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Posts Tagged ‘social security’

Most Support Social Security, But Not Sure About Reform

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Republican presidential hopefuls have been seizing on past comments from President Obama as proof that the current Social Security model does not work. President Obama remarked earlier in the year that he could not guarantee Social Security checks for the next generation. Newt Gingrich is one Republican hopeful who used these comments to ask young Americans why they would want to pay into a system like this. This exchange highlights two facts that both sides of the aisle seem to agree on – no one can guarantee Social Security checks will be going out in the future, and some reform is necessary in order to keep benefits going out to retired or disabled Americans and their families. Of course the problem is – what reforms do we implement?

A look at poll results of American opinions on Social Security topics reveals a few trends. First, many seem resigned to the fact that the Social Security retirement age is going to move up. Nearly 40 percent said in a poll last week that the age will be 80 by the year 2036. Second, there is not a lot of hope that politicians will do much about the problems facing Social Security. 63 percent do not think Social Security will remain fully funded as it is today (in fact, without change, in 2036, retirees will only get 77 percent of benefits they are due). Additionally, just over a third of Americans do not think that Social Security will even exist by 2036.

In contrast to the pessimistic opinion Americans have towards Social Security’s future, the majority of us like Social Security benefits and do not want to do anything that lessens them. For example, a few things that most Americans think are bad ideas regarding Social Security reform are:

  • Reducing benefits for people who retire early
  • Increasing the age at which people are able to retire and receive full benefits
  • Increasing Social Security taxes for everyone

What are your thoughts on the future of Social Security? Have you made any financial adjustments based on what you think might or might not happen in the next 20 to 30 years?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys

1995 Gingrich Comments Support Social Security

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Sixteen years ago, then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke strongly in support of Social Security. He called it “the most widely accepted government contract in America” and said “[i]t is also the single most popular government program.” When it comes to budgetary issues, Social Security should be off the table, he concluded.

Now, as a leading Republican presidential contender, Gingrich does not appear to be backing away from those comments, but he is putting forth proposals aimed at reforming the program. Last month, Gingrich offered a partial privatization Social Security plan that would create an optional program that people would direct much like an individual retirement account. Gingrich also supports a private alternative to Medicare. Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid often go hand-in-hand, as Medicare premiums come directly out of Social Security benefits and some Social Security programs like SSI benefits make a recipient eligible for Medicaid protection under certain conditions.

Some – many senior citizens’ groups, for example – fear that Gingrich’s privatization reforms would be disastrous. They worry that a system already facing severe financial problems would get even worse if benefits became tied to the fluctuations of the markets. Gingrich has offered a safety net in that the federal government would make up any difference between a person’s actual returns and those that they would have received under the traditional Social Security model, but critics believe that this may worsen Social Security’s financial situation, since funding the shortfall would require money from somewhere else.

Providing benefits to retired and disabled Americans, Social Security touches just about everyone’s life. How have you evaluated the proposals for reforming Social Security that have been circulating in recent months? What factors are important for you?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys

Social Security Under Pressure to Provide Quick Evaluations

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Another recent investigation into Social Security from The Wall Street Journal underlines how important it is for disability benefits applicants to keep trying and never give up hope. The investigation looked at how the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) pressured some of its doctors into making quicker decisions in order to deal with the backlog of applicants for disability benefits that the SSA faces. New problems arose, though – poor decisions that appeared to emphasize quantity over quality.

The article mentions what happened in one Baltimore, Maryland SSA branch. There, eye doctors were handling back-pain cases, and a dermatologist reviewed someone who had had a stroke. While the SSA countered that they were all medical doctors, which is true, the input of a specialist is invaluable for disability benefits cases. Many doctors in the Baltimore case had not practiced outside of their specialty for decades, according to the article. As a result, in more than a few cases, the SSA would deny benefits to those who should have received them, or grant benefits to those who should not be getting them.

The SSA plans to implement similar procedures in other states, which is likely to impact Oklahoma and its neighbors, which have some of the highest proportions of its residents receiving disability benefits in the country. Between 4.5 and 6.0 percent of Oklahoma residents receive disability benefits. In Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, more than 6 percent of the residents of those states receive benefits.

How important was a specialist’s diagnosis for your disability benefits? Did new medical testing from a specialist trump a previous finding that you should not receive benefits?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys

New Frontrunner Gingrich Proposes His Social Security Reform

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich now finds himself at the top of the Republican race to see who will head that party’s presidential ticket next fall. Polls have him and Mitt Romney running neck and neck at this point. As a new frontrunner, Gingrich has now tossed out his ideas for how to reform Social Security.

Like former frontrunner Herman Cain, Gingrich held up Chile as a model for a future Social Security system. Gingrich wants to move towards a 401k-style Social Security system where Americans will have the choice of putting their money in plans ranging from conservative bonds to aggressive stocks. To avoid problems caused by fluctuations in the markets, Gingrich proposed guaranteeing a minimum Social Security payment for those who opt into the system. Gingrich had big praise for his proposal, suggesting that it would increase the size of the economy by as much as $20 trillion.

As we discussed regarding Cain’s use of Chile as an exemplar, the system in place in Chile is far from perfect, though. There are substantial administrative costs for the funds from which Chileans can choose. Reforms were also necessary a few years ago because not enough people were participating in the system. If not enough participate, it is difficult for the program to cover its liabilities – a similar problem we foresee having in the US decades down the line. Additionally, normal fluctuations in the markets may not pose significant problems, but the market we have seen in the past three to four years has been chaotic. During these times, a private Social Security system can run into big financial difficulties as the system continues to pay out benefits despite being at record lows.

Many public employees use alternatives to Social Security here in the US. If you have used such a system and begun receiving benefits, what has your experience been?

Troutman & Troutman, P.C. – Tulsa Social Security disability attorneys