The Toll of Physically Demanding Jobs on Social Security Benefits

Lawmakers have proposed raising the Social Security retirement age, which could pose a challenge for older workers in physically demanding jobs, according to a recent task force report from the National Academy of Social Insurance. The report warns that it would be irresponsible to raise the retirement age without addressing the current damage to this group of workers caused by the existing increase in retirement age. During a presentation on the report’s findings, Rebecca Vallas, a task force member and senior fellow at The Century Foundation, stated that more must be done to protect this vulnerable group of workers.

For those born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is now 67. However, workers with physically demanding jobs may find it difficult to continue working until this age. As a result, they may be forced to claim Social Security benefits early, resulting in reduced monthly checks that may not provide enough income. This is especially problematic for those with low wages and little retirement savings.

The task force report estimates that over 10 million older workers face physical demands, such as warehouse workers, restaurant workers, and home health aides. Raising the retirement age would further harm this economically vulnerable group. Instead, the task force suggests several policy changes that could help address their needs.

One suggestion is to create a bridge benefit that would give workers a partial benefit from age 62 until their full retirement age of 67. Another proposal is to raise the minimum benefit for long-term low-wage workers without enough retirement benefits. Additionally, the task force recommends creating partial early retirement benefits for workers who reduce their hours as they age. Finally, the task force suggests revising the earnings test for those who claim Social Security benefits before their full retirement age and continue to work.

The report also highlights other policy changes that could assist workers in physically demanding jobs, such as reforms to Social Security disability benefits and improvements to SSA services. It suggests eliminating the reconsideration step for Social Security disability benefits appeals and providing employment and training programs for older workers. Furthermore, the task force suggests strengthening the unemployment insurance coverage available to this group.

Social Security reforms are urgently needed to address the financial challenges facing the program. As a result, the Social Security trust fund is expected to run out of money within the next few years, which means that changes must be made to ensure its long-term sustainability. As the retirement age increases and the number of retirees grows, the system is losing money and putting a strain on the fund.

Without reforms, future generations may face reduced benefits or a complete depletion of funds. It is, therefore, crucial to implement changes that account for the financial realities of the program and secure its future for all beneficiaries. It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will consider these suggestions as they continue to discuss reforms to the Social Security system.