request a paper statement, including workers younger than 25.

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SSA is developing and doing initial testing for a new web page that will allow individuals to access personalized Social Security information online. The agency has not determined what information would initially be made available through this portal. They are also developing an authentication system to protect sensitive personal data. Officials do not know how long the testing phase will last and could not provide a date for when the statement will be available to the public online, GAO found. A 2010 survey of statement recipients found that only 21 percent expressed a preference for receiving the statement electronically, including 8 percent who say they would prefer to receive the statement upon request via e-mail and 13 percent who would prefer to obtain it online.

The Social Security Act requires SSA to provide annual statements with benefits and earnings information to individuals age 25 and older who pay into the Social Security system. Each statement must contain an estimate of the potential monthly Social Security retirement, disability, and survivor benefits the worker could receive and the amount of wages earned and contributions paid to Social Security and Medicare. Annual statements were provided to workers age 60 and older beginning in 1995. The mailings were expanded to include all workers age 25 and older in 2000. Workers have also had the option to request a copy of the statement from SSA at any time since 1990.

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Suspending paper statements for all workers over age 25 is expected to save approximately $30 million in fiscal year 2011 and $60 million in 2012. However, the agency will incur new costs for developing online statements. And some of these costs will return when SSA resumes mailing statements to workers age 60 and over and makes them available to people of all ages upon request. “If significant numbers of workers do not choose to access the statement online, SSA could face increased requests for mailed paper copies of the statement and higher administrative costs,” according to the GAO report.

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