The Social Security Retirement Age




The Social Security Retirement Age
Updated January 8, 2021
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
R44670




The Social Security Retirement Age

Summary
The Social Security full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which workers can first claim full (i.e.,
unreduced) Social Security retired-worker benefits. Among other factors, a worker’s monthly
benefit amount is affected by the age at which he or she claims benefits relative to the FRA.
Benefit adjustments are made based on the number of months before or after the FRA the worker
claims benefits. The adjustments are intended to provide the worker with roughly the same total
lifetime benefits, regardless of when he or she claims benefits, based on average life expectancy.
Claiming benefits before the FRA results in a permanent reduction in monthly benefits (to take
into account the longer expected period of benefit receipt); claiming benefits after the FRA results
in a permanent increase in monthly benefits (to take into account the shorter expected period of
benefit receipt).
The FRA was 65 at the inception of Social Security in the 1930s. Under legislation enacted in
1983, the FRA is increasing gradual y from 65 to 67 over a 22-year period (for those reaching age
62 between 2000 and 2022). The FRA wil reach 67 for workers born in 1960 or later (i.e., for
workers who become eligible for retirement benefits at age 62 in 2022). Currently, the FRA is 66
and 10 months for workers who become eligible for retirement benefits in 2021 (i.e., workers
born in 1959).
Workers can claim reduced retirement benefits as early as age 62 (the early eligibility age). For
workers with an FRA of 66, for example, claiming benefits at age 62 results in a 25% reduction in
monthly benefits. For workers with an FRA of 67, claiming benefits at age 62 results in a 30%
benefit reduction. A majority of retired-worker beneficiaries claim benefits before the FRA. In
2019, when the FRA was 66 and six months for workers eligible for Social Security benefits in
that year (i.e., those born in 1957), 33% of new retired-worker beneficiaries were age 62; 60%
were under the age of 66.
Workers who delay claiming benefits until after the FRA receive a delayed retirement credit,
which applies up to the age of 70. For workers with an FRA of 66, for example, claiming benefits
at age 70 results in a 32% increase in monthly benefits. For workers with an FRA of 67, claiming
benefits at age 70 results in a 24% benefit increase. In 2019, about one-fourth (25%) of new
retired-worker beneficiaries were age 66; 15% were over the age of 66.
Some lawmakers have cal ed for increasing the Social Security retirement age in response to the
system’s projected financial imbalance, citing gains in life expectancy for the population overal .
Other lawmakers, however, express concern that increasing the retirement age would
disproportionately affect certain groups within the population, citing differences in life
expectancy by socioeconomic groups. Differential gains in life expectancy are important in the
context of Social Security because the actuarial adjustments for claiming benefits before or after
the full retirement age are based on average life expectancy. Proposals to increase the retirement
age are also met with concerns about the resulting hardship for certain workers, such as those in
physical y demanding occupations, who may be unable to work until older ages and may not
qualify for Social Security disability benefits. For an in-depth discussion of potential changes in
the Social Security retirement age in the context of life expectancy trends, see CRS Report
R44846, The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy by Income: Recent Evidence and Implications for
the Social Security Retirement Age.

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Contents
Introduction ................................................................................................................... 1
Full Retirement Age ........................................................................................................ 1
Early Eligibility Age........................................................................................................ 3
Actuarial Modification to Benefits: Claiming Before or After the FRA .................................... 3

Actuarial Reduction for Claiming Benefits Before the FRA ............................................. 4
Delayed Retirement Credit for Claiming Benefits After the FRA ...................................... 4
Retirement Earnings Test.................................................................................................. 6
Age Distribution of New Retired-Worker Beneficiaries ......................................................... 7
Proposals to Increase the Retirement Age............................................................................ 8
Proposals to Increase the FRA but Not the EEA ........................................................... 10
Proposals to Increase the EEA but Not the FRA ........................................................... 11
Proposals to Increase Both the FRA and the EEA ......................................................... 12
Concerns Regarding an Increase in the Retirement Age....................................................... 13
Life Expectancy ...................................................................................................... 13
Health Status .......................................................................................................... 15
Job Characteristics ................................................................................................... 16
Labor Market Conditions .......................................................................................... 17
Addressing Concerns About Increasing the Retirement Age ................................................. 18
Possible Approaches Under the Social Security Retirement System ................................. 19
Special Rules Based on Years of Work and Average Lifetime Earnings ....................... 19
Special Rules Based on Physical y Demanding Jobs ................................................ 20
Possible Approaches Outside the Social Security Retirement System ............................... 21
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) ..................................................................... 21
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) ........................................................... 21
Unemployment Insurance (UI) ............................................................................. 22
Employment Services and Training Programs ......................................................... 23

Figures
Figure 1. Effect of Claiming Age on Benefit Levels .............................................................. 6
Figure 2. Age Distribution of New Retired-Worker Beneficiaries in 2019 ................................ 8

