Paper industry, advocates win back some Social Security earnings statements

Score one for Consumers for Paper Options and other groups advocating to slow the federal government’s move to digital communications with Americans.

The Social Security Administration disclosed this week that it is finalizing a plan to resume mailing personalized statements that estimate Americans’ future Social Security earnings. Not everyone will receive the statements, which will be mailed every five years instead of annually starting in September.

  “We will continue to promote the use of our online Statement and will continue to educate visitors to our field offices and help them register for my Social Security,” agency spokeswoman LaVenia J. LaVelle said in a statement.

But she said that beginning in September, earnings statements will resume to workers who will be  25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 and over who are not receiving Social Security benefits and who are not registered for my Social Security.

The change resulted from pressure from the paper industry and advocacy groups for the elderly and other Americans who do not have regular access to the Internet.

The agency began mailing annual Social Security estimated benefit statements to workers 25 and older in 1999, and they became an important financial planning tool that helped Americans figure out their future retirement incomes. But it began to phase out mailing the paper statements in 2011 as a cost-saving step that saved the government $70 million a year in postage and printing. To access their information, workers have had to set up personal accounts at www.ssa.gov/mystatement.

But lawmakers on Capitol Hill tucked language into the federal budget that required SSA to come up with a plan to partially reinstate the earnings statements.

“Millions of Americans, including the 25 percent without Internet access, have no way to verify the accuracy of their Social Security benefits, or even plan for retirement without the mailed Social Security Earnings Statements,” John Runyan, executive director of Consumers for Paper Options, said this week in a statement.

Consumers for Paper Options calls itself a coalition established by the Envelope Manufacturers Association “to bring industry, non-profits and consumers together to address the government’s transition to Internet-only information and services at the exclusion of millions of citizens who still need paper-based information and services.”

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