HEARING ADVISORY: Chairman Johnson Announces Hearing on Social Security’s Finances

July 8, 2011 — Hearing Advisory   

U.S. Congressman Sam Johnson (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security announced today that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Social Security’s current benefit expenditures, proposed changes to future benefits and the impact those changes would have on the program, future beneficiaries, workers, and the economy.  The hearing will take place on Friday, July 8, 2011 in B-318 Rayburn House Office Building, beginning at 9:00 a.m.

In view of the limited time available to hear witnesses, oral testimony at this hearing will be from invited witnesses only.  However, any individual or organization not scheduled for an oral appearance may submit a written statement for consideration by the Committee and for inclusion in the printed record of the hearing.  A list of invited witnesses will follow.


The Social Security Act (P.L. 74-271) was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 14, 1935.  Initially, Social Security was focused on the income needs of retired workers age 65 and older.  Soon, protections for other vulnerable populations were added.  The Social Security Act Amendments of 1939 (P.L. 76-379) shifted the emphasis from protection of the individual worker to protection of the family by authorizing payments to the spouse and minor children of a retired worker, (dependents’ benefits) and survivors’ benefits to certain family members in the event of the death of a worker.  The Social Security Act Amendments of 1956 (P.L. 84-880) created the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program to provide protection against economic insecurity resulting from a disabled worker’s loss of earnings.

Social Security continues to play a key role in preserving the economic security of Americans.  About one-in-six Americans receives a Social Security benefit today.  For a third of the elderly, Social Security is virtually their only income.  Poverty rates among the elderly fell from 35.2 percent in 1959 to less than 10 percent in 2008 — a reduction of almost three-quarters in the last 49 years.  Younger workers and their families receive valuable disability and survivors insurance protection.  In fact, about one-in-three Social Security beneficiaries is not a retired worker.

According to the 2011 Annual Report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, in calendar year 2010, 54 million retired workers and their families, disabled workers and their families, and survivors of deceased workers received $713 billion in Social Security benefits.  By 2035, Social Security costs as a percent of GDP will increase 28 percent, from 4.85 percent of GDP in 2011 to 6.22 percent of GDP in 2035.

The 2011 Annual Report of the Social Security Trustees again highlighted the financing challenges facing the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and the Disability Insurance (DI) programs.  The trustees project permanent and growing cash flow deficits and estimate that by 2036 the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds will be exhausted.  At that point, revenues would cover only 77 percent of benefit payments.  The DI Trust Fund is projected to become exhausted in 2018, at which time revenues would cover only 86 percent of benefit payments.  The Public Trustees expressed the need for action soon in order to be able to protect vulnerable populations and those at or near retirement age.

The Social Security actuaries have estimated a number of proposals to adjust benefits, including those put forward by the President’s Fiscal Commission, including:  making the retirement benefit formula more progressive, providing an enhanced minimum benefit for low wage workers, altering Social Security’s Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) by shifting to the “chained CPI,” increasing benefits for aged beneficiaries, and gradually increasing the early and full retirement age.

In announcing the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) stated,We need to make sure Social Security is safe, secure and sustainable. Congress must act and the sooner we do so, the sooner we can protect those who are most vulnerable, including current retirees and those nearing retirement.  And for younger workers and families, we have a responsibility to provide certainty about the future of their Social Security.


The hearing will focus on Social Security’s benefit expenditures, how benefits have changed over time, options for change, and their impacts.  Also, efforts by the SSA to inform workers of their future benefits through the Social Security Statement will be examined.  


Please Note: Any person(s) and/or organization(s) wishing to submit for the hearing record must follow the appropriate link on the hearing page of the Committee website and complete the informational forms. From the Committee homepage, https://waysandmeans.house.gov, select “Hearings.”  Select the hearing for which you would like to submit, and click on the link entitled, “Click here to provide a submission for the record.”  Once you have followed the online instructions, submit all requested information. ATTACH your submission as a Word or WordPerfect document, in compliance with the formatting requirements listed below, by the close of business on Friday, July 29, 2011.  Finally, please note that due to the change in House mail policy, the U.S. Capitol Police will refuse sealed-package deliveries to all House Office Buildings. For questions, or if you encounter technical problems, please call (202) 225-1721 or (202) 225-3625.


The Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.  As always, submissions will be included in the record according to the discretion of the Committee.  The Committee will not alter the content of your submission, but we reserve the right to format it according to our guidelines.  Any submission provided to the Committee by a witness, any supplementary materials submitted for the printed record, and any written comments in response to a request for written comments must conform to the guidelines listed below.  Any submission or supplementary item not in compliance with these guidelines will not be printed, but will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.

1. All submissions and supplementary materials must be provided in Word or WordPerfect format and MUST NOT exceed a total of 10 pages, including attachments. Witnesses and submitters are advised that the Committee relies on electronic submissions for printing the official hearing record.

2. Copies of whole documents submitted as exhibit material will not be accepted for printing. Instead, exhibit material should be referenced and quoted or paraphrased.  All exhibit material not meeting these specifications will be maintained in the Committee files for review and use by the Committee.

3. All submissions must include a list of all clients, persons and/or organizations on whose behalf the witness appears.  A supplemental sheet must accompany each submission listing the name, company, address, telephone, and fax numbers of each witness.

The Committee seeks to make its facilities accessible to persons with disabilities.  If you are in need of special accommodations, please call 202-225-1721 or 202-226-3411 TTD/TTY in advance of the event (four business days notice is requested).  Questions with regard to special accommodation needs in general (including availability of Committee materials in alternative formats) may be directed to the Committee as noted above.

Note: All Committee advisories and news releases are available on the World Wide Web at http://www.waysandmeans.house.gov/.

SUBCOMMITTEE: Social Security