Federal Manager's Daily Report

A House committee has approved a bill to require the Social Security Administration to again mail annual benefits estimates statements in the quantities it once did, the latest in a series of events that have become something of a lesson in the difficulties of shifting legacy services to less costly delivery methods.

SSA’s traditional policy was to mail such a statement annually to all wage earners over age 25 who are not drawing benefits; in 2010, 155 million such statements were sent at a cost of $65 million. In 2012, the SSA launched the mySocialSecurity feature on its website, which provides those estimates on request among other services, seeking to save money by cutting back on mailings by encouraging people to use that feature instead.

However, since then the agency has faced pressure to maintain paper services from Congress on grounds that some members of the public do not have regular Internet access or do not want to have online accounts with the agency.

As a result, the policy on mailings has changed several times; currently, the SSA automatically mails statements only to those age 60 and above who are not receiving benefits and who are not enrolled online—at an annual cost of $7.6 million to print and mail about 14.6 million statements, according to an inspector general report issued early this year.

HR-3417, approved by the Ways and Means Committee, contains among many other provisions a requirement that the SSA return to its original policy.