Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Wonk Alert: Social Security Trustees Report to be Released Tomorrow

The Social Security Trustees will release their annual report on Wednesday, June 22 at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Read more!

Updates from the SSDI Solutions Initiative

I wanted to make sure that you were aware of two recent developments related to the work put forth by the McCrery-Pomeroy SSDI Solutions Initiative.

Last week Senators Cotton (R-AR) and Lee (R-UT) announced legislation aimed at improving and prolonging the life of the SSDI program based on the recommendations put forth by Kim Hildred, Pamela Mazerski, Harold Krent, and Jennifer Christian in the recently published SSDI Solutions: Ideas to Strengthen the Social Security Disability Insurance Program. This legislation, among other things, would expand Continuing Disability Reviews (CDRs), change the benefit structure for medical improvement expected and medical improvement likely recipients, and establish a demonstration project to encourage work and allow for increased earnings for time-limited beneficiaries. You can read more about the legislation here and see our analysis and commentary here. The SSDI Solutions Initiative chapter this legislation is based on is available in its entirety here

In another development, authors Yonatan Ben-Shalom, David Mann, and David Stapleton of the Mathematica Policy Research Center for Studying Disability Policy recently published a policy brief further examining the ideas put forth in their chapter for the SSDI Solutions Initiative about the need to modernize early intervention programs and other improvements to the way in which people enter into the SSDI program. You can read more about this brief and other work by the authors here

We hope that our project will continue to influence the debate in this country over how best to improve the programs for people with disabilities. To learn more, you can visit our website at http://www.SSDISolutions.org and purchase your own copy of SSDI Solutions: Ideas to Strengthen the Social Security Disability Insurance Program on Amazon.

Read more!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Upcoming event: “What’s the News in the 2016 Social Security Trustees Report?”

National Academy of Social Insurance

What’s the News in the 2016 Social Security Trustees Report?

Register Now – Space is Limited Thursday, July 23, 2016 ~ 10:00am– 11:30am
Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 608

Don’t miss this opportunity for an in-depth explanation of the trustees’ projections of Social Security’s long-term finances. Attendees will hear from the Chief Actuary of the Social Security Administration, Stephen C. Goss, and other experts. Panelists will answer questions such as: Will benefits be adequate to meet retirees’ needs in the coming decades? Can we afford Social Security in the long term? What options do policymakers have to ensure that Social Security remains adequate and secure for the long term?  Register here to get answers to your questions.


  • Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration
  • Bill Hoagland, Senior Vice President, Bipartisan Policy Center
  • Benjamin Veghte, Vice President for Policy, National Academy of Social Insurance
  • Moderator: Mikki D. Waid, Senior Policy Analyst, National Academy of Social Insurance

Register now.

Attendees will receive copies of the Academy’s new brief, Social Security Finances: Findings of the 2016 Trustees Report.

The National Academy of Social Insurance is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization made up of the nation's leading experts on social insurance. Its mission is to advance solutions to challenges facing the nation by increasing public understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security. Visit www.nasi.org for more information on Social Security and other social insurance programs.

Read more!

Upcoming event: Divergence in American Life Expectancy


Divergence in American Life Expectancy

What: Hamilton Project Forum, “Divergence in American Life Expectancy”

When: 2:00—4:00 PM Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Where: The Brookings Institution—1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC



2:00 PM Welcome and Introductions

  • Robert E. Rubin
    Co-Chair, Council on Foreign Relations;
    Former U.S. Treasury Secretary

2:10 PM Framing Remarks: Emerging Trends in American Life Expectancy

  • Discussant: Anne Case
    Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Economics and Public Affairs; Director, Research Program in Development Studies (RPDS), Princeton University

2:40 PM Roundtable: Harnessing Public Policy to Increase Life Expectancy for All Americans

  • Discussant: Angus S. Deaton
    Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of International Affairs; Professor of Economics and International Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University
  • Discussant: David Cutler
    Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics, Harvard University
  • Discussant: Mark B. McClellan
    Director of the Robert J. Margolis Center for Health Policy; Margolis Professor of Business, Medicine and Health Policy, Duke University
  • Discussant: Gary Burtless
    The John C. and Nancy D. Whitehead Chair; Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
  • Discussant: James S. Marks
    Executive Vice President, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Moderator: Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
    Director, The Hamilton Project; Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution

4:00 PM Forum Adjourns

Read more!

