Everything you’ve been reading or hearing lately about the current state of Social Security is pure conjecture.
That’s because the Social Security Administration‘s (SSA’s) Board of Trustees hasn’t released its annual report to Congress – which was due on April 1.
You see, while the SSA is an agency independent of the U.S. government (which is why Social Security checks still go out amid a government shutdown), it is monitored by Uncle Sam – namely, by Congress.
And for its part, the government hasn’t done much to pressure the SSA into action.
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Overall, the SSA report’s tardiness has become a matter of public concern…
That’s because it contains crucial information on the program’s health, including:
- Estimates of future income and payments for at least the next five years
- An update on the actuarial (analyzed) status of the trust funds
The trustees are also expected to make a statement about whether the program’s two trust funds are in actuarial balance. Those two funds are the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund.
Delays with this information have led some of the more “fringe” fiscal pundits to make wild speculations about Social Security’s future.
And it has prompted even the most pragmatic of investors to worry about their financial futures under the SSA.
Have a look at the SSA’s history of tardy report disclosures, why they’ve gone largely unpunished, and how you can avoid being a part of the agency’s and Uncle Sam’s collateral damage…
For Social Security Trustees, Punctuality Is the Law
Here’s the deal: Members of the SSA’s Board of Trustees are required by law to issue a report about how the 81-year-old program is performing financially.
From Section 201(c)(2) of the Social Security Act of 1935:
“[Trustees must report] on the operation of the Trust Funds during the preceding fiscal year and on their expected operation and status during the next ensuing five fiscal years.”
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This section goes on to stipulate that trustees must follow a timeline with the report that culminates in its submission to Congress no later than the first of April.
If the report misses that due date, then it’s considered tardy under the SSA code provision.
At this point, one might assume some punitive measure would be enforced on the trustees to get them to hurry the heck up.
There’s No Penalty When the SSA Report Is Late
That’s right – in the event that the SSA report is late, nothing happens.
And it was this loophole that former President Barack Obama‘s administration consistently took advantage of…
Under POTUS 44, not once was the SSA report turned in on time. It came close to being “semi-punctual” in 2012, when the trustees sent their final version to Congress on April 23 – about three weeks late.
The SSA trustees committed their worst offense under Obama in 2010…
That’s when the board didn’t transmit its annual findings until Aug. 5 of that year – over four months past due. That’s four months that the government – and the public – was without updated information on the agency’s income, payments, and funds.
President Obama’s administration did nothing.
And now it seems President Donald Trump‘s White House may be getting just as lackadaisical about the report…
For the SSA, No News Is Bad News
Trump’s administration has already let the SSA slide past its April 1 deadline.
But in POTUS 45’s defense, it did take a while to build up his administration…
In fact, the overall pace of Trump’s cabinet confirmation following his Jan. 20 inauguration was slower than other recent presidents, The Washington Post reported on April 27. And he had fewer nominees confirmed on Inauguration Day than Presidents Obama, George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton.
Fewer confirmations for Trump meant fewer people overseeing fiscal matters that pertain to the government, which include any changes the SSA report might render necessary (such as a cost-of-living adjustment increase).
For example, Health and Human Services Director Tom Price wasn’t confirmed until Feb. 10.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin wasn’t sworn in until Feb. 13.
And after former Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Puzder withdrew his nomination to be the next Labor Department secretary on Feb. 15, Congress took two full months to confirm his replacement: one-time U.S. Century Bank Chair Alex Acosta on April 27.
So, it makes some sense that Trump’s White House hasn’t had the manpower to hold the SSA to its deadline.
But this excuse becomes less viable by the day. Indeed, the public still hasn’t heard a peep about the report’s progress or tentative deadline – not from the government and not from the SSA.
And its delay could provoke some Americans to make poor investment choices…
For example, some folks could take the report’s delay to represent some obstacle even the government can’t overcome.
These delays could, for instance, have to do with the board’s 2014 disclosure that the program is looking at insolvency by the year 2034.
Since that revelation, the trustees have been including projections about the 2034 deadline in their annual findings – such as how, or even if, insolvency could be avoided.
Still, the lack of communication from both the SSA and the government could render the public skeptical of the entire process.
And because of all this uncertainty and distrust, some individuals could find themselves making fear-based financial decisions, hoping to protect their financial futures when a program they thought was reliable appears to be anything but.
But there is an alternative, steadfast option to secure your financial prospects when the SSA and Congress fail to fulfill their duties…
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