Friday, May 22, 2015

Website updates from SSA’s Office of Retirement Policy (ORP)

We are pleased to share with you the updated Social Security Administration Office of Retirement Policy website:

What Has Been Updated?

· New updates based on the Modeling Income in the Near Term, Version 7 (MINT7) microsimulation model:

· Current Law Fact Sheets

· Population Profiles—Highlight the characteristics of certain populations, such as veteran beneficiaries.

· Population Projections—Show how certain populations, such as survivor-only beneficiaries, are projected to look in the future.

· Program Explainers—Explain aspects of the Social Security program, such as the minimum benefit.

· Policy Option Projections—Analyses of how proposed changes to Social Security program might affect future beneficiaries and benefit levels.

· Projection Methodology—An explanation of the MINT7 model and the definitions we use.

What Else Can I Find There?

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Website Feedback

We encourage and need your feedback to help make the content and design of this website more useful. Please send all comments to (and note that you are commenting on the Office of Retirement Policy website).

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Early Social Security claiming declines

The Wall Street Journal reports on new research from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College showing that the percentage of Americans filing for early – meaning, reduced – Social Security retirement benefits has fallen in recent years.

A new study from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College—titled Trends in Social Security Claiming —finds that, in 2013, 36% of men and 40% of women who turned 62 claimed Social Security. Sixty-two is the youngest age at which most people become eligible for benefits.

Those figures differ significantly from the numbers published by the Social Security Administration, which estimated that 42% of men and 48% of women who claimed retiree benefits in 2013 were 62.

What’s more, according to the Boston College study, “the share of people claiming Social Security retired-worker benefits when they attain age 62 has been falling since the mid-1990s…a decline [that] is fully consistent with the increase in the average retirement age.”

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Sen. Hatch Introduces Three Disability–Related Bills

Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) introduced three pieces of legislation relating to the Social Security Disability Insurance program, which is facing insolvency next year.

These include:

  • The Guiding Responsible and Improved Disability Decisions (GRIDD) Act, S. 1194, requires the Social Security Administration (SSA) to update its medical and vocational "grids" used by disability decision makers. The "grid rules" use age, education, past work experience and capacity for work to create guidelines that assist in determining whether an individual is or is not disabled. SSA published the grid rules in 1979, but the rules have not be updated to stay current with the modern workplace or developments in medicine and technology. This update would also include rules related to applicants' inability to communicate in English, based on a recent instance in Puerto Rico where it was reported the "grid rules" in place would prevent Spanish-speaking claimants from finding work. Additional background available at:
  • The Promoting Opportunity through Informed Choice Act, S. 1197, provides support for disability beneficiaries that want to return to work by requiring the SSA to develop public online tools to assist beneficiaries in determining the impact of earnings on their eligibility for benefits they receive. Additional background available at:
  • The Disability Evidence Integrity Act, S. 1198, deters the SSA from making determinations on disabled individuals to receive DI benefits based on evidence provided by individuals who have been convicted of a felony or are expelled from participating in any Federal health care program. These individuals are sometimes referred to as "dirty docs." Additional background available at:

Hatch said: "For far too long, the SSDI program has failed to keep up with the rapid changes in medicine, technology and education," Hatch said. "These bills are the first step in modernizing the SSDI program to make it more effective and efficient for both beneficiaries and taxpayers. With the trust fund expected to be exhausted in 2016, Congress should continue to examine how to address the financial challenges facing SSDI while also looking for ways to improve the program for beneficiaries."

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Weigel on the GOP’s “Save Social Security” Caucus

Bloomberg’s Dave Weigel looks at former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, leader of what Weigel calls the Republican “Save Social Security” caucus. Unfortunately, as Weigel notes, Huckabee isn’t particularly clear about what he would do to save it.

In the middle of Mike Huckabee's presidential announcement, his populism took him to a land many Republican candidates fear to tread.

