New Legislation Aims to Reinstate Mailed Social Security Earnings Statements

The Coalition for Paper Options — an alliance of consumer organizations, labor unions, rural advocates, and print communications industry organizations which recognize the need to preserve access to important paper-based information and services for Americans who prefer them or depend on them — applauded the introduction of the Know Your Social Security (KYSS) Act, new bipartisan legislation that would require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reinstate the mailing of annual Statement of Earnings, which are currently only available online for workers under age 60. The bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. John Larson (D-CT) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL) and in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

The annual Statement, which summarizes each wage earner's recorded earnings and projects future retirement benefits, has been hailed as one of the most important financial planning tools that most Americans will ever see, yet the Social Security Administration stopped sending statements to workers in 2017 without any congressional oversight. A report released in February 2019 by the Social Security Administration's Inspector General highlights a tremendous decline in overall access since the primarily online-only policy took place.

The legislation would reinstate the mailing of the Statements until a wage earner accesses their account through the My Social Security online portal. This would allow the Social Security Administration to economize as online participation grows, but it would not force citizens into online access before they are ready or able to manage it.

“While wage earners over age 60 still receive printed Social Security Earnings statements unless they have signed up for online access, all evidence indicates that the vast majority of Americans now simply do not receive them at all – online or otherwise,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities for Consumer Action.

Sherry continued, “Compared to 2010 when 155 million Social Security Statements were mailed to U.S. wage earners, the Inspector General report shows that just 31 million Americans received a statement in 2018 – either online or by mail. In other words, well over 124 million wage earners are missing this essential foundation to their retirement security.”

"Social Security statements are vital tools to inform the American people about their earned benefits,” said Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works. “The near-elimination of these statements in recent years is an attack on our Social Security system. Social Security Works strongly endorses the Know Your Social Security Act, which clarifies the existing law to make it clear that Social Security statements must be mailed to every single beneficiary every single year."

“The Know Your Social Security Act represents a balanced approach to this issue,” said John Runyan, executive director of the Coalition for Paper Options. “It puts the paper statement into the hands of citizens until they feel ready to opt in to electronic delivery. And over time, this legislation will save the Social Security Administration resources without forcing Americans into e-delivery.”

The legislation will be referred to the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees.