1 SECTION 1. SOCIAL SECURITY: THE OLD-AGE, SURVIVORS, AND DISABILITY INSURANCE (OASDI) PROGRAMS CONTENTS Basic Social Security Information General Brief Description of Social Security Programs Concept of Social Insurance Financing Mechanism Brief History Social Security Coverage of the Work Force Benefits Eligibility for Workers Disability Eligibility for Dependents and Survivors Benefit Computation Full Retirement Age Trends in Retirement Age Trends in Longevity Average Indexed Monthly Earnings Benefit Formula Special Minimum Benefit Benefit Amounts Replacement Rates Benefit Reduction and Increase Dual Entitlement Actuarial Reduction Delayed Retirement Credit Maximum Family Benefit Earnings Limit Offsets Suspension of Benefits to Prisoners Cost-of-Living Adjustments Taxation of Benefits Social Security Benefits for Noncitizens Determination of Disability Benefits Determination of Disability Application of Law and Regulations Federal Review of State Determinations Periodic Review of Individuals Receiving Disability Benefits Medical Improvement Standard Medical Evidence Attorneys Fees and Representation Vocational Rehabilitation (1)
2 2 Disability Claims and Appeals Structure Changes in Enrollment and Applicant Backlogs Disability Insurance (DI) Awards and Recipients Pending Claims in the Disability Determination Services Characteristics of Recipients Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Disability Insurance Social Security Financing Current Law Status of OASDI Trust Funds How the Status of the Trust Funds is Measured Nature of the Social Security Trust Funds Budgetary Treatment of OASDI Current Budget Rules Pertaining to Social Security Current House and Senate Procedural Rules to Protect Social Security s Financial Condition Budgetary Treatment of Administrative Expenses Legislative History Changes in the 103d Congress Changes in the 104th Congress Changes in the 105th Congress Appendix Relationship of Taxes to Benefits for Social Security Retirees: Illustrations of the Amount of Time It Takes To Recover the Value of Taxes Paid, Plus Interest Illustrative Payback Times References
3 Maximum FICA/SECA tax: 1 OASDI HI 3 BASIC SOCIAL SECURITY INFORMATION Tax rate: Employee/employer each 7.65%; (6.20% OASDI; 1.45% HI). Self-employed 15.30%; (12.40% OASDI; 2.90% HI). Maximum taxable earnings base for 1998: Social Security (OASDI)... $68,400 Medicare (HI)... No Limit Employee/employer, each... $4,241 No limit Self-employed... 8,482 No limit OASDI workers covered (est.) million. Average wage level (est.) $26,732 Earnings required in 1998 for a quarter of coverage. $700; ($2,800 for four). Earnings limit exempt amounts in 1998: $14,500 for beneficiaries age 65 69; 2 ($1 for $3 withholding rate). $9,120 for beneficiaries under age 65; ($1 for $2 withholding rate). Medicare (SMI) premium. $43.80/month. Number of OASDI beneficiaries (12/96) (in millions): Total OASDI beneficiaries OASI beneficiaries Retired workers Families and survivors DI beneficiaries Disabled workers Family members Average monthly benefits (12/96): Retired worker... $745 Retired worker and aged spouse... 1,256 Disabled worker Disabled worker, spouse and children... 1,172 Aged widow(er) Widowed mother/father and two children... 1,421 1 FICA/SECA tax paid by employers and self-employed can be partially deducted under income tax rules. 2 Will gradually increase to $30,000 in the year 2002.
4 4 BASIC SOCIAL SECURITY INFORMATION Continued Monthly benefits for 1997 retirees At 62 At 65 Low earner (45% of average wages)... $448 $565 Average earner Maximum earner... 1,049 1,326 Long-range replacement rates (in percent): Retirement at age 67 in 2030 and later: Low earner (45% of average wages) Average earner Maximum earner COLA (effective January 1998). 2.1%. Taxation of benefits percent of benefits taxed: Percent taxed Income threshold Filing status Up to 50%... $25,000 $34, Individual. $32,000 $44, Joint. Up to 85%... $34, Individual. $44, Joint. Substantial gainful activity in 1998: $500/month disabled/nonblind; $1,050/month blind. OASDI Trust Fund operations (in billions of dollars): Calendar year Income OASDI Trust Fund operations Outgo Net increase Balance $424.5 $353.6 $70.9 $ (est.) Fiscal year 1996 OASDI outlays. $350 billion 22.4% of total U.S. budget of $1.56 trillion. For SSA information, call: SSA SSA On Line. Home.html Source: Social Security Administration and Board of Trustees (1997).
5 5 GENERAL BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAMS The Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Programs provide monthly benefits to retired and disabled workers, their dependents and survivors. The OASDI Programs are contained in title II of the Social Security Act, and are commonly known as Social Security. Old-age benefits were provided for retired workers by the original Social Security Act of 1935, benefits for dependents and survivors were provided by the 1939 amendments, and benefits for disabled workers were enacted in The Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Program, enacted in 1965 as title XVIII of the Social Security Act, is closely related to the OASDI Program. (The HI Program is described in section 2.) CONCEPT OF SOCIAL INSURANCE When the OASDI Programs were created, insurance was included in their titles to show that their purpose is to replace income that is lost to a family through the retirement, death, or disability of a worker who has earned protection against these risks. This protection was to be obtained by working in jobs that are covered under Social Security and therefore subject to payroll taxes that finance Social Security benefits. Once workers worked long enough in covered jobs to be insured, they and their families would have eligibility for their benefits as a matter of earned right. The level of benefits is based on the amount the worker earned in covered jobs, and is paid without a test of economic need. However, the social ends the programs serve diverge somewhat from the insurance analogy. The programs are national, and coverage is generally compulsory and nearly universal. They are designed to address such social purposes as alleviating poverty, providing added protection of families versus single workers, and providing a larger degree of earnings replacement for low-paid versus high-paid workers. The OASDI Programs were therefore described as social insurance. FINANCING MECHANISM The primary source of revenue for OASDI is the payroll tax paid by workers covered by the program and their employers. OASI and DI have separate tax rates set by law. Coverage under Social Security is generally compulsory. Currently, an estimated 96 percent of the Nation s paid work force is covered either voluntarily or mandatorily. The taxes for wage and salaried workers are imposed under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA, chapter 21 of the Internal Revenue Code). Taxes are based on earnings up to the annual maximum taxable wage base ($68,400 in 1998 for OASDI, with no limit on wages subject to HI). The employee share of the payroll tax is withheld from wage and salary payments, and is matched by employers, currently at a rate of 7.65 percent each. Self-employed persons are covered by the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA, chapter 2 of the Internal Revenue Code). They pay contributions on their net earnings annually up to the
6 6 same maximum as employees, but at a rate that is equal to the combined employee-employer tax rate. However, the self-employed may deduct 7.65 percent from their net earnings before computing their Social Security tax and may also deduct half of their Social Security tax as a business expense for income tax purposes. Revenue from the OASI and DI portion of the tax is credited to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance Trust Fund, respectively. In addition, the revenue derived from the taxation of a portion of 50 percent of Social Security benefits is credited to each trust fund (for additional detail, see section on Taxation of Benefits ). The trust funds are the source of payment for: (1) monthly benefits when the worker retires, becomes totally disabled, or dies (including a financial interchange with the Railroad Retirement System), and (2) administrative expenses for the program. A discussion of OASDI administrative costs may be found in a later section on Budgetary Treatment of OASDI. BRIEF HISTORY The 1935 Social Security Act covered only workers in commerce and industry, then about 60 percent of the work force. At first, the act provided only monthly benefits to retired workers age 65 and over, and a lump-sum death benefit to the estate of these workers. The monthly benefits were to begin on January 1, The 1939 Social Security Amendments provided benefits to dependents of retired workers (wives aged 65 and over and children under age 16); and to survivors of deceased workers (widows aged 65 and over, mothers caring for an eligible child, children under age 16, and dependent parents). In addition, the 1939 amendments provided that these benefits would begin in The 1939 amendments were the first in a nearly 40-year series of program expansions. In 1956, benefits were extended to disabled workers aged 50 64, and to disabled children over age 18 of retired, disabled, or deceased workers, if they became disabled before age 18 (changed to disabled before age 22 in 1973). The 1958 amendments provided benefits to dependents of disabled workers on the same basis as dependents of retired workers. Benefits for disabled workers under age 50 were provided in Monthly cash benefits were increased on an ad hoc basis 10 times before the first automatic cost-of-living adjustment was implemented by the Social Security Amendments of Beginning in 1975, benefits have been automatically adjusted each year to keep pace with inflation, except during calendar year 1983, when the adjustment was delayed 6 months (see table 1 1). SOCIAL SECURITY COVERAGE OF THE WORK FORCE In 1937, approximately 33 million persons worked in employment covered by the Social Security system. Over the years, major categories of workers were brought under the system, such as selfemployed individuals, State and local government employees (on a voluntary basis), regularly employed farm and domestic workers, members of the armed services, and members of the clergy and religious orders (on a voluntary basis). In 1997, of a total work force of approximately million workers, about million work-
7 7 ers and an estimated 96 percent of all jobs in the United States are covered under Social Security. Of the total work force, an estimated 14.1 million workers were self-employed in In 1996, an estimated 86 percent of all earnings from jobs covered by Social Security were taxable (see tables 1 2 and 1 3). TABLE 1 1. SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFIT INCREASES FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE PROGRAM THROUGH JANUARY 1998 [In percent] Date increase paid Amount of increase January January January January January January January January January January January January January January January July July July July July July July July April/July October February February March February February October October October Automatic COLAs began. 2 Increase came in two steps. Source: Social Security Administration.
8 8 TABLE 1 2. CIVILIAN WORKERS COVERED BY SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM, [Numbers in millions] Year Paid civilian employees 1 OASDI coverage Number Percent OASDI and HI-only coverage Number Percent Includes paid employees and self-employed for all years. 2 Monthly average for these years, all other years as of December. Source: Office of the Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration.
9 9 TABLE 1 3. EARNINGS COVERED BY OASDI SYSTEM, [Dollars in billions] Year Total earnings Earnings in covered employment Employed Taxable earnings as a percent of total earnings in covered employment Selfemployed Total earnings in covered employment Covered earnings as a percent of total earnings Taxable earnings $186.1 $ $ $ $ Sum of wages and salaries and proprietors income with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments, as estimated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the National Income and Product Accounts. 2 Preliminary. Source: Office of the Actuary, Social Security Administration. While coverage is compulsory for most types of employment, approximately 6.6 million workers did not have any coverage under Social Security in The majority of these noncovered workers were and still are in State and local governments or the Federal Government (see tables 1 4 and 1 5 for the most recently available statistical breakout). Beginning January 1, 1983, Federal employees were covered under the Medicare (HI) portion of the Social Security tax, and all Federal employees hired after 1983 are covered under the OASDI portion as well. In 1992, 75 percent of State and local government workers (15.5 million out of 20.6 million) were covered by Social Security. Beginning January 1, 1984, all employees of nonprofit organizations became covered, and as of April 1983
10 10 terminations of Social Security coverage by State government entities were no longer allowed. State and local employees hired after March 31, 1986 are mandatorily covered under the Medicare Program and must pay HI payroll taxes. Beginning July 1, 1991, State and local employees who were not members of a public retirement system were mandatorily covered under Social Security. This requirement was contained in the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (Public Law ). TABLE 1 4. ESTIMATED SOCIAL SECURITY COVERAGE, 1996 Total (millions) Noncovered (millions) Percent covered Workers Jobs: 2 State and local government Federal civilian Students Includes both employees and self-employed. 2 Because workers may work at more than one job during the year, the total number of noncovered jobs exceeds the total number of noncovered workers. Because this table includes workers who worked only in a noncovered job at any time during the year, it shows a higher number of noncovered jobs than does table 1 2, which is based on coverage status in December of each year. 3 Excludes students. 4 Includes students employed at both public and private colleges and universities. Source: Social Security Administration. TABLE 1 5. ESTIMATED SOCIAL SECURITY COVERAGE OF WORKERS WITH STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYMENT, 1992 [Based on 1-percent sample; numbers in thousands] State All workers 1 Covered workers Percent covered Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California... 2,198 1, Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida... 1, Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana
11 11 TABLE 1 5. ESTIMATED SOCIAL SECURITY COVERAGE OF WORKERS WITH STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT EMPLOYMENT, 1992 Continued [Based on 1-percent sample; numbers in thousands] State All workers 1 Covered workers Percent covered Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York... 1,673 1, North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas... 1, Utah Vermont Virginia Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming Total... 20,620 15, Includes seasonal and part-time workers for whom State and local government employment was not the major job. Source: Office of Research and Statistics, Social Security Administration. While the most recent year for which actual data are available is 1992, the Social Security Administration estimates that in 1996, 22.3 million individuals will work at some time during the year for a State or local government, and the wages of 75 percent of these individuals will be covered by Social Security.
12 12 BENEFITS ELIGIBILITY FOR WORKERS Insured status Benefits can be paid to workers, and their dependents or survivors, only if the worker has worked long enough in covered employment to be insured for these benefits. Insured status is measured in terms of quarters of coverage. Before 1978, one quarter of coverage was earned for each calendar quarter in which a worker was paid $50 or more in wages for covered employment, or received $100 in self-employment income. A worker could also receive a calendar quarter for each multiple of $100 in annual agricultural earnings, up to a maximum of 4 quarters of coverage per year. Since the beginning of 1978, the crediting of quarters of coverage has been on an annual rather than a quarterly basis up to a maximum of four quarters of coverage per year. In 1978, a worker earned one quarter of coverage (up to a maximum of four) for each $250 of annual earnings reported from covered employment or self-employment. The amount of annual earnings needed for a quarter of coverage is increased each year in proportion to increases in average wages in the economy. In 1998 the amount of earnings needed for a quarter of coverage is $700. Table 1 6 shows amounts needed since For the purpose of the OASI Program, there are two types of insured status: fully insured and currently insured. Workers are fully insured for benefits for themselves and for their eligible dependents if they have earned one quarter of coverage for each year elapsing after the year they reached age 21 up to the year in which they reach age 62, become disabled, or die. Fully-insured status is required for eligibility for all types of benefits except certain survivor benefits. No matter how young, a worker must have at least six quarters of coverage to be fully insured, with the minimum number increasing with age. A worker with 40 quarters of coverage is fully insured for life. Survivors of a worker who was not fully insured may still be eligible for benefits if the worker was currently insured. Workers are currently insured if they have six quarters of coverage during the thirteen calendar quarters ending with the quarter in which they died. Workers are insured for disability if they are fully insured and have a total of at least 20 quarters of coverage during the 40- quarter period ending with the quarter in which they became disabled. Workers who are disabled before age 31 are insured for disability if they have total quarters of coverage equal to half the calendar quarters which have elapsed since the worker reached age 21, ending in the quarter in which they became disabled. However, a minimum of 6 quarters of coverage is required. Age Workers must be at least age 62 to be eligible for retirement benefits. There is no minimum age requirement for disability benefits, but disabled workers who attain the full retirement age (see below) automatically receive full retirement benefits, rather than
13 13 disability benefits. Disability benefits are computed as if the worker reached full retirement age on the day he became totally disabled. TABLE 1 6. AMOUNT OF COVERED WAGES NEEDED TO EARN ONE QUARTER OF COVERAGE, $ Based on economic assumptions in the 1997 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds. Source: Office of the Actuary, Social Security Administration. DISABILITY Definition Generally, disability is defined as the inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of a physical or mental impairment. The impairment must be medically determinable and expected to last for not less than 12 months, or to result in death. Applicants may be determined to be disabled only if, due to such an impairment, they are unable to engage in any kind of substantial gainful work, considering their age, education, and work experience. The work need not exist in the immediate area in which the applicant lives, nor must a specific job vacancy exist for the individual. Moreover, no showing is required that the worker would be hired for the job if she applied. There are special definition and eligibility requirements for persons who are blind, which are described below in the section on Determination of Disability Benefits.
