Article by Jim Haigh, Keep Me Posted North America

Consumer groups, advocates for seniors, cybersecurity experts and financial planners are among the long and growing list of stakeholders championing the just-introduced Know Your Social Security Act. The bipartisan, bicameral bills would treat annual paper statements as the essential public notice that they are, and thereby require the Social Security Administration to once again mail them yearly to citizens.

This is great news for all Americans. As The Washington Post personal finance columnist, Michelle Singletary, opined this week, “getting annual statements in the mail helps remind people to plan for retirement — and helps protect against identity theft and fraud.”

But while there’s been a clear consensus behind these noncontroversial sentiments, the SSA has for years taken a haphazard, penny wise and pound foolish approach to enabling citizens with this critical financial planning tool.

The on-again, off-again mailing of annual statements — which abruptly halted yet again in 2017 — triggered adverse consequences whereby “the vast majority of folks don’t have a clue how much they would be receiving in Social Security benefits,” in the first-hand experience of Singletary.

Indeed, a report issued earlier this year by the Social Security Administration’s own Inspector General concluded that there’s been a significant decline in overall access since the primarily online-only policy took place. Diving deeper into the data, Keep Me Posted coalition partner and director of national priorities for Consumer Action, Linda Sherry, observes: “all evidence indicates that the vast majority of Americans now simply do not receive them at all – online or otherwise.”

In the statement of support for the bipartisan KYSS Act issued by KMP partner, Coalition for Paper Options, Sherry provides eye-popping context: “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.”

Bill Sweeney, the senior vice president for government affairs for AARP, distilled his organization’s strong support for this necessary legislation in a letter to the chairman of the Social Security subcommittee of House Ways and Means: “This bipartisan bill would once again place vital, paper Social Security statements in the hands of millions of Americans, to help them more effectively plan for retirement, identify fraud and correct earnings records, and better understand their stake in Social Security.”

Action in the House is anticipated soon, and CPO is urging everyone to take 2 minutes and send a message to your Representatives and Senators in support of restoring paper Social Security Statements. Please access the link below to make your voice heard — and share it with your social and internal networks as well:

https://www.votervoice.net/CPO/campaigns/66336/respond

(chart source: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/09/lawmakers-renew-push-for-mailed-social-security-statements.html)

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Coalition for paper options