Why Would the Social Security Trustees Want to Cut Benefits? It's a Mystery.

Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, center, flanked by Treasury Secretary and Managing Trustee Jacob J. Lew, left, and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, release this year's Social Security Trustees Report. But something was missing. (Photo: AP) Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, center, flanked by Treasury Secretary and Managing Trustee Jacob J. Lew, left, and Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, release this year's Social Security Trustees Report. But something was missing. (Photo: AP)
How do you measure how much money workers make in their lifetime so the government can figure out how much Social Security money to pay them? The answer to that question can cost taxpayers billions more or cost retirees billions in benefits. The missing data on the replenishment rate in the Trustees' recent report caught the eye of Alicia Munnell, a retirement expert at Boston College.

This data has been in the reports since 1989, but not this year. Why? Well, that's the mystery, but this missing data determines whether you calculate a worker's benefit based on two different metrics for his lifetime earnings. One metric includes the last five years', which often have zero earnings, the other basically excludes, or adjusts, the last five years of work. When you include the last five years it seems that the worker is getting much more in Social Security benefits, which would make it easier to then cut benefits. Munnell sees the invisible hands of two Social Security critics who are, oddly, also Trustees.
—Ron Pechtimaldjian, ThinkAdvisor
Retirement expert Alicia Munnell of Boston College has brought a simmering Social Security mystery out into the open: Why were key figures about the program's benefits for retirees deleted from the latest trustees' report? Munnell's conclusion is that the reason is nefarious.
Reprints Discuss this story
This is where the comments go.