Tables
Table 1. Age to Receive Full Social Security Benefits ........................................................... 2
Table 2. Benefit Reduction for Early Retirement by Full Retirement Age (FRA) ....................... 4
Table 3. Benefit Increase for Delayed Retirement by Birth Year ............................................. 5
Table 4. Selected Options for Increasing the Retirement Age ............................................... 10

Contacts
Author Information ....................................................................................................... 24
Congressional Research Service

The Social Security Retirement Age



Congressional Research Service

The Social Security Retirement Age

Introduction
The Social Security full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which workers can first claim full (i.e.,
unreduced) Social Security retired-worker benefits.1 Among other factors, the age at which an
individual begins receiving Social Security benefits has an impact on the size of the monthly
benefits. Claiming benefits before the FRA can substantial y reduce monthly benefits, whereas
claiming benefits after the FRA can lead to a substantial increase in monthly benefits. Benefit
adjustments are made based on the number of months before or after the FRA the worker claims
benefits. The adjustments are intended to result in roughly the same total lifetime benefits,
regardless of when the worker claims benefits, based on average life expectancy.
The FRA was 65 at the inception of Social Security in the 1930s. As part of legislation enacted in
1983, the FRA is increasing gradual y from 65 to 67 over a 22-year period that started for those
who turned age 62 in 2000. The increase in the FRA wil be fully phased in (the FRA wil reach
67) for workers born in 1960 or later (i.e., for workers who become eligible for retirement
benefits at age 62 in 2022). For workers who become eligible for retirement benefits in 2021 (i.e.,
workers born in 1959), the FRA is 66 and 10 months.
Workers can claim Social Security retired-worker benefits as early as age 62, the early eligibility
age
(EEA). However, workers who claim benefits before the FRA are subject to a permanent
reduction in their benefits. Spouses can also claim reduced spousal benefits based on the worker’s
earnings as early as age 62. Other types of dependents can claim benefits before the age of 62.2
Workers who claim benefits after the FRA receive a delayed retirement credit that results in a
permanent increase in their monthly benefits. The credit applies up to the age of 70. Claiming
benefits after attainment of age 70 does not result in any further increase in monthly benefits.3
Full Retirement Age
The FRA was 65 at the inception of Social Security. According to Robert Myers, who worked on
the creation of the Social Security program in 1934 and later served in various senior and
appointed capacities at the Social Security Administration (SSA), “Age 65 was picked because 60
was too young and 70 was too old. So we split the difference.”4 On the other hand, SSA suggests
that the Committee on Economic Security (CES)5 made the proposal of 65 as the retirement age
due to the prevalence of private and state pension systems using 65 as the retirement age and the
favorable actuarial outcomes for 65 as the retirement age.6

1 T he FRA is also referred to as the normal retirement age (NRA). In statute, the term retirement age is used. See
Social Security Act, §216(l) (42 U.S.C. §416[l]).
2 Widow(er)’s benefits can be claimed as early as age 60; disabled widow(er)’s benefits can be claimed as early as age
50. T hese benefits are also subject to reduction if claimed before the FRA. T here is no minimum eligibility age for
dependent child’s benefits. For more details, see “Benefits for the Worker’s Family Members” in CRS Report R42035,
Social Security Prim er.
3 T he delayed retirement credit applies to the period that begins with the month the worker attains the FRA and ends
with the month before he or she attains the age of 70.
4 Robert J. Myers and Richard L. Vernaci, Within the System: My Half Century in Social Security (Winsted, CT :
ACT EX Publications, 1992), pp. 93-94.
5 T he CES was formed in June 1934 and was given the task of devising “recommendations concerning proposals which
in its judgment will promote greater economic security.” For information regarding the CES, see SSA, “ T he Comm ittee
on Economic Security (CES),” https://www.ssa.gov/history/reports/ces/cesbasic.html.
6 SSA, “Age 65 Retirement,” at https://www.ssa.gov/history/age65.html. T he actuarial studies in the 1930s showed that
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In 1983, Congress increased the FRA as part of the Social Security Amendments of 1983,7 which
made major changes to Social Security’s financing and benefit structure to address the system’s
financial imbalance at the time.8 Among other changes, the FRA was increased gradual y from 65
to 67 for workers born in 1938 or later. Under the scheduled increases enacted in 1983, the FRA
increases to 65 and two months for workers born in 1938. The FRA continues to increase by two
months every birth year until the FRA reaches 66 for workers born in 1943 to 1954. Starting with
workers born in 1955, the FRA increases again in two-month increments until the FRA reaches 67
for workers born in 1960 or later. The increase in the FRA, one of many provisions in the 1983
amendments designed to improve the system’s financial outlook, was based on the rationale that
it would reflect increases in longevity and improvements in the health status of workers.9 The
1983 amendments did not change the early eligibility age of 62 (discussed below); however, the
increase in the FRA results in larger benefit reductions for workers who claim benefits between
the age of 62 and the FRA.10 Table 1 shows the FRA by worker’s year of birth under current law.
Table 1. Age to Receive Full Social Security Benefits
Full Retirement Age
Year the Individual
Year the Individual
Year of Birth
(FRA)
Attains Age 62
Attains FRA
1937 or earlier
65
1999 or earlier
2002 or earlier
1938
65 and 2 months
2000
2003 or 2004
1939
65 and 4 months
2001
2004 or 2005
1940
65 and 6 months
2002
2005 or 2006
1941
65 and 8 months
2003
2006 or 2007
1942
65 and 10 months
2004
2007 or 2008
1943-1954
66
2005-2016
2009-2020
1955
66 and 2 months
2017
2021 or 2022
1956
66 and 4 months
2018
2022 or 2023
1957
66 and 6 months
2019
2023 or 2024
1958
66 and 8 months
2020
2024 or 2025
1959
66 and 10 months
2021
2025 or 2026
1960 or later
67
2022 or later
2027 or later
Source: Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/ret irechart.html.
Note: Persons born on January 1 of any year should refer to the previous year of birth.

