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Ways and Means Members Take Close Look at Social Security’s Financial Challenges

July 14, 2017

Today, the Social Security Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), held a hearing to examine the 2017 Social Security Trustees Report, which provides Congress estimates on Social Security programs’ financial health each year.

According to the report, released yesterday, Social Security’s combined Trust Funds – the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund – will not be able to pay full benefits in 2034, at which point beneficiaries would face a 23 percent benefit cut if action is not taken.

In response to these projected benefit cuts, Chairman Johnson said at the start of the hearing:

“That’s wrong and simply unacceptable … Millions of Americans rely on this important program now and millions more pay in with the expectation of future benefits. Congress has a responsibility to the American people to make sure that our children and grandchildren can count on Social Security, just like seniors and individuals with disabilities do today. We must take this responsibility seriously.”

Ranking Member John Larson (D-CT) agreed:

“We are in concurrence … I commend [Chairman Johnson] because he has been a stalwart in making sure that we address this issue … our desire, and I believe that to be true of everyone on the Committee, [is] to reach a conclusion where we make this solvent into the future for all generations.”

As Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) said:

There are a whole lot of major issues that are facing this country that have been over our heads for a long time and I believe are holding our economy back: tax reform, health care, infrastructure, but none more important to more people than Social Security. It affects such a large swath of our population. It is so critical to their everyday life.”

When Chairman Johnson asked about the need to address Social Security’s solvency challenges now – so beneficiaries are not harmed in the future – the Chief Actuary for the Social Security Administration, Steve Goss, explained:

“The one thing we know, and I think you [Chairman Johnson] alluded to at least some of this, is that a perfect example was the 1983 Amendments, the last major change we had [to Social Security], where one of the big factors in that was increasing the normal retirement age. That was implemented with a 17-year delay. So if we enact something relatively soon, even if it’s not implemented into the future, that gives the people who will be affected lots of advance warning, which is a really good thing. It also allows many more options to be considered than if we wait until the last minute. And it allows us to phase in changes more quickly. So it’s all good in acting sooner – even if there is some delay to implementation.”  

Emphasizing the importance of the hearing and Mr. Goss’ testimony, Chairman Johnson concluded:

“Social Security faces serious challenges. Americans deserve a fact-based conversation about the tough choices necessary so that Social Security is a program that our children and grandchildren can count on …. I look forward to continuing this conversation and working with all my colleagues to strengthen Social Security.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about today’s hearing.