President Witold Skwierczynski sent a letter to Acting Commissioner Colvin:
Acting Commissioner Colvin:
On January 9, 2017 a statement was issued by J. Jioni Palmer, Associate Commissioner for External Affairs, that SSA was suspending the mailing of paper Social Security Statements to workers under 60 years of age. The statement also indicated that anyone over 60 who has a MY Social Security account and anyone who is receiving SSA benefits will also no longer receive such statements.
Despite the AFGE's well known interest in maintaining this service for taxpayers, SSA did not notify the union of this action.
On January 11, 2017 at the union - management Forums meeting SSA confirmed that it was, in fact, suspending these Personal Earnings and Benefit Statements (PEBES).
This has been done despite the fact that legislation in effect since 1989 requires that such statements be sent to every wage earner on an annual basis.
The 1989 law requiring the mailing of SSA earnings and benefit statement was introduced by SSA champion Senator Patrick Moynihan. Senator Moynihan believed that it was essential for the survival of SSA that the public understood that they had a personal connection with Social Security. Sending wage earners a yearly statement that showed their yearly contribution to the program and provided them with a benefit estimate if they chose to file for Social Security benefits would solidify their personal connection to Social Security. Efforts by enemies of the program to attack Social Security and to modify or eliminate this earned benefit would be difficult if the public understood this personal connection to SSA.
The PEBES statement is the only outreach that SSA makes that reached every taxpayer. Such taxpayers received an annual statement in the mail that showed their earnings that were taxed and allowed them to correct erroneous postings and to plan their retirement or disability future by having a benefit estimate sent to them in the mail by the US government. This PEBES statement was certainly instrumental in solidifying the bond between wage earners and the Social Security program. If Congress tried to change the program wage earners would have the evidence of what they were due in their desk drawer.
Enemies of Social Security who desire to privatize the program, increase the retirement age and/or reduce benefits count on customers loss of faith in SSA. The PEBES statement strengthens the bonds that wage earners have with the program and insures that those who want to harm Social Security will have a difficult path.
The annual mailing does not require the wage earner to remember their password, to search through a website to find the vehicle for their desired information or to even make a request. Each year every wage earner gets notice on what they have paid in and what they are due. Everyone is thus invested in the program.
Eliminating the PEBES damages the bond. Only sending it to these who have no MY SSA accounts establishes a standard without any public discussion regarding the appropriateness for SSA to limit the requirements of the law to only a certain class of wage earners.
Elimination of the annual mailing of PEBES to most wage earners is short sighted and benefits those who are hostile to SSA. Any effort to undermine the personal connection of taxpayers to their Social Security account harms SSA today and in the future.
Apparently the estimated savings for the elimination of mailing most PEBES statements is only $11.3 million per year. This is paltry savings and unfortunately will have a potential significant adverse impact on the confidence of wage earners in the future of SSA and their expectations of benefits from the program.
I urge you in your final full day as Acting Commissioner to reverse this ill advised decision and restore the mailing of PEBES statements to all wage earners as required by the 1989 statute.
Thank you for you long and excellent service for SSA and good luck on your retirement.