using age 65 produced a manageable system that could easily be made self -sustaining with only modest levels of
payroll taxation.
7 P.L. 98-21.
8 An increase in the FRA is a form of benefit reduction. T hose who claim benefits at the higher FRA, for example,
receive fewer months of benefits and a reduction in the total amount of lifetime Social Security benefits holding
everything else constant.
9 For example, see Rep. Elliott H. Levitas, “Social Security Amendments of 1983,” House debate, Congressional
Record
, vol. 129, part 4 (March 9, 1983), p. 4517; Rep. Beryl Anthony, Jr., “ Social Security Am endments of 1983,”
House debate, Congressional Record, vol. 129, part 4 (March 9, 1983), p. 4600.
10 For example, retired-worker benefits claimed at age 62 are reduced by 20% if the worker’s FRA is 65, by 25% if the
worker’s FRA is 66, and by 30% if the worker’s FRA is 67.
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Early Eligibility Age
Currently, the EEA is 62 for workers and spouses; this is the earliest age at which they can claim
retirement or spousal benefits. Benefits claimed between age 62 and the FRA, however, are
subject to a permanent reduction for “early retirement.” When the original Social Security Act
was enacted in 1935,11 the earliest age to receive retirement benefits was the FRA (age 65). In
1956, the eligibility age was lowered from 65 to 62 for female workers, wives, widows, and
female dependent parents.12 This was to al ow wives, who traditional y were younger than their
husbands, to qualify for benefits at the same time as their husbands.13 Benefits for female workers
and wives were subject to reduction if claimed between the ages of 62 and 65; the reduction did
not apply to benefits for widows and female dependent parents.
In 1961, the eligibility age was lowered from 65 to 62 for men as wel .14 Benefits for male
workers and husbands were subject to reduction if claimed between the ages of 62 and 65; the
reduction did not apply to widowers and male dependent parents. Although the eligibility age was
made consistent for male and female workers, an inconsistency remained in the calculation of
benefits. A man the same age as a woman needed more Social Security credits to qualify for
benefits, and, if his earnings were identical to hers, usual y received a lower benefit because his
earnings were averaged over a longer period. This inconsistency was addressed in legislation
enacted in 1972 which provided that retirement benefits would be computed the same way for
men and women (the provision was fully effective for men reaching age 62 in 1975 or later).15
In subsequent years, further adjustments were made to the eligibility age for surviving spouses.16
The eligibility age was lowered to age 60 for widows (1965),17 age 50 for disabled widow(er)s
(1967),18 and age 60 for widowers (1972).19
Actuarial Modification to Benefits: Claiming Before
or After the FRA
Benefits are adjusted based on the age at which a person claims benefits to provide roughly the
same total lifetime benefits regardless of when a person begins receiving benefits, based on
average life expectancy. The earlier a worker begins receiving benefits (before the FRA), the
lower the monthly benefit wil be, to offset the longer expected period of benefit receipt.
Conversely, the longer a worker delays claiming benefits (past the FRA), the higher the monthly
benefit wil be, to take into account the shorter expected period of benefit receipt. The benefit

