You’ve probably heard that social security benefits are running out. You might be concerned that there won’t be any money left in retirement or disability benefits if, or when, you need them. The fact is, social security (SS) benefits are solvent-for now. Whether the benefits will be solvent when you need the benefits, however, depends on when you will need them, and whether Congress makes changes in the system before that time.

Projected Solvency of the Social Security DI and OASI Insurance Trust Funds

The benefits are paid out of the SS Trust Funds. There are actually two funds: the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) fund, and the Disability Insurance (DI) fund. Social security benefits are paid to retired workers and their families, and to the families of deceased workers out of the OASI Trust Fund. Disability benefits are paid from the DI Trust Fund. The two funds work together, however, because Congress typically reallocates payroll tax rates between the two funds when the draw on one is greater than the other.

The trust funds are managed by a Board of Trustees, which releases a report each year on the financial status of the funds. According to the 2013 Trust Fund Report, the DI Fund is solvent until 2016 (at which time it will only be able to pay 80 percent of benefits). However, with a reallocation from the OASI fund, both the OASI and DI Funds will be fully solvent until 2033. This means the SS system can continue to pay all scheduled old age, survivors, and disability benefits for at least the next 20 years.

But what if you will need to collect benefits after 2033? According to the 2013 report, after 2033, after that time the draw on benefits will be greater than its revenue, and SS will face a shortfall. If Congress takes no action to increase monies paid to the Social Security Funds before 2033, it’s projected that starting at that time, social security reserves will be drawn down, and social security will only have enough funds to cover about 77 percent of scheduled benefits.

What Can be Done About Shortages?

There’s probably no need to panic about the benefit shortages just yet. Experts (such as the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Social Security Task Force (CCD) and the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI)) say that modest adjustments to the system can ensure long-term solvency for these benefits. The proposed adjustments, however, mean slightly higher taxes for workers and employers. For example, with a modest raise in either the social security payroll tax cap, or the payroll tax rate, SS could be solvent for the next 75 years.

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