Goodbye paper statements…again. Two years after reinstating paper statements amid a firestorm of criticism for having ended them, the Social Security Administration is again pulling back on mailed statements. In a recent blog post, the agency announced it would mail fewer statements this year to reduce costs by as much as $11.3 million. Only individuals 60 years of age and older who aren’t receiving benefits and don’t have an online account will get paper statements, which provide information on a person’s earnings, estimated benefits, and contributions. 

You may remember back in 2011 the Social Security Administration stopped mailing its annual statements to save money. In May of 2012, it launched a web-based version of the statements that allowed workers to view them if they signed up for a My Social Security account. 

Online viewing of statements grew steadily over the first full year, so that by the end of FY 2013 nearly 17 million online Social Security statements were viewed, according to an agency report. Still, Congress, advocacy groups for older Americans, and paper companies pushed the Social Security Administration to resume mailing paper statements, which it did in 2014. As one of our earlier blogs noted, the agency agreed to resume mailing statements at 5-year intervals: when people are 25, 30, 35, and so on.

With this reverse course, the agency will discontinue the 5-year interval mailings and only mail paper copies to the much smaller population stated above. Despite the expected criticism, a Social Security official said the agency has no choice – it simply does not have the budget to continue the mailings. 

What types of communications need to be mailed? Are there communications that are now exclusively mailed that you would prefer to receive electronically? Alternatively, are there electronic communications you would prefer to receive by mail? Do you think this decision signals an acceleration of electronic diversion?

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