11 P.L. 74-271, Social Security Act.
12 P.L. 84-880, Social Security Amendments of 1956.
13 For example, see Rep. T homas A. Jenkins, “Social Security Amendments of 1955,” House debate, Congressional
Record
, vol. 101, part 8 (July 18, 1955), p. 10778; Rep. Wilbur Mills, “ Social Security Amendments of 1955,” House
debate, Congressional Record, vol. 101, part 8 (July 18, 1955), p. 10785.
14 P.L. 87-64, Social Security Amendments of 1961.
15 P.L. 92-603, Social Security Amendments of 1972.
16 Benefits for surviving spouses are subject to reduction if claimed before the FRA (and other factors); see “Benefits
for the Worker’s Family Members” in CRS Report R42035, Social Security Primer.
17 P.L. 89-97, Social Security Amendments of 1965.
18 P.L. 90-248, Social Security Amendments of 1967.
19 P.L. 92-603, Social Security Amendments of 1972.
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adjustment is based on the number of months between the month the worker attains the FRA and
the month he or she claims benefits. The day of birth is ignored for adjustment purposes, except
for those born on the first of the month. Workers born on the first of the month base their FRA as
if their birthday was in the previous month (e.g., someone born on February 1, 1980, who has an
FRA of 67, can apply for full retirement benefits in January 2047). A calculator on SSA’s website
al ows the user to enter his or her date of birth and the expected month of initial benefit receipt to
see the effect of early or delayed retirement; the effect is shown as a percentage of the full benefit
payable at the FRA.20
Actuarial Reduction for Claiming Benefits Before the FRA
When a worker claims benefits before the FRA, there is an actuarial reduction in monthly
benefits. The reduction for claiming benefits before the FRA can be sizable and it is permanent;
al future monthly benefits are payable at the actuarially reduced amount. For each of the 36
months immediately preceding the FRA, the monthly rate of reduction from the full retirement
benefit is five-ninths of 1%. This equals a 6⅔% reduction each year. For each month earlier than
three years (36 months) before the FRA, the monthly rate of reduction is five-twelfths of 1%.
This equals a 5% reduction each year. The earliest a worker can claim retirement benefits is age
62. For a worker with an FRA of 67, claiming benefits at 62 results in a 30% reduction in their
monthly benefit. Table 2 shows the actuarial reduction applied to retired-worker benefits based
on the FRA and the age at which benefits are claimed.21
Table 2. Benefit Reduction for Early Retirement by Full Retirement Age (FRA)
FRA
Actuarial Reduction to Monthly Amount If Worker Claims at Age…
62
63
64
65
66
65
20%
13 1⁄3%
6 2⁄3%
0%
a
66
25%
20%
13 1⁄3%
6 2⁄3%
0%
67
30%
25%
20%
13 1⁄3%
6 2⁄3%
Source: Social Security Administration, https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/ret irechart.html.
a. With an FRA of 65, claiming retired-worker benefits at age 66 leads to a delayed retirement credit, resulting in
an increase in monthly benefits, as opposed to a reduction.
Delayed Retirement Credit for Claiming Benefits After the FRA
Workers who claim benefits after the FRA receive a delayed retirement credit (DRC). As with the
actuarial reduction for early retirement, the delayed retirement credit is permanent. The DRC has
been modified over the years. Initial y, the Social Security Amendments of 197222 provided a
delayed retirement credit that increased benefits by one-twelfth of 1% for each month between
ages 65 and 72 that a worker did not claim benefits (i.e., 1% per year). The credit, which was
effective after 1970, applied only to the worker’s benefit; it did not apply to a widow(er)’s benefit

20 T he calculator is available at https://www.ssa.gov/oact/quickcalc/early_late.html#calculator.
21 Actuarial reductions for spouses and widow(er)s are different; see SSA, “Benefit Reduction for Early Retirement,” at
https://www.ssa.gov/oact/quickcalc/earlyretire.html; and SSA, “ Receiving Survivors Benefits Early,” at
https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/survivorchartred.html.
22 P.L. 92-603.
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payable on the worker’s record. The Social Security Amendments of 197723 increased the credit
to 3% per year and included the credit in the computation of a widow(er)’s benefit.
The credit was further increased under the Social Security Amendments of 1983.24 As shown in
Table 3, the credit increases gradual y based on the worker’s year of birth until it reaches 8% per
year (two-thirds of 1% per month) for workers born in 1943 or later (i.e., workers who became
eligible for retirement benefits or turned age 62 in 2005 or later). In addition, the maximum age at
which the DRC applies was lowered from 72 to 70. Any further delay in claiming benefits past
age 70 does not result in a higher benefit. The increase in the DRC was intended to ensure that
workers who claim benefits after the FRA receive roughly the same total lifetime benefits as if
they had claimed benefits earlier (based on average life expectancy). A worker with an FRA of
66, for example, receives a 32% benefit increase if he or she claims benefits at age 70; a worker
with an FRA of 67 receives a 24% benefit increase.
Table 3. Benefit Increase for Delayed Retirement by Birth Year
Full Retirement
Total Credit at
Year of Birth
Age
Monthly Credit
Annual Credit
Age 70a
1916 or earlier
65
1⁄12 of 1%
1%
5%
1917-1924
65
1⁄4 of 1%
3%
15%
1925-1926
65
7⁄24 of 1%
3 1⁄2%
17 1⁄2%
1927-1928
65
1⁄3 of 1%
4%
20%
1929-1930
65
3⁄8 of 1%
4 1⁄2%
22 1⁄2%
1931-1932
65
5⁄12 of 1%
5%
25%
1933-1934
65
11⁄24 of 1%
5 1⁄2%
27 1⁄2%
1935-1936
65
1⁄2 of 1%
6%
30%
1937
65
13⁄24 of 1%
6 1⁄2%
32 1⁄2%
1938
65 and 2 months
13⁄24 of 1%
6 1⁄2%
31 5⁄12%
1939
65 and 4 months
7⁄12 of 1%
7%
32 2/3%
1940
65 and 6 months
7⁄12 of 1%
7%
31 1⁄2%
1941
65 and 8 months
5⁄8 of 1%
7 1⁄2%
32 1⁄2%
1942
65 and 10 months
5⁄8 of 1%
7 1⁄2%
31 1⁄4%
1943-1954
66
2⁄3 of 1%
8%
32%
1955
66 and 2 months
2⁄3 of 1%
8%
30 2⁄3%
1956
66 and 4 months
2⁄3 of 1%
8%
29 1⁄3%
1957
66 and 6 months
2⁄3 of 1%
8%
28%
1958
66 and 8 months
2⁄3 of 1%
8%
26 2⁄3%
1959
66 and 10 months
2⁄3 of 1%
8%
25 1⁄3%
1960 or later
67
2⁄3 of 1%
8%
24%
Source: C.F.R. §404.313.
Notes: Persons born on January 1 of any year should refer to the previous year of birth.