14 14 The Commissioner 3 has specific regulatory authority to prescribe the criteria for determining at what level earnings from employment demonstrate an individual s ability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA). Effective January 1, 1990, the SGA earnings level was raised to $500 a month (net of impairment-related work expenses), based on regulations published by the Commissioner. Table 1 7 shows SGA amounts applicable to nonblind disabled workers since TABLE 1 7. MONTHLY SGA AMOUNTS SINCE 1968 Year SGA July $ and thereafter Source: Office of Research and Statistics, Social Security Administration. Waiting period An initial 5-month waiting period is required before DI benefits are paid. Benefits are payable beginning with the sixth full month of disability. However, benefits may be paid for the first full month of disability to a worker who becomes disabled within 60 months after termination of DI benefits from an earlier period of disability (for a disabled widow or widower the period is 84 months). Work incentive provisions The law provides a 45-month period for disabled beneficiaries to test their ability to work without losing their entitlement to all benefits. The period consists of: (1) a trial work period (TWP), which allows disabled beneficiaries to work for up to 9 months (within a 5-year period) 4 with no effect on their disability or Medicare benefits; followed by (2) a 36-month extended period of eligibility, during the last 33 of which cash disability benefits are suspended for any month in which the individual is engaged in SGA. Medicare coverage continues so long as the individual remains entitled to disability benefits and, depending on when the last month of SGA occurs, may continue for 3 24 months after entitlement to disability benefits ends. When Medicare entitlement ends because of the individual s work activity, but she is still medically disabled, she may purchase Medicare protection. If beneficiaries medically recover to the extent that they no longer meet the definition of disability, both disability and Medicare benefits are terminated after 3 months, regardless of the status of their trial work period or extended period of eligibility. How- 3 As used in this section, Commissioner is the Commissioner of Social Security. 4 Only one TWP is allowed in any one period of disability. By regulation, earnings of more than $200 a month constitute trial work.
15 15 ever, persons who contest this determination may elect to continue to receive disability benefits (subject to recovery) and Medicare while their appeal is being reviewed. ELIGIBILITY FOR DEPENDENTS AND SURVIVORS Dependents benefits are payable in addition to benefits payable to the worker. Spouse s benefit A benefit is payable to a spouse of a retired or disabled worker under one of the following conditions: (1) a currently-married spouse is at least 62 or is caring for one or more of the worker s entitled children who are disabled or have not reached age 16; or (2) a divorced spouse is at least 62, is not married, and the marriage had lasted at least 10 years before the divorce became final. A divorced spouse may be entitled independently of the worker s retirement if both the worker and divorced spouse are age 62, and if the divorce has been final for at least 2 years. Widow(er) s benefit A monthly survivor benefit is payable to a widow(er) or divorced spouse of a worker who was fully insured at the time of death. The widow(er) or divorced spouse must be unmarried (unless the remarriage occurred after the widow(er) first became eligible for benefits as a widow(er)); and must be either (1) age 60 or older or (2) age and disabled throughout a waiting period of 5 consecutive calendar months that began no later than 7 years after the month the worker died or after the end of the individual s entitlement to benefits as a widowed mother or father. Child s benefit A monthly benefit is payable to a dependent, unmarried biological or adopted child, stepchild, and grandchild, of a retired, disabled, or deceased worker who was fully or currently insured at death. Dependency is deemed for the insured s biological children and most adopted children. The child must be either: (1) under age 18; (2) a full-time elementary or secondary student under age 19; or (3) a disabled person age 18 or over whose disability began before age 22. Mother s/father s benefit A monthly survivor benefit is payable to a mother (father) or surviving divorced mother (father) if: (1) the deceased worker on whose account the benefit is payable was fully or currently insured at time of death; and (2) the mother (father) or surviving divorced mother (father) is not married and has one or more entitled children of the worker in his or her care. In the case of a surviving divorced mother or father, the child must also be the applicant s natural or legally adopted child. These payments continue as long as the youngest child being cared for is under age 16 or disabled (see Child s benefit above).