"There are some who propose that to save the safety nets like Medicare and Social Security, we ought to chop off the payments for the people who have faithfully had their paychecks and pockets picked by the politician, promising them that their money would be waiting for them when they were old and sick," said Huckabee. "My friend, you were forced to pay for Social Security and Medicare. For 50 years, the government grabs the money from our paychecks and says it'll be waiting for us when we turn 65. If Congress wants to take away someone's retirement, let them end their own congressional pensions, not your Social Security."

As with a lot of the speech, the words hung together splendidly but the math was TBD.

You can read the whole article here.

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New paper: “Tax and spending reform for fiscal stability and economic growth”

“Tax and spending reform for fiscal stability and economic growth”

By Andrew Biggs, Alan Viard, Alex Brill and Joseph Antos

American Enterprise Institute

May 19, 2015 | AEI Economic Perspectives

Key Points

  • The current trajectory of explosive growth in federal debt and entitlement spending is fiscally untenable and will unduly burden future generations.
  • This plan focuses on tax reform proposals that raise necessary revenues with the least possible impact on saving and economic growth and on entitlement spending reform proposals that make those programs better targeted and more efficient.
  • These proposals would improve fiscal stability and economic growth and hold the national debt to 62.7 percent of annual gross domestic product in 2040 by narrowing the fiscal imbalance, limiting the size of government, and adopting a more growth-friendly tax code.

Read the PDF.

Read the full Peterson Foundation Solutions Initiative III report.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Center for Retirement Research Spring 2015 Newsletter

Read the whole newsletter online here.


Bigger and Better: The New Public Plans Database

New features include more data on 150 pension plans, interactive maps, and enhanced search.

Heading Off a Retirement Crisis

A new book explores the nation's brewing retirement crisis and how to prevent it.

Claiming Social Security Later

CRR study shows a sharp drop in the percentage of workers claiming Social Security at age 62.

Rescuing Stranded 401(k) Accounts

A clearinghouse for small accounts could reduce fees and consolidate retirement savings.

And the Winners Are...

CRR announces new research grants for junior faculty and Ph.D. students.

Thanks to our supporters:
The Social Security Administration, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Boston College, the Center for Satate and Local Government Excellence, FINRA Investor Education Foundation, IMPAQ International, the National Institute on Aging, Prudential Financial, and the State of Connecticut.

We also thank members of our research partnership program: BlackRock, Capital Group, Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., Citigroup, Fidelity & Guaranty Life, Goldman Sachs, Mercer, National Association of Retirement Plan Participants, Prudential Financial, State Street, and TIAA-CREF Institute.

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Huckabee: giving retirees what they paid for

Over at the Corner, my AEI colleague Ramesh Ponnuru looks at former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s shameless – and I think mistaken – pitch to seniors as Huckabee launches his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination. Huckabee says:

“You were forced to pay for Social Security and Medicare for 50 years. The government grabs money from our paychecks and says it will be waiting for us when we turn 65. If Congress wants to take away someone’s retirement, let them end their own Congressional pensions-not your Social Security. As President, I promise you will get what you paid for!”

One problem with this statement is basic math: since Social Security and Medicare are (vastly) underfunded, we either need to pay more in or get less out. Sure, politicians promised us a certain benefit formula, but they also promised a certain tax rate. Huckabee implicitly asserts that changes should be in the tax side, not the benefit side. Good luck running in a Republican primary on that platform.

Second, as Ramesh points out, Huckabee’s support for the Fair Tax implies a 30% sales tax on goods and services. So seniors’ benefits might not be cut under a Huckabee administration, but the amount they could buy with their benefits would fall by 30%. Again, good luck.

Finally, Huckabee’s basic “get what you paid for” statement is incorrect: by law, Social Security benefits will be cut when the trust fund runs out (next year for disability, in the early 2030s for retirement). Whatever you may believe about the economics of the trust fund – personally, not much – the trust funds’ exhaustion is by definition a signal that Americans haven’t paid enough to fund the benefits they’ve been promised. In other words, Huckabee’s Social Security policy could be to slash benefits across the board by 25% when the trust fund runs out and that policy would be entirely consisting with his promise that “you will get what you paid for.” Just not a penny more.

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