23 P.L. 95-216.
24 P.L. 98-21.
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a. The total amount of credit at age 70 is available to retired workers who start to receive Social Security
benefits at ages 70 or older under current law.
Figure 1 il ustrates the effect of claiming age on benefit levels based on an FRA of 66. If the
worker claims retirement benefits at age 62, for example, his or her benefit would be equal to
75% of the full benefit amount—a 25% permanent reduction based on claiming retirement
benefits four years before attaining the FRA. If the worker delays claiming retirement benefits
until age 70, however, his or her benefit would be equal to 132% of the full benefit amount—a
32% permanent increase for claiming benefits four years after the FRA.
Figure 1. Effect of Claiming Age on Benefit Levels
Based on an FRA of 66

Source: Congressional Research Service.
Notes: PIA = Primary Insurance Amount. The PIA is the benefit payable to the worker at his or her FRA.
Retirement Earnings Test
The decision to claim Social Security benefits before the FRA results in a permanent reduction in
monthly benefits for early retirement. In addition, if a Social Security beneficiary is below the
FRA and has current earnings, he or she is subject to the retirement earnings test (RET).25 Stated
general y, Social Security benefits are withheld partial y or fully, for one or more months, if
current earnings exceed specified thresholds.
There are two separate earnings thresholds (or exempt amounts) under the RET. The first (lower)
threshold applies to beneficiaries who are below the FRA and will not attain the FRA during the

25 T he RET does not apply to Social Security disability beneficiaries, who are subject to separate limitations on
earnings. For more information about Social Security Disability Insurance, see CRS In Focus IF10506, Social Security
Disability Insurance (SSDI)
.
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year. In 2021, the lower earnings threshold is $18,960.26 If a beneficiary has earnings that exceed
the lower threshold, SSA withholds $1 of benefits for every $2 of earnings above the threshold.
The second (higher) threshold applies to beneficiaries who are below the FRA and will attain the
FRA during the year. In 2021, the higher earnings threshold is $50,520. If a beneficiary has
earnings that exceed the higher threshold, SSA withholds $1 of benefits for every $3 of earnings
above the threshold. The RET no longer applies beginning with the month the beneficiary attains
the FRA. In other words, once the beneficiary attains the FRA, his or her benefits are no longer
subject to withholding based on earnings.27
During the first year of benefit receipt, a special monthly earnings test applies.28 Regardless of the
amount of annual earnings in the first year of benefit receipt, benefits are not withheld for any
month in which earnings do not exceed a monthly exempt amount (the monthly exempt amount is
equal to 1/12 of the annual exempt amount). In 2021, the monthly exempt amounts are $1,580
($18,960/12) and $4,210 ($50,520/12).
For example, consider a worker who claims benefits at age 62 in January 2021 and has no
earnings during the year except for a consulting project that pays $20,000 in July. Although the
beneficiary’s annual earnings ($20,000) exceed the annual exempt amount ($18,960), benefits are
withheld only for the month of July. The beneficiary has $0 earnings in al other months; July is
the only month in which earnings exceed the monthly exempt amount ($1,580).
Benefits withheld under the RET are not “lost” on a permanent basis. When a beneficiary attains
the FRA and is no longer subject to the RET, SSA automatical y recalculates the benefit, taking
into account any months for which benefits were partial y or fully withheld under the RET. Stated
general y, there is no actuarial reduction for early retirement for any month in which benefits
were partial y or fully withheld under the RET. The recalculation results in a higher monthly
benefit going forward.29 Starting at the FRA, the beneficiary begins to recoup the value of
benefits withheld under the RET; the beneficiary recoups the full value of those benefits if he or
she lives to average life expectancy.30
Age Distribution of New Retired-Worker
Beneficiaries
Statistics published by SSA show that a majority of retired-worker beneficiaries claim benefits
before the FRA.31 Figure 2 shows the age distribution of new retired-worker beneficiaries in
2019.32 Among nearly 2.7 mil ion new retired-worker beneficiaries that year, 33% claimed

