Social Security Announces 1.7 Percent Benefit Increase for 2015
Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 64 million Americans will increase 1.7 percent in 2015, the Social Security Administration announced today.
The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that more than 58 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2015. Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2014. The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $118,500 from $117,000. Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the increase in the taxable maximum.
Information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at www.Medicare.gov.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated. To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.
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NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS: Attached is a fact sheet showing the effect of the various automatic adjustments.
Social Security Announces Representative Payee Pro Bono Pilot
Maryland Attorneys Offered Opportunity to Assist Residents in Need
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, announced the agency’s implementation of a
pro bono pilot in Maryland for attorneys interested in being a representative payee for a Social Security beneficiary. Representative payees provide crucial help to the most vulnerable individuals in our community with their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments.
“The Maryland Representative Payee
Pro Bono Pilot offers attorneys a chance to fulfill the Court of Appeals’ aspirational goal of providing pro bono services – by assisting the young, elderly, and disabled with their Social Security benefits,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “Attorneys are held to high ethical standards and will serve this at-risk population with the compassion and integrity they deserve.”
Any licensed Maryland attorney in good standing can volunteer for this pilot project by registering at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee/probonopilot.htm. Social Security will use the information provided to connect interested attorneys with beneficiaries in need of the services. The Maryland pilot will expand the network of available candidates to help assist those in need. “The
Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland supports the new pilot project and looks forward to working with the Social Security Administration in promoting this important opportunity to assist vulnerable individuals to the Maryland legal community,” stated Sharon E. Goldsmith, Executive Director of PBRC. PBRC serves as the designated
pro bono arm of the Maryland State Bar Association.
Representative payees provide a key service to Social Security recipients who are unable to manage their benefits. Nearly 21 percent of people who need help managing their payments do not have family members or trusted friends who can help them. Payees receive monthly payments on behalf of the beneficiary and use the funds to meet the individual’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. They also keep records and ensure that Social Security funds are used to care for the recipient. Once the pilot is successful in Maryland, the agency will consider expanding to states nationwide.
Acting Commissioner Colvin reinforced that “representative payees play a vital role in serving our beneficiaries and creating a stable living environment for the most vulnerable people in our society. I encourage eligible Maryland attorneys to participate in this pilot.”
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Social Security Opens New National Support Center
Data Center Allows Agency to Meet Growing Demands of the Public
Social Security announced the opening of a new National Support Center (NSC) with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The state-of-the art data center is more modern and energy efficient with enhanced disaster recovery capabilities and will meet the agency’s anticipated IT workloads for at least the next 20 years. The NSC meets industry and federal data center standards.
"The data housed in the NSC is critical to our day-to-day operations and essential to maintaining our computer systems and electronic services," said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. "Social Security has always been known as a 'can-do' agency with world-class customer service; this new facility allows us to meet the growing demands of the millions of individuals who count on us each and every day."
The National Support Center (NSC) maintains demographic, wage, and benefit information on almost every American. The new facility will replace a previous data center and allow the agency to take advantage of modern technology. Construction of the new facility was made possible through $500 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) of 2009 and was delivered on time and under budget.
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Agency Resumes Mailing Social Security Statements
Encourages People to Create a Secure my Social Security Account to
Obtain Their Statement Online, Anytime
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the agency will resume the periodic mailing of Social Security
Statements—once every five years for most workers-- while encouraging everyone to create a secure
my Social Security account to immediately access their
Statement online, anytime. The
Statement is a valuable financial planning tool providing workers age 18 and older with important individualized information regarding their earnings, tax contributions, and estimates for future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits.
“We have listened to our customers, advocates, and Congress; and renewing the mailing of the
Statement reinforces our commitment to provide the public with an easy, efficient way to obtain an estimate of their future Social Security benefits,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “I encourage everyone to create their own secure
my Social Security account to obtain immediate access to their
Statement online, anytime.”
Beginning this month, workers attaining ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, and 60 who are not receiving Social Security benefits and who are not registered for a
my Social Security account will receive the
Statement in the mail about 3 months before their birthday. After age 60, people will receive a
Statement every year. The agency expects to send nearly 48 million
Statements each year.
The Social Security
Statement helps people plan for their financial future. In addition to providing future benefit estimates, the
Statement highlights a person’s complete earnings history, allowing workers to verify the accuracy of their earnings. This is important because an individual’s future benefit amount is determined by the amount of their earnings over their lifetime. To date, more than 14 million people have established a personalized
my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount
my Social Security account, people may access the
Statement from the comfort of their home, office or library whenever they choose. Individuals who currently receive benefits should sign up for a
my Social Security account to manage their benefit payments and, when the need arises, get an instant benefit verification letter, change their address and phone number, and start or change direct deposit of their benefit payment.
