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Minimum Social Security Benefits

Published: Sep 10, 1981. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 1981.

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GAO discussed its earlier study of the minimum social security benefit. In that study, GAO found that the minimum benefit provision, which was intended for the poor, has in recent years mainly benefited retired Government workers with pensions and homemakers supported by their spouse's incomes. Ironically, most needy people receive no additional income from the minimum provision because they are already covered by another social security program. GAO recommended that the minimum benefit should be eliminated. However, it should be noted that the study was directed at beneficiaries just coming on to the rolls and not those already on the rolls for an extended period of time. Since the GAO report, the Social Security Administration has estimated that eliminating the minimum benefit for new beneficiaries would save the Government $405 million during the fiscal years 1982-1986. GAO stressed that the phrase "eliminate the minimum benefit" is somewhat misleading since it implies that minimum beneficiaries will no longer receive social security benefits. This is not the case. When the minimum provision is repealed, these people will receive their regular payments, but no bonus as the minimum benefit provided. In August 1981, Congress passed a law that included a provision which would eliminate the minimum benefit not only for new beneficiaries as GAO had recommended, but for all minimum beneficiaries. GAO stated that its figures cannot be projected to cover all minimum beneficiaries as its data reflected only those coming on the rolls. However, GAO concluded that it appears that those people previously covered by the minimum benefit will not suffer a reduction in income because of the protection offered by other social security programs.

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