26 T he earnings thresholds generally increase each year based on average wage growth in the economy. See SSA,
“Exempt Amounts Under the Earnings T est,” at https://www.ssa.gov/OACT /COLA/rtea.html.
27 T he Senior Citizens’ Freedom to Work Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-182) eliminated the RET for beneficiaries at the FRA
or older.
28 A person may claim retired-worker benefits in the middle of the year, for example, and have already earned more
than the annual earnings limit under the RET .
29 For more information, see CRS Report R41242, Social Security Retirement Earnings Test: How Earnings Affect
Benefits
.
30 For more information, see SSA, Office of Retirement Policy, “Retirement Earnings T est,” at https://www.ssa.gov/
retirementpolicy/program/retirement-earnings-test.html.
31 SSA, Annual Statistical Supplement, 2020 (in progress), T able 6.A4, at https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/
supplement/2020/6a.html#table6.a4.
32 In 2019, there were 3.2 million new retired-worker beneficiaries, including 2.7 million “new entitlements” and 0.5
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benefits at age 62 (the first year of eligibility) and 60% were under the age of 66. About one-
fourth (25%) of new retired-worker beneficiaries claimed benefits at age 66, while 15% were age
67 or older. The percentage of retired-worker beneficiaries who claim benefits at earlier ages has
declined in recent years. In 2010, for example, more than one-half (52%) of new retired-worker
beneficiaries were age 62 and 81% were under the age of 66.33
Figure 2. Age Distribution of New Retired-Worker Beneficiaries in 2019

Source: Social Security Administration, Annual Statistical Supplement, 2020 (in progress), Table 6.A4,
https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/supplement/2020/6a.html#table6.a4.
Note: Figure does not include disabled-worker beneficiaries who were automatical y converted to retired-
worker beneficiaries upon attaining the FRA.
Proposals to Increase the Retirement Age
The Social Security full retirement age was 65 when the program was established in the 1930s. It
remained 65 until 1983, when Congress included an increase in the FRA among many provisions
in the Social Security Amendments of 1983,34 which were designed to address serious near-term
and long-range financing problems. The 1983 Amendments became law on April 20, 1983.
Without legislative action, it was anticipated that Social Security benefits could not be paid on
time beginning in July 1983.35 The 1983 provision that increased the FRA from 65 to 67
continues to be phased in; it wil be fully phased in by 2022.36 Research suggests that increasing
the FRA encourages many people to work longer and increase the average claiming age for Social

million “disability conversions” (i.e., disabled-worker beneficiaries who were automatically converted to retired-
worker beneficiaries when they attained the FRA). Figure 2 does not include beneficiaries in the “ disability
conversion” category.
33 SSA, Annual Statistical Supplement, 2011, T able 6.A4, at https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/statcomps/supplement/
2011/6a.pdf. For more information of age distribution Social Security benefit claims, see CRS In Focus IF11115,
Social Security Benefit Claim ing Age.
34 P.L. 98-21.
35 John A. Svahn and Mary Ross, “Social Security Amendments of 1983: Legislative History and Summary of
Provisions,” Social Security Bulletin, vol. 46, no. 7 (July 1983), at https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v46n7/
v46n7p3.pdf.
36 T he FRA is 67 for workers born in 1960 or later. A worker born in 1960 becomes eligible for reduced retirement
benefits at age 62 in 2022 and eligible for full retirement benefits at age 67 in 2027.
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Security benefits, thus shortening the duration of payments and reducing program cost, on
average.37
The Social Security system once again faces projected long-range funding shortfal s. The Social
Security Board of Trustees (the Trustees) projects that full Social Security benefits can be paid on
time until 2035 with a combination of annual Social Security tax revenues and asset reserves held
by the Social Security trust funds. After the projected depletion of combined trust fund reserves in
2035, however, annual tax revenues are projected to cover 79% of benefits scheduled under
current law, declining to 73% by 2094.38
Over the years, many proposals have been put forth to improve Social Security’s financial
outlook as wel as achieve other policy goals. A common proposal is to increase the FRA,
increase the EEA, or both.39 As in the past, lawmakers who support increasing the retirement age
point to gains in average life expectancy as an indicator that people can work until older ages.
Table 4 displays the impacts of selected policy options on the actuarial adjustments to benefits for
early or delayed retirement (i.e., for claiming benefits before or after the FRA). Policy options in
the table demonstrate a range of possible options that have been proposed to increase the
retirement age, including the FRA only, the EEA only, and both. The actuarial adjustments are
designed to provide a person with roughly the same total lifetime benefits regardless of the age at
which he or she claims benefits, assuming the person lives to average life expectancy.
Increasing the FRA would general y result in a larger actuarial reduction for early benefit
claiming and a smal er actuarial increase for delayed benefit claiming at each claiming age. For
example, if the FRA increased from age 67 to age 69 while the EEA was kept at age 62, the
actuarial reduction to monthly benefits at age 62 would increase from 30% to 40%, while the
delayed benefit credit at age 70 would decrease from 24% to 8%.