Acting Commissioner Colvin reinforced that “whether conducting business with Social Security via the Internet, mail, telephone or face-to-face, we will continue to provide convenient, cost-effective, secure and quality customer service to meet the needs of the public we serve.”
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Social Security Launches 1st National
Social Security Week
In honor of the 79th Anniversary of the Social Security Act, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, invites everyone to celebrate the first National
Social Security Week. From August 17 through 23, 2014, Social Security will host numerous events to highlight the many benefits of a
Social Security account, a personalized online account people can establish at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount beginning in their working years and continuing throughout the time they receive Social Security benefits.
"I am excited about the first National
Social Security Week. A
Social Security account is a convenient, cost-effective and secure way for the public to do business with us from the comfort of their home, office or library," Acting Commissioner Colvin said.
Social Security account, people can take control of their future by accessing their online
Statement, which is a great financial planning tool that provides workers age 18 and over their complete earnings history and estimates for future retirement, disability and survivors benefits. The
Statement allows workers to verify the accuracy of their earnings each year. This is important since earnings are the basis for determining future retirement benefits. Individuals who currently receive benefits can sign up for a
my Social Security account to get an instant benefit verification letter, change their address and phone number, and start or change direct deposit of their benefit payment.
To date, over 13 million people have established an account. Events during
Social Security week include a Twitter chat on "
my Social Security and Planning for Your Financial Future;"
my Social Security sign-up events nationwide at local churches, libraries, federal government agencies, large employers, youth centers/organizations, senior centers, and colleges and universities; social media outreach including a Thunderclap campaign, and a National radio media tour.
"I am proud Social Security continues to provide world-class customer service that meets the changing needs of the public," Acting Commissioner Colvin said. "For those who aren't comfortable with the Internet and prefer to conduct business with us by telephone or face-to-face, we remain committed to maintaining a network of local offices to provide our services."
For more information, please go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
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Social Security, Office of Inspector General Partner with
State of Michigan on Anti-Fraud Unit
Cooperative Effort among Federal, State Agencies to Prevent Disability Fraud
The Social Security Administration, its Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Michigan Department of Human Services today announced a new Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Unit in Detroit. As part of the nationwide CDI Program, the Detroit Unit will identify and prevent Social Security disability fraud throughout the State of Michigan.
The CDI program is one of Social Security’s most successful anti-fraud initiatives, contributing to the integrity of Federal disability programs. CDI Units bring together personnel from Social Security, its OIG, State Disability Determination Services (DDS), and local law enforcement agencies to analyze and investigate suspicious or questionable Social Security disability claims, to help resolve questions of potential fraud
before benefits are ever paid. CDI Unit efforts help disability examiners make informed decisions, ensure payment accuracy, and generate significant taxpayer savings, for both Federal and State programs.
“Social Security’s most successful collaboration with the OIG in the area of disability fraud investigation and prevention is the CDI program. These units play a critical role in preventing fraud and investigating complex conspiracies and we are excited to establish a new unit in Detroit,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “I thank the Michigan Department of Human Services for their involvement, and Social Security will continue to expand the number of CDI units throughout the country to combat fraud and preserve public trust in our programs.”
With the opening of the Detroit Unit, the CDI program now consists of 26 units covering 22 States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Detroit CDI Unit is the first of seven new CDI units that SSA and the OIG plan to establish by the end of fiscal year 2016, as part of a renewed agency effort to root out disability fraud and preserve benefits for those who truly deserve them.
“For more than 16 years, CDI has had tremendous success in identifying and preventing disability fraud and abuse,” said Social Security Inspector General Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr. “We’re very pleased to partner with the Michigan Department of Human Services to expand our efforts to combat fraud and to ensure the integrity of Social Security’s disability programs for the citizens of Michigan.”
The Detroit CDI Unit will include an OIG special agent, a Social Security Administration program expert, a State disability examiner and an investigative analyst, and two investigators from the Michigan OIG. Both the Michigan DDS and OIG operate within the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS).
“I am excited about this state and federal partnership. Working together, we can be better stewards of taxpayer dollars and make sure that disability assistance helps people who are truly in need,” said Michigan DHS Director Maura D. Corrigan. “Cracking down on fraud has been one of my top priorities. The CDI Unit provides another important tool for these important efforts.”
Social Security Administration and its OIG jointly established the CDI program in 1997. Since the CDI program was established, CDI efforts have contributed to $2.8 billion in projected savings to Social Security’s programs, and $1.8 billion in projected savings to related Federal and State programs. For more information on the CDI program, please visit the OIG website.
Public citizens who would like to report suspected disability fraud should contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline at http://oig.ssa.gov/report; send U.S. Mail to PO Box 17768, Baltimore, MD, 21235; fax (410) 597-0118; or call (800) 269-0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.
