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Social Security Administration suspends annual statement summary

Every year, the Social Security Administration (SSA) mails all recipients in California and around the country their statement explaining how much money they will be entitled to collect.

The mailings were instituted by an act of Congress back in 1989, and acted as a reminder to people of their benefits. These statements also informed recipients that Social Security benefits were not solely for those retiring, but also included disability insurance and protection for survivors and dependents. All of this information has served to help the public understand, in part, the Social Security program.

In the hopes of reassuring people that they are still getting what they are expecting, the SSA says it is now hoping to issue online statements to replace the paper statements. This full-featured online statement is expected to look exactly like the old annual statements.

Is shifting services to an online system a viable substitute for the personalized service that American citizens are used to receiving? Certainly it is a disadvantage for those who are disabled, especially the mentally disabled. Others who either do not have physical access to a computer or are otherwise unable to go online to get the information and resources they need may also be negatively affected. Of particular concern is the inability for these recipients to be able to catch errors that might have been caught with the paper statements.

The cost of the paper statements is minimal compared to the SSA's overall budget. However, those seeking to reduce spending in Congress thought that the suspension of paper statements, and the implementation of online statements, would be an easy way to save some money. Perhaps they did not consider that these actions will have real life consequences to people who may no longer have easy access to this information.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Source: Los Angeles Times, "An Antisocial move by the Social Security Administration," Michael Hiltzik, March 20, 2012

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