37 Jae Song and Joyce Manchester, “Have People Delayed Claiming Retirement Benefits? Responses to Changes in
Social Security Rules,” Social Security Bulletin, vol. 67 no. 2 (2007), pp. 1-23, at https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/
v67n2/v67n2p1.pdf; and Barbara A. Butrica, Karen E. Smith, and C. Eugene Steuerle, Working for a Good Retirem ent,
Urban Institute, 2006, at https://www.urban.org/research/publication/working-good-retirement . However, some
researchers have argued that raising the FRA would penalize some Black and low-wage workers because they would be
less likely to live long enough to recoup payments foregone as a result of delayed claiming. See Kyle Moore, T eresa
Ghilarducci, and Anthony Webb, “T he Inequitable Effects of Raising the Retirement Age on Blacks and Low-Wage
Workers,” Review of Black Political Economy, vol. 46, no. 1 (2019), pp. 22-37.
38 T he projections are from the 2020 Annual Report of the Board of T rustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors
Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance T rust Funds, intermediate assumptions, at https://www.ssa.gov/OACT /T R/
2020/. T he 2020 intermediate assumptions reflect the trustees’ understanding of Social Security at the start of 2020.
T hus, they do not include the potential effects of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID -19). For more information,
see CRS Report RL33028, Social Security: The Trust Funds and CRS In Focus IF10522, Social Security’s Funding
Shortfall
.
39 Some proposals to increase the FRA would also increase the maximum eligibility age for a DRC.
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Table 4. Selected Options for Increasing the Retirement Age
Benefit Reduction and Delayed Retirement Credit Applied to Monthly Benefits at the Ful Retirement Age
(FRA), by Claiming Age

Actuarial Reduction (Negative) and Delayed Retirement Credit to Monthly Benefits
Increase FRA Only
Increase
Increase EEA and FRA

Current Lawa
EEA=62, FRA=69
EEA Onlyd
EEA=64, FRA=69
EEA=62,
EEA=64,
FRA=67
FRA=67
Benefit
Max Age
Max Age
Max Age
Max Age
Claiming
Max Age for
for
for
Max Age
for
for
Ages
DRC=70
DRC=70b
DRC=72c
for DRC=70
DRC=70e
DRC=72f
62
(30%)
(40%)
(40%)



63
(25%)
(35%)
(35%)