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Social Security Board of Trustees: No Change in Projected Year of
Trust Fund Reserve Depletion
The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2033, unchanged from last year, with 77 percent of benefits still payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2016, also unchanged from last year's estimate, with 81 percent of benefits still payable.
In the 2014 Annual Report to Congress, the Trustees announced:
- The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2019. Beginning with 2020, the cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
- The projected point at which the combined trust fund reserves will become depleted, if Congress does not act before then, comes in 2033 – the same as projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits.
- The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.88 percent of taxable payroll -- 0.16 percentage point larger than in last year's report.
"The projected depletion dates of the Social Security Trust Funds have not changed, and three-fourths of benefits would still be payable after depletion. But the fact remains that Congress can ensure the long-term solvency of this vital program by taking action," said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. "The Disability Insurance Trust Fund's projected depletion year remains 2016, and legislative action is needed as soon as possible to address this financial imbalance."
Other highlights of the Trustees Report include:
- Income including interest to the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $855 billion in 2013. ($726 billion in net contributions, $21 billion from taxation of benefits, $103 billion in interest, and $5 billion in reimbursements from the General Fund of the Treasury—almost exclusively resulting from the 2012 payroll tax legislation)
- Total expenditures from the combined OASDI Trust Funds amounted to $823 billion in 2013.
- Non-interest income fell below program costs in 2010 for the first time since 1983. Program costs are projected to exceed non-interest income throughout the remainder of the 75-year period.
- The asset reserves of the combined OASDI Trust Funds increased by $32 billion in 2013 to a total of $2.76 trillion.
- During 2013, an estimated 163 million people had earnings covered by Social Security and paid payroll taxes.
- Social Security paid benefits of $812 billion in calendar year 2013. There were about 58 million beneficiaries at the end of the calendar year.
- The cost of $6.2 billion to administer the program in 2013 was a very low 0.7 percent of total expenditures.
- The combined Trust Fund asset reserves earned interest at an effective annual rate of 3.8 percent in 2013.
The Board of Trustees is comprised of six members. Four serve by virtue of their positions with the federal government: Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Treasury and Managing Trustee; Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Sylvia M. Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services; and Thomas E. Perez, Secretary of Labor. The two public trustees are Charles P. Blahous III and Robert D. Reischauer.
The 2014 Trustees Report will be posted at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2014/ on Monday.
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Social Security Extends Access to Benefit Verification
Multiple Options Available
Today, the Social Security Administration announced that local Social Security offices would continue to provide benefit verification letters until further notice. Providing services when and where the public needs them remains central to Social Security’s efforts, while continuing to encourage federal, state, and local agencies to take advantage of Social Security’s data exchange programs that can serve customers more efficiently and effectively.
“We appreciate the feedback from members of Congress, our community stakeholders and agency partners. We want to ensure that we meet the needs of our customers in a way that is convenient for them and also cost-effective and secure for all,” Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin stated. “I believe that government agencies can work closer together to assist our mutual customers.”
Over the last few years, Social Security has invested in technology that allows most government agencies and many other organizations to verify their clients’ Social Security benefits electronically without requiring them to visit a local Social Security office.
“We recognize that some members of the public may require in-person assistance and we will have a presence in local communities,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “We also want to ensure that the public is aware that they can access many of our services without making a trip to a local field office.”
Members of the public with Internet access can obtain benefit verification information by creating a
my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
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Social Security Leads Efforts to Improve
Customer Service across Federal Government
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has published the plan for the Customer Service Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal on the performance.gov website. This CAP Goal is one of 15 CAP Goals developed to support President Obama’s management agenda. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, serves as a Goal Leader with Lisa Danzig, the Associate Director for Personnel and Performance at OMB.
“Customer service is part of our DNA here at Social Security, and we are happy to provide leadership in this important area,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “For all the federal agencies that interact with citizens or businesses, our customers expect and deserve world-class customer service. Through this CAP Goal, we renew our commitment to improve service to the American people.”
Staff from Social Security and OMB identified the high-level CAP Goal strategies after consulting with dozens of other federal agencies and external organizations.
Highlights of the plan include:
- An online and in-person network that federal employees anywhere can join and share ideas and tools for improving customer satisfaction
- A nationwide award program for teams and individuals who excel at customer service
- A better way to improve transparency and measure customer satisfaction across the federal government
For more information on the CAP goal, please click here http://www.performance.gov/node/3400/view?view=public#progress-update
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Social Security Defines Policy for Same-Sex Married Couples
Agency Extends Benefits Broadly, Subject to Legal Constraints
Social Security has published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship. These instructions come in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision in
U.S. vs. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
This latest policy development lets the agency recognize some non-marital legal relationships as marriages for determining entitlement to benefits. These instructions also allow Social Security to begin processing many claims in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or non-marital legal relationships. We have consulted with the Department of Justice and determined that the Social Security Act requires the agency to follow state law in Social Security cases. The new policy also addresses Supplemental Security Income claims based on same-sex relationships.
