Millions of people, including about half the federal work force and 120,000 already-retired civil servants, will be zapped in their Social Security benefits under a proposal before Senate-House conferees studying budget revision plans.

The budget reconciliation packages under consideration would eliminate the minimum Social Security benefit that goes to more than 3 million Americans, many of them former federal workers and military personnel who qualify for Social Security payments. Nobody would lose earned benefits. But everybody would lose automatic entitlement to the minimum payment that now runs just over $122 per month.

Persons eligible for Social Security payments now, and in future, would still get them. But there would be no minimum floor or amount guaranteed them by law. Instead they would get whatever they are entitled to based on service and earnings for work covered by Social Security.

Example: Everyone entitled to benefits now gets at least the minimum amount even though many peoples' work records and contributions to Social Security would mean they should get less. Eliminating the minimum means that benefits of everyone (3 million people) now receiving the minimum would be recomputed. Many who now get the minimum-level benefit would get less under recomputation. People retiring in future would be subject to the same what-you-earned-is-what-you-get guidelines.

The proposed changes are a big deal to federal workers, since about half of them are already entitled to Social Security benefits, or will earn entitlement through moonlighting or for work after they retire from government. e

The recomputation of benefits for those getting the minimum will take months (and thousands of man years of work) and probably would not show up in the form of reduced Social Security benefits until sometime in April of next year. Persons retiring after the change becomes effective -- assuming it does -- would get what they are entitled to, but with no minimum guarantee.

More than 200 Senate and House members, from various committees, are taking part in the budget reconcilliation conference. Conferees on the Social Security changes will come from the Senate and House Budget committees, and the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committee. If you think the changes are great, or terrible, they are the people to call. The elimination of the minimum benefit will not take away any earned benefit from anyone. But it will trim the monthly Social Security entitlement of hundreds of thousands of people now getting the minimum, and trim future benefits for future retirees.