16 16 Parent s benefit A monthly survivor benefit is payable to a parent of a deceased fully-insured worker who is age 62 or over, and has not married since the worker s death. The parent must have been receiving at least one-half of her support from the worker at the time of the worker s death or, if the worker had a period of disability which continued until death, at the beginning of the period of disability. Proof of support must be filed within 2 years after the worker s death or the month in which the worker filed for disability. Lump-sum death benefit A one-time lump-sum benefit of $255 is payable upon the death of a fully or currently-insured worker to the surviving spouse who was living with the deceased worker or was eligible to receive monthly cash survivor benefits upon the worker s death. If there is no eligible spouse, the lump-sum death benefit is payable to any child of the deceased worker who is eligible to receive monthly cash benefits as a surviving child. If there is no surviving spouse, or children of the worker eligible for monthly benefits, then the lumpsum death benefit is not paid. [See table 1 8 for 1996 OASDI beneficiary statistics; table 1 9 for OASDI benefits paid ; table 1 10 for monthly benefit amounts for selected families; and the Benefit Computation section for further information on AIME.] BENEFIT COMPUTATION All monthly benefits are computed based on a worker s primary insurance amount (PIA). The PIA is a monthly amount based on the application of the Social Security benefit formula to a worker s average lifetime covered earnings. It is also the monthly benefit amount payable to a worker who retires at the full retirement age, or becomes entitled to disability benefits. FULL RETIREMENT AGE Benefits for retired workers, aged spouses, and widow(er)s taken before the full retirement age are subject to an actuarial reduction. The full retirement age is the earliest age at which unreduced retirement benefits can be received. The full retirement age currently is age 65, but it will gradually rise in two steps beginning in the next century. First, the full retirement age will increase by 2 months for each year that a person is born after 1937, until it reaches age 66 for those who were born in Second, it will increase again by 2 months for each year that a person is born after 1954, until it reaches age 67 for those who were born after Early retirement still will be available, beginning at age 62 for workers and their spouses, and at age 60 for widow(er)s, but benefits will be lower. The actuarial reduction on retirement benefits at age 62 ultimately will be 30 percent, instead of the present 20 percent. The age for full benefits for aged spouses and widow(er)s likewise will rise to 67.
17 17 TABLE 1 8. OASDI BENEFICIARIES IN CURRENT PAYMENT STATUS AND NEW AWARDS, DECEMBER 1996 Number in current payment (in thousands) Percent of beneficiary population Average monthly benefit Number of new awards (in thousands) Average new award Retired workers... 26, $745 1,581 $713 Wives and husbands of retired workers... 2, Children of retired workers Disabled workers... 4, Wives and husbands of disabled workers Children of disabled workers... 1, Widowed mothers and fathers Surviving children... 1, Widows and widowers... 5, Disabled widow(er)s Parents... 4 ( 1 ) 614 ( 2 ) 602 Special age ( 1 ) 197 ( 2 ) 156 Totals and averages... 43, $673 3,793 $591 1 Less than 0.05 percent. 2 Fewer than 500. Source: Office of Research and Statistics, Social Security Administration. TABLE 1 9. OASDI BENEFITS PAID, [In millions of dollars] Year OASDI OASI DI $35 $ ,245 10,677 $ ,863 28,796 3, , ,074 15, , ,360 18, , ,993 24, , ,436 27, , ,939 31, , ,804 34, , ,068 37, , ,682 40, , ,914 44,174 1 Unnegotiated checks not deducted. Source: Office of Research and Statistics, Social Security Administration.
