Use of online Social Security accounts is changing

As the number of online Social Security users has shot up, the percentage of users who access their statements online has plummeted.

shutterstock ID: 573185038 By Lane V. Erickson
 

As the Social Security Administration's number of online users has shot up, the percentage of users who access their Social Security statements online has plummeted, leading a watchdog to point to changing uses of the agency's web services.

At the request of House Ways and Means Committee, the Social Security Administration Inspector General looked into the costs of Social Security statements, and what services users are accessing online.

Congress is looking at ways to save money on mailing these statements, and the Social Security Administration has moved away from mailing Social Security statements over the last decade to cut costs: SSA mailed 155 million paper statements in fiscal year 2010, compared to 14.6 million last year.

In that time, the number of beneficiaries with my Social Security accounts boomed, with its number of users increasing nearly tenfold since fiscal year 2012, according to a new watchdog analysis.

Since then, the number of users with registered "my Social Security" accounts increased from about 2 million to nearly 39 million, while the percentage of users who accessed their statements via such accounts online dropped from 96 percent to just 43 percent.

Part of the reason, IG suggests, is that SSA's my Social Security portal now offers more services than just access to online statements.

The age divide of online users has also closed in that time. In fiscal year 2012, more than three-fifths of online users who accessed their statements online were under 60 years old. Last year, the percentage of under-60 and over-60 users who accessed their statements online was about even.

While the older group "is the age group SSA targeted with mailing automatic statements," IG noted that ending automatic statement mailings to individuals under age 60 "did not result in a significant increase in online statement access for this group."

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