The Social Security Statement is the federal government's main document for communicating with more than 140 million workers about their Social Security benefits. By law, the statement must show an individual's annual earnings, payments into Social Security and Medicare, and projected benefits. The Social Security Administration also uses the statement to explain the various types of Social Security benefits and to encourage greater financial planning for retirement. GAO conducted a review to examine (1) how well recipients understand the current statement, (2) how the Social Security Administration is evaluating the statement's understandability, and (3) the promising practices used by private sector companies and other industrial countries. GAO's information was obtained from its national survey and focus groups of statement recipients, a firm that evaluates benefit statements, officials from three other countries (Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom), and other experts from the private sector.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Social Security Administration||On the basis of the data it receives and a review of promising practices in the private sector and other countries, SSA should consider revising the statement. These revisions could include showing the personalized benefit information first, using graphics to aid readers in quickly comprehending information or providing information to help recipients understand Social Security's contribution to their total retirement income.|
|Social Security Administration||SSA should develop a plan for regularly evaluating the statement through the collection of data from multiple sources, including information from surveys, focus groups, call centers, walk-in traffic, and its Web site.|