Social Security Plans to End Mailing Annual Statements

Apr 8, 2011, 09:49 by Victor Ryan

The Social Security statements that are mailed annually to more than 150 million Americans, which project future benefit payments, will cease to be sent as part of an agency cost-cutting plan.

Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue told the Associated Press that instead of sending the paper statements via the U.S. Postal Service, which costs the government around $70 million, online access to statements will be made available by the end of the year.

That is, if security issues are resolved. If not, the mailing of paper statements, which projects a person's future benefit payments based on earnings and retirement age, will be resumed.

"We'll provide it, we expect, one way or another, before the end of the calendar year," Astrue told the AP. "We're just right now trying to figure out the most cost-effective and convenient way to provide that to the American public."

Critics of the new plan have already emerged and is made up mostly of older working Americans and their advocates, the AP reports. The concern is older Americans nearing retirement may not have the computer skills necessary or access to computers in order to plan their retirement.

Max Richtman, executive vice president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, is among those critical of the new plan.

"As far as the information being available online, that's not going to help a lot of people we work with," Richtman said.

"This was a concrete piece of paper, a document that workers would receive that would give them confidence in the program. Otherwise, they hear a lot of the debate in Washington. It's going to be there; it's not going to be there."

Despite the concerns of some older Americans, Astrue said the Social Security website can be even more beneficial than annual paper statements. He noted it provides users very accurate benefit estimates and also allows for people to run a variety of retirement scenarios.