Upcoming event: Supplemental Security Income Policy Forum

Supplemental Security Income Policy Forum 

Mark Your Calendar: July 12, 2016

Dear Colleague:

Please join the Social Security Advisory Board at our Policy Forum on the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program on Tuesday, July 12th at the Carnegie Library - Mount Vernon Square, 801 K Street NW, Washington DC.  We hope you will come to share your ideas as we explore important policy issues in the SSI program.

The Board has published multiple reports and statements over several years regarding SSI and modifications that would better enable the program to achieve its objectives. We look forward to this discussion of the program, its rules and procedures, and its effect on the lives of millions of Americans, especially children.

The agenda will include four sessions:

  • SSI Resource Limits: 
    • What are they?
    • How do they compare with limits in other public benefit and tax systems?
    • How (if at all) should they be updated over time?
    • What do new ABLE accounts mean for SSI recipients and the program overall?
  • In-kind Support and Maintenance:
    • What is it and why do we have it?
    • How can these policies be simplified while maintaining basic program objectives?
  • The Policy and Practice in Financing Child Welfare Programs:
    • A look at how states fund child welfare programs and rely on federal financing.
  • SSI Program for Children:
    • What happens to youth after they leave the SSI program?
    • What can we do to improve those outcomes?

We hope you will join us from 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM on the 12th. Register now and let us know any reasonable accommodations you may need. Space is limited, so registration is required for either the morning, the afternoon, or the full day.

For more information, including a full agenda and presenter information (when available), visit our forum website or call 202-475-7700.

See you on the 12th!

Claire Green

Staff Director

400 Virginia Ave. SW Ste. 625

Washington DC 20024

202 475-7700

Read more!

New paper: “Is Social Security Wealth?”

“Is Social Security Wealth?”

by Andrew Rettenmaier
Texas A&M University

This study identifies Social Security wealth as the accrued benefits based on past participation in the program. This definition is similar accrued pension wealth associated with defined benefit plans. The distributions of accrued Social Security benefits for the years 1985 to 2006 are derived from individual earnings record available in the Social Security Administration's 2006 Earnings Public Use File. The estimated accrued Social Security benefits are much more evenly distributed than are the estimates of savings wealth. Individuals in the top 10% of the estimated wealth distribution, excluding Social Security, held 70% of wealth as of 2006, but only 33% of accrued Social Security benefits. Once accrued Social Security benefits are included in a total wealth measure, the percent of the total attributable to the top 10% declines to between 55% and 62%.

Click 1602 to view the paper in pdf format.


Read more!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wonk Fight! Munnell vs CRFB on Social Security Myths.

Over at MarketWatch, Boston College economist Alicia Munnell takes issue with the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s “10 Myths” regarding Social Security reform.

You’ll have to read them point-by-point to judge who comes out on top. And I hope the CFRB comes out with more thoughts, since it’s good to keep the discussion going.

I tend to be more partial to the CFRB’s point of view on the specifics, but there is one passage by Munnell that really speaks to me. She writes:

I love the Social Security program, believe it is the backbone of our retirement system, and would like to see 75-year financial balance restored. That said, budget people scare me when looking at Social Security. They see the 75-year shortfall as a simple mismatch of revenues and expenditures, want the gap closed, and many – not all – don’t care very much how that is done. My view is that Social Security will be the major source of income for most of the population, so cutting benefits, as opposed to putting in more revenues, would be a serious mistake.

My time working on Social Security reform in the Bush Administration convinced me that Munnell’s point here has merit. Not the “don’t cut benefits” part – I’d still do that. But I think that fiscal conservatives too often look at Social Security as a budgetary problem to be solved while paying insufficient attention to how Social Security is functioning as a social insurance program for Americans. Yes, Social Security has to be solvent, but there’s more to a good Social Security program than simply not going broke.

That’s why, once I joined the American Enterprise Institute, I stepped back a bit and thought about how I would want Social Security to work as a program, and not simply how would I make the current system solvent. That led to an approach that’s different than the system we currently have, but that has some important similarities to the pension systems in New Zealand, the U.K., Canada and Australia. You can read about plan that here.

Read more!