Legislative History


P.L. 98-21, (H.R. 1900)
Social Security Amendments of 1983-Signed on April 20, 1983

  • Makes comprehensive changes in Social Security coverage, financing, and benefit structure. Following are major provisions of the legislation which incorporate the recommendations of the National Commission on Social Security Reform:
  • Covers under Social Security the following groups: (1) Federal employees hired on or after January 1, 1984; (2) current employees of the legislative branch not participating in the Civil Service Retirement System on December 31, 1983; and (3) all Members of Congress, the President and the Vice-President, Federal judges, and other executive-level political appointees of the Federal Government, effective January 1, 1984. (See P.L. 98-118 and P.L. 98-369 for a modification of this provision. Also see P.L. 98-168 for a related provision.)
  • Covers under Social Security on a mandatory basis all employees of tax-exempt nonprofit organizations as of January 1, 1984. (See P.L. 98-364 for modification of this provision.)
  • Prohibits States from terminating Social Security coverage for State and local employees.
  • Continues eligibility for Social Security benefits for disabled widow(er)s, disabled surviving divorced spouses, and surviving divorced spouses who remarry after entitlement.
  • Increases benefits for disabled widows or widowers who become eligible for benefits before age 60.
  • Permits a divorced spouse age 62 or over who has been divorced for at least 2 years to draw spouse's benefits whether or not the former spouse who is eligible for retirement benefits has retired or applied for benefits.
  • Provides a different method for computing widows and widowers benefits that will increase benefits for many people whose spouses died before reaching age 62.
  • Eliminates virtually all remaining gender-based distinctions.
  • Requires the Secretary of HHS, in consultation with the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee to report on the effects of earnings sharing plans and make recommendations concerning the time periods for implementing earnings sharing proposals.
  • Delayed the June 1983 cost-of-living adjustment until December 1983 (January 3,1984 checks) and provides for future adjustments payable in January rather than July of each year.
  • Eliminates windfall Social Security benefits for workers who are first eligible after 1985 for both a pension from non-covered employment and Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
  • Provides for cost-of-living increases based on prices or wages--whichever is less--if the trust funds fall below a specified level.
  • Advances scheduled increases in Social Security tax rates. Social Security tax rates (which include the Hospital Insurance tax rates) for employers and employees will increase to 7.0 percent in 1984, {1} 7.05 percent in 1985, 7.15 percent in 1986-87, 7.51 percent in 1988-89 and 7.65 percent in 1990 and thereafter.

{1} Subject to a credit of 0.3 percent for employees.

  • Increases tax rates on self-employment income equal to the combined employee-employer rates and provides credits against tax liability to offset part of the increase.
  • Accelerates to twice monthly the frequency with which States are required to deposit withheld Social Security contributions.
  • Reauthorizes interfund borrowing among the three Social Security trust funds for calendar years 1983 through 1987 with repayment by the end of 1989.
  • Provides for crediting the OASDI and HI trust funds at the beginning of each month with revenues to be received during the month and for special reports by the Boards of Trustees in the event the trust fund assets fall below 20 percent of annual expenditures.
  • Requires operations of the four Social Security trust funds to be shown as a separate function within the Federal budget for FY 1985-1992 and removes operation of the OASDI and HI trust funds from the unified budget beginning in FY 1993.
  • Required the Chairmen of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee to appoint a panel to conduct a study concerning the establishment of the Social Security Administration as an independent agency.
  • Transfers to the Social Security trust funds from the general fund lump sum payments for: (1) the value of the additional Social Security benefits arising from pre-1957 gratuitous military service wage credits; (2) the amount equivalent to the combined employer-employee Social Security taxes on the gratuitous military service wage credits for the period from 1957-83; (reimburses the trust funds on an annual basis for employer-employee taxes on such wage credits for service after 1983); and (3) the amount of past and future OASDI benefit checks (including interest) that are not presented for payment within 6 months.
  • Beginning in 1984, includes up to one-half of Social Security benefits as taxable income for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income, combined with half their benefits and any tax-exempt interest they may have exceeds $25,000 for a single taxpayer and $32,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. Benefits received by married taxpayers filing separately are taxable without regard to other income. Appropriates amounts equal to estimated tax liability to the Social Security trust funds.
  • Changes the earnings test for beneficiaries age 65 and over so that $1 in benefits will be withheld for each $3 of earnings above the annual exempt amount, beginning in 1990.
  • Increases the delayed retirement credit in gradual steps from 3 percent for workers reaching full benefit retirement age (age 65) before 1990, to 8 percent for workers reaching full benefit retirement age after 2008.
  • Raises the age of eligibility for unreduced retirement benefits in two stages to 67 by the year 2027. Workers born in 1938 will be the first group affected by the gradual increase. Benefits will still be available at age 62, but with greater reduction.
  • Requires the Secretary of HHS to conduct a comprehensive study and analysis of the implications of the changes in retirement age for those individuals affected by the provision for increasing full retirement age who, because they are engaging in physically demanding employment or because they are unable to extend their working careers for health reasons, may not find their work lifetimes are increased as a result of general improvements in longevity.
  • Suspends auxiliary or survivors benefits to aliens outside the U.S. for more than 6 consecutive calendar months unless the beneficiary had resided in the U.S. for at least 5 years and, during that period, the relationship of the beneficiary to the worker which is the basis for payment was in existence.
  • Extends the current limitation on payment of disability insurance benefits to convicted felons while in prison to include old-age and survivors insurance benefits.
  • Requires the establishment of a system under which the States can voluntarily contract with HHS to supply information derived from official death certificates to facilitate comparison with benefit program records in order to prevent payments from being made to deceased persons.
  • Requires the issuance of all new and replacement Social Security cards issued after October 30, 1983, on banknote paper.
  • The law made other changes in Social Security, Medicare and Supplemental Security Income. For instance, it provided for an increase in SSI benefit rates beginning with July 1983 by $20 for an individual and $30 for a couple. Future automatic SSI cost-of-living increases will be made in January.
Prepared by SSA's Office of Legislation & Congressional Affairs, 11/26/84