18 18 TABLE MONTHLY BENEFIT AMOUNTS FOR SELECTED BENEFICIARY FAMILIES WITH FIRST ELIGIBILITY IN 1996, FOR SELECTED WAGE LEVELS, DECEMBER 1996 Workers with yearly earnings equal to Beneficiary family Federal minimum wage 1 Average wage 2 Maximum taxable earnings 3 Retired-worker families: 4 Maximum family benefit , , Monthly benefit amount: Retired worker claiming benefits at age Average indexed monthly earnings... Primary insurance amount... $ $1, $3, , : 4 Worker alone... Worker with spouse claiming benefits , at Age 65 or older... Age , , , , Survivor families: 5 Average indexed monthly earnings , , Primary insurance amount , Maximum family benefit... Monthly benefit amount: , , Survivors of worker deceased at age 40: 5 Widowed mother or father and two children One surviving child... Widowed mother or father and one child , , , , , Disabled worker families: 6 Average monthly indexed earnings , , Primary insurance amount , Maximum family benefit... Monthly benefit amount: , , Disabled worker age 50: 6 Worker alone... Worker, spouse, and one child , , , The annual wage was calculated by multiplying the Federal minimum hourly wage of $4.25 in effect during the period January to September by 1,560 and adding to it the product of $4.75 the minimum for the period October to December. The minimum was raised to $5.15 effective September 1997 as legislated by Public Law Worker earned the national average wage in each year used in the computation of the benefit. 3 Worker earned the maximum amount of wages that can be credited to a worker s Social Security record in all years used in the computation of the benefit. 4 Assumes the worker began to work at age 22, retired at age 62 in 1995 with maximum reduction, and had no prior period of disability. 5 Assumes the deceased worker began to work at age 22, died in 1995 at age 40, had no earnings in that year, and had no prior period of disability. 6 Assumes the worker began work at age 22, became disabled at age 50, and had no prior disability. 7 The 1980 amendments to the Social Security Act provide for a different family maximum amount for disability cases. For disabled workers entitled after June 1980, the maximum is the smaller of (1) 85 percent of the worker s AIME (or 100 percent of the PIA, if larger) or (2) 150 percent of the PIA. Source: Social Security Administration. Benefits of workers who choose to retire after their full retirement age are increased by delayed retirement credits, as are the
19 19 benefits payable to their widow(er)s. The delayed retirement credit is 1 percent per year for workers who attained age 65 before 1982, and 3 percent per year for workers who attained age 65 between 1982 and Starting in 1990, the delayed retirement credit increases by one-half of 1 percent every other year until it reaches 8 percent for workers reaching age 65 after 2007 (see section on Benefit Reduction and Increase ). Table 1 11 shows the schedule of increases in the full retirement age and delayed retirement credits for workers. TRENDS IN RETIREMENT AGE Table 1 12 shows the percentage of workers who elected to receive retirement benefits at selected ages since the beginning of the Social Security Program. It clearly illustrates a trend toward early retirement. Retirement at age 62 has become the norm. Reduced benefits were not available to women until 1956, and to men until Table 1 13 shows the percentage of retired workers electing reduced benefits since they first became available. TRENDS IN LONGEVITY Table 1 14 shows how life expectancies have increased since Social Security benefits were first paid in 1940, and what they are projected to be in the future, as well as fertility and death rates. AVERAGE INDEXED MONTHLY EARNINGS Except for workers who are eligible for a Special Minimum Benefit (see below), the basic benefit or primary insurance amount (PIA) is determined through a formula applied to the worker s average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). The AIME is a dollar amount that represents the average monthly earnings from Social Security-covered employment over most of the worker s adult life indexed to the increase in average annual wages. Indexing the earnings to changes in wage levels ensures that the same relative value is accorded to wages no matter when earned. Because actual average-wage data take over a year to become available, past earnings are updated to the second calendar year (the indexing year ) before the worker becomes eligible for retirement (age 62) or, if earlier, becomes disabled or dies. This means that the year a worker turns age 60 is used as the indexing year for computing retirement benefits. Earnings in and after the indexing year are not indexed. There are two steps in determining the AIME: (1) the index for a worker s earnings is determined by multiplying the earnings for a given year by the ratio of the average wage for the indexing year divided by the average wage for that year; and (2) the number of computation years is based on the number of years elapsing after 1950 (or year of attainment of age 21, if later) up to the year the worker attains age 62, becomes disabled, or dies, minus any dropout years. The law provides for up to five dropout years in retirement and survivor computations (for workers disabled before age 47, the number of dropout years varies from one to four, depending on the worker s age and number of child care dropout years). The minimum number of computation years is two.
