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Social Security's Future: Answers to Key Questions

GAO-16-75SP Published: Oct 27, 2015. Publicly Released: Oct 27, 2015.
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In light of financial challenges facing Social Security's benefit programs, including the projected depletion of the Disability Insurance trust fund, GAO has updated and expanded on its 2005 guide on Social Security. This Guide was released on October 27, 2015. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 subsequently made a number of changes to Social Security’s programs, including moving the projected date of Disability Insurance trust fund depletion from 2016 to 2022. The guide is intended to describe, in a concise and easy-to-understand way, the complexities of Social Security retirement and disability programs, the challenges these programs face, and the options available to address these challenges. The guide also includes a framework for evaluating policy options. The guide has five sections, as follows.

Section I: How Does Social Security Work?
This section explains how Social Security works, including the benefits that are provided through the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) programs and how the programs are funded.

Section II. Why Is There a Need for Changes to Social Security?
This section explains the financial and other challenges facing both programs, including their causes and broader implications for the federal budget.

Section III. What are the options for addressing Social Security's challenges?
The third section presents a range of policy options that have been proposed to address challenges for the OASI program. Options to alter OASI benefits could also apply to the DI program.

Section IV. What are the options for addressing challenges specific to the DI program?
The fourth section presents a range of policy options that have been proposed to address challenges for the DI program.

Section V: A Framework for Evaluation
The fifth section of this guide provides a framework for evaluating the various policy options.

For more information, contact Charles Jeszeck at (202) 512-7215 or

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WorkersTrust fundsPayroll taxesBeneficiariesMedicareInterest ratesDisability insuranceRetirement ageSocial security trust fundsSocial security benefits