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Social Security now expected to run short on funds in 2035, one year later than previously projected, Treasury says

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People leave a Social Security Administration building in Burbank, California. 
Valerie Macon | Afp | Getty Images

The trust funds the Social Security Administration relies on to pay benefits are now projected to run out in 2035, one year later than previously projected, according to the annual trustees’ report released on Monday.

At the projected depletion date, 83% of benefits will be payable if Congress does not act sooner to prevent that shortfall.

The Social Security trustees credited the slightly improved outlook to more people contributing to the program amid a strong economy, low unemployment and higher job and wage growth. Last year, the trustees projected the program’s funds would last through 2034, when 80% of benefits would be payable.

“This year’s report is a measure of good news for the millions of Americans who depend on Social Security, including the roughly 50% of seniors for whom Social Security is the difference between poverty and living in dignity — any potential benefit reduction event has been pushed off from 2034 to 2035,” Social Security Commissioner Martin O’Malley said in a statement.

O’Malley, who was sworn in to lead the agency in December, also urged Congress to extend the trust fund’s solvency “as it did in the past on a bipartisan basis.”

“Eliminating the shortfall will bring peace of mind to Social Security’s 70 million-plus beneficiaries, the 180 million workers and their families who contribute to Social Security, and the entire nation,” O’Malley said.

What reports reveal about Social Security, Medicare

Social Security’s new 2035 depletion date applies to its combined trust funds.

The trust funds help pay for benefits when more money is needed beyond what is coming in through payroll taxes. Currently, 6.2% of workers’ pay is taxed for Social Security, while an additional 1.45% is taxed for Medicare. The total 7.65% is typically matched by employers. High earners may have an additional 0.9% withheld for Medicare.

While the combined depletion date for Social Security’s trust funds is typically used to gauge the program’s solvency, the funds cannot actually be combined based on current law.

Social Security’s two trust funds have distinct projected depletion dates.

The fund used to pay retired workers, their spouses and children, and survivors — formally known as the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund — is projected to last until 2033, which is unchanged from last year. At that time, 79% of those scheduled benefits may be payable.

The fund used to pay disabled benefits — known as the Disability Insurance Trust Fund — will be able to pay full benefits until at least 2098, the last year of the projection period.

Medicare solvency is typically measured by the ability of the trust fund to make up for a shortfall in payroll taxes used to fund Part A hospital insurance.

The Medicare Hospital Insurance trust fund — used to fund Part A benefits — saw the biggest improvement in this year’s trustees report. Its depletion date is now pushed to 2036 — five years later than was projected last year — due in part to higher payroll tax income and lower than projected 2023 expenditures.

At that time, 89% of scheduled benefits may be payable.

Medicare’s Supplemental Medical Insurance Trust Fund — which covers voluntary Part B coverage for physician services and medical supplies and Part D prescription drug coverage — is financed for the indefinite future, since it relies on beneficiary premiums and Treasury Department contributions that are automatically adjusted each year. 

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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