“As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “We are bound by the law within the Social Security Act, and we have to respect state laws. We remain committed to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity, and respect.”
If a person believes he or she may be entitled to or eligible for benefits, they are encouraged to apply now.
To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.
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Noah and Sophia Win Social Security's
Most Popular Baby Names for 2013
Noah Floats to the Top; Jacob Had Held Top Spot Since 1999
Noah and Sophia are America's most popular baby names for 2013. First time atop the list is Noah, the first new boys name at number one since 1960 other than Jacob or Michael, and the third straight year for Sophia. This is huge news in the world of baby names with Noah rising to the top, unseating Jacob. Proving to be America's favorite before the 2014 Russell Crowe movie
Noah climbed atop the box office charts! There is only one new name in the top 10 this year—Daniel, but he has been there before. Also, be on the lookout for another Sophia crawling up the list—Sofia with an "f" has reached her highest spot ever at number 13.
Here are the top 10 boys and girls names for 2013:
For all the top baby names of 2013, go to Social Security's website, http://www.socialsecurity.gov.
The birth of a child is a wonderful time for families. While having fun with the baby names list, Acting Commissioner Carolyn. W. Colvin encourages everyone to visit the agency's website and create a
Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index has ranked Social Security for top-rated E-government services for Federal websites. Online services include
Social Security, a personalized online account that people can use beginning in their working years and continuing throughout the time they receive Social Security benefits.
Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries can have instant access to their benefit verification letter, payment history, and earnings record by establishing a
Social Security account. Beneficiaries also can change their address and start or change direct deposit information online.
Individuals age 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can also sign up for a
Social Security account to get a personalized online
Statement. The online
Statement provides eligible workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information, and estimates of future benefits they can use to plan for their retirement.
The agency began compiling the baby name list in 1997, with names dating to back to 1880. At the time of a child's birth, parents supply the name to the agency when applying for a child's Social Security card, thus making Social Security America's source for the most popular baby names.
Each year, the list reveals the effect of pop-culture on naming trends. This year's winners for biggest jump in popularity in the Top 1,000 are Jayceon and Daleyza. The fastest riser for boys, Jayceon, gained popularity as it is the birth name of VH1's cable reality series "
Marrying The Game" star and award-winning rapper The Game. The show follows the life of Jayceon "The Game" Taylor, as a rapper and father of three. The show premiered in late 2012 and obviously had its effect on naming trends throughout 2013.
On the girls' side, Daleyza, may have been influenced by a popular Spanish-language cable TV series, "
Larrymania," which airs on mun2. Daleyza is the young daughter of Larry Hernandez, an American regional Mexican singer and reality TV star. The name increased in popularity by more than 3,000 spots, so the show undoubtedly had an influence.
The second fastest riser for boys was Milan, and for girls, Marjorie. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov to view the entire list.
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Social Security Announces New Fraud Prevention Unit In New York
Specialized Unit Will Identify Trends to Prevent Fraud Nationwide
Today, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, announced the establishment of a centralized fraud prevention unit in New York City to identify potential fraud and detect fraud trends that can be applied to disability cases nationwide. This unit consists of experienced disability examiners who are currently involved in the re-review of disability medical decisions resulting from recent indictments in Puerto Rico and New York City. Using their specialized experience, they will collaborate with Social Security systems personnel to help build data analytics to detect and prevent fraud at the earliest possible point in the disability decision-making process.
"Social Security strives to preserve the public's trust in our programs and we have no tolerance for fraud. We are aggressive in our efforts to detect and prevent fraud," said Acting Commissioner Colvin, noting that Social Security's anti-fraud approach has resulted in a fraud incidence rate that is a fraction of one percent. "The employees in our anti-fraud unit will be our national experts, and we plan to compile data from their work to help us develop further analytical tools to find potential fraud."
This first-of-its-kind unit will start with 20 disability examiners at the Addabbo Federal Building in Jamaica, New York. Based on the trends found in the Puerto Rico and New York cases, along with further analysis of doctors' reports, the unit will use their findings to help create the systems and data analytics that Social Security will use for disability applications nationwide. As these systems develop and begin to identify new cases of potential fraud, the New York fraud prevention unit will analyze those cases to prevent fraud from happening before the agency makes a disability decision and authorizes payments.
Acting Commissioner Colvin added, "To those who would try to cheat us: We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to recover any money you've stolen from the American people."
If a member of the public suspects fraud, they should contact the Social Security Office of the Inspector General at
1-800-269-0271, or visit
and click on "Report Fraud, Waste, or Abuse."
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