20 20 TABLE INCREASES IN FULL RETIREMENT AGE AND DELAYED RETIREMENT CREDITS, WITH RESULTING BENEFIT, AS A PERCENT OF PRIMARY INSURANCE AMOUNT [PIA], PAYABLE AT SELECTED AGES, FOR PERSONS BORN IN 1924 OR LATER Year of birth Age 62 attained in Normal retirement age Credit for each year of delayed retirement after normal retirement age Benefit, as a percent of PIA, beginning at age , 2 mo , 4 mo , 6 mo , 8 mo , 10 mo , 2 mo , 4 mo , 6 mo , 8 mo , 10 mo or later or later Source: Ballantyne (1984).
21 21 TABLE PERCENTAGE OF WORKERS ELECTING SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT BENEFITS AT VARIOUS AGES, SELECTED YEARS Year Age 62 Ages Age 65 Ages 66+ Average age ( 2 ) ( 2 ) ( 2 ) ( 2 ) ( 2 ) ( 2 ) ( 2 ) ( 2 ) Excludes conversions at age 65 from disability to retirement rolls. 2 Retirement before age 65 was not available. Source: Congressional Research Service and Social Security Administration. TABLE NUMBER OF SOCIAL SECURITY RETIRED WORKER NEW BENEFIT AWARDS AND PERCENT RECEIVING REDUCED BENEFITS BECAUSE OF ENTITLEMENT BEFORE AGE 65, SELECTED YEARS [Numbers in millions] Year 1 Total Men Women Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent As of December of given year; data for based on a 1-percent sample; data for other years based on 100 percent. Includes conversions at age 65 from disability to retirement rolls. Source: Office of Research and Statistics, Social Security Administration.
22 22 TABLE FERTILITY, DEATH RATE AND LIFE EXPECTANCY ASSUMPTIONS, SELECTED YEARS Calendar year Total fertility rate 1 (per woman) Age-sex-adjusted death rate 2 (per 100,000) Life expectancy 3 at birth Life expectancy 3 at age 65 Male Female Male Female Actual: , , , , , , , , , Estimated: Projected:
23 23 TABLE FERTILITY, DEATH RATE AND LIFE EXPECTANCY ASSUMPTIONS, SELECTED YEARS Continued Calendar year Total fertility rate 1 (per woman) Age-sex-adjusted death rate 2 (per 100,000) Life expectancy 3 at birth Life expectancy 3 at age 65 Male Female Male Female The total fertility rate for any year is the average number of children who would be born to a woman in her lifetime if she were to experience that year s age-specific birth rates throughout her life, and if she were to survive the entire childbearing period. 2 The age-sex-adjusted death rate for any year is the crude rate that would occur in the total population (enumerated as of April 1, 1990), if that population were to experience that year s age-sex-specific death rates. 3 The life expectancy for any year is the average number of years of life remaining for a person, if that person were to experience that year s age-sex-specific death rates throughout the remainder of his life. Source: Board of Trustees (1997; intermediate assumptions). The computation years are selected from the highest indexed yearly earnings in all years of earnings after 1950, up to a maximum of 35 years. (The highest 35 years are selected in computing retirement benefits for all workers born after 1929.) The sum of the indexed earnings in the selected years is divided by the number of months in the computation period (i.e, the number of the selected years times 12) to determine the AIME. The indexed earnings histories (rounded to whole dollars) are illustrated in table 1 15 for three hypothetical workers retiring in 1997 at age 62. The actual earnings for the three workers are shown in the first three columns. These are multiplied by the indexing factor (column 4) to arrive at indexed earnings (last 3 columns). The indexing factor for 1960 is based on average wages when the individual turned 60 ($24,705.66), divided by average wages for 1960 ($4,007.12). The highest 35 years of indexed earnings are used. For example, a lifelong full-time worker who had maximum creditable earnings would drop low earnings in 1958, 1962, 1963, 1964, and 1965, and would have total indexed earnings of $1,628,473 (see table 1 15). Dividing total indexed earnings by the number of months in the computation period (35 years 12 months = 420 months) results in average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) of $3,877. The corresponding AIMEs for the average and low earners are $2,061 and $927, respectively. Low earners are defined as earning 45 percent of the average wage.
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