64
(20%)
(30%)
(30%)
(20%)
(30%)
(30%)
65
(13⅓%)
(25%)
(25%)
(13⅓%)
(25%)
(25%)
66
(6⅔%)
(20%)
(20%)
(6⅔%)
(20%)
(20%)
67
0%
(13⅓%)
(13⅓%)
0%
(13⅓%)
(13⅓%)
68
8%
(6⅔%)
(6⅔%)
8%
(6⅔%)
(6⅔%)
69
16%
0%
0%
16%
0%
0%
70
24%
8%
8%
24%
8%
8%
71
24%
8%
16%
24%
8%
16%
72
24%
8%
24%
24%
8%
24%
Source: CRS, and SSA, OCACT, Provisions Affecting Retirement Age, https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/solvency/
provisions/retireage.html (hereinafter “SSA Retirement Age Options”).
Notes: Dashes mean data is not available. Actuarial reduction to monthly benefits are in parentheses. FRA is the
ful retirement age and EEA is the earliest eligibility age.
a. Under current law, the FRA is 67 and EEA is 62 for beneficiaries born in 1960 and later.
b. See part of the provisions in SSA Retirement Age Option C1.4. Option C1.4 would continue to increase th e
FRA after it reached age 69.
c. See SSA Retirement Age Options C1.6 and C1.7. Options may differ in the effective dates and other
provisions.
d. See SSA Retirement Age Options C2.1.
e. See SSA Retirement Age Options C2.5, C2.6, and C2.7. Options may differ in the effective dates and other
provisions.
f.
See the Social Security Solvency and Sustainability Act (S. 3234, 116th Congress).
Proposals to Increase the FRA but Not the EEA
Over the years, deficit reduction commissions and other policymakers have recommended
increasing the Social Security FRA but keeping the EEA at age 62. As shown in Table 4,
increasing the FRA only would result in a lower benefit payable at most claiming ages. Some
people whose life expectancy are projected to increase in the future might work longer and delay
benefit claiming in response to increases in the FRA. Those people with delayed benefit claiming
are expected to spend as many years in retirement as earlier cohorts who would have claimed
benefits at younger ages. However, others who do not expect an increase in life expectancy might
claim benefits early and live on a lower monthly benefit (due to a larger actuarial reduction) for
the rest of their lives. For example, beneficiaries who claim benefits at age 62 would receive a
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40% actuarial reduction if the FRA increased to 69, compared to 30% under current law (see
Table 4).
Increasing the FRA would general y improve Social Security’s long-range financial status, as
people would, on average, work longer, delay benefit claiming, and receive benefit payments for
a shorter duration compared to current law. The degree to which those proposals would affect
Social Security’s financial status, however, depends on the rate at which the FRA would increase
and whether the proposal would extend the maximum eligibility age for DRCs.
Recent proposals, for example, include the S.O.S. Act of 2016 (H.R. 5747, the 114th Congress),
which proposed increasing the FRA among other changes. Under the proposal, after the FRA
reaches 67 for those attaining 62 in 2022, the FRA would have increased by two months per year
until the FRA reaches 69 for those attaining 62 in 2034. Thereafter, the FRA would have
increased one month every year. SSA’s Office of the Chief Actuary (OCACT) projects that this
option would improve the Social Security trust fund outlook by eliminating 38% of the system’s
projected long-range funding shortfal (based on the 2020 Annual Report of the Social Security
Board of Trustees, intermediate assumptions).40
A similar proposal, the Social Security Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 6489, the 114th Congress),
among other changes, would have increased the FRA by three months per year starting for those
attaining age 62 in 2023 until it reaches 69 for those attaining age 62 in 2030. This proposal
would also have increased the age up to which DRCs might be earned from 70 to 72 on the same
schedule. OCACT estimates that this option would improve the Social Security trust fund outlook
by eliminating 30% of the system’s projected long-range funding shortfal (based on the 2020
Annual Report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, intermediate assumptions).41
Another proposal from the Bipartisan Policy Center in 2016 recommended, among other changes,
to increase the FRA on a much slower schedule, by one month every two years after the FRA
reaches 67 for those attaining age 62 in 2022 until the FRA reaches 69, and also to increase the
age up to which the DRC may be earned at the same rate (from 70 to 72). OCACT estimates that
this option would improve the Social Security trust fund outlook by eliminating 18% of the
system’s projected long-range funding shortfal (based on the 2020 Annual Report of the Social
Security Board of Trustees, intermediate assumptions).42
Proposals to Increase the EEA but Not the FRA
Similar to increasing the FRA, proposals to increase only the EEA are also motivated by the
findings that average life spans have lengthened. These proposals may also be motivated by the
findings that early benefit claiming may result in lower Social Security benefits and a higher
poverty rate in older ages. Research found that the introduction of the EEA in 1961 was
associated with a lower average claiming age and, consequently, a reduction in Social Security
benefits and an increase in the poverty rate among elderly male-headed households.43

40 SSA, Office of the Chief Actuary (OCACT ), “Provisions Affecting Retirement Age,” Option C1.4, 2020, at
https://www.ssa.gov/OACT /solvency/provisions/retireage.html (hereinafter “ SSA Retirement Age Options”).T he 2020
intermediate assumptions reflect the trustees’ understanding of Social Security at the start of 2020 . T hus, they do not
include the potential effects of COVID-19.
41 SSA Retirement Age Options, Option C1.7.
42 SSA Retirement Age Options, Option C1.6.
43 Gary V. Engelhardt, Jonathan Gruber, and Anil Kumar, Early Social Security Claiming and Old-Age Poverty:
Evidence from the Introduction of the Social Security Early Eligibility Age
, NBER, Working Paper 24609, May 2018,
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Under the proposal in Table 4 to increase the EEA only, workers between the current EEA (i.e.,
age 62) and the new EEA (e.g., 64) would no longer be eligible for Social Security retirement
benefits. This policy would cause many Social Security beneficiaries between the ages of 62 and
the new EEA to claim benefits later than they otherwise would and increase their monthly
benefits due to a smal er actuarial reduction (see Table 4). Increasing only the EEA, however,
may also create financial hardship for individuals between the ages of 62 and the new EEA who
have difficulty working beyond age 62 (such as those with chronic medical conditions).44
Unlike proposals to increase only the FRA, which would general y improve the Social Security
trust fund outlook, policy options to increase only the EEA would generate some program savings
in the short run, but would be projected to increase the Social Security program outlays in the
long run and make the long-range funding status worse relative to current law. In the short run,
the Social Security program may achieve some savings from delayed retirements, but in the long
run the subsequent higher monthly benefits would be estimated to more than offset the savings
from delayed claiming.
In 2012, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that raising the EEA from 62 to 64 by
2025 would generate $144 bil ion in savings through 2021, but long-run program outlays would
be slightly larger than current law after 2035.45 The AARP Public Policy Institute proposed to
increase the EEA by two months per year from age 62 to 65.46 OCACT estimates that if the
AARP proposal applied to those aged 62 starting in 2022 until the EEA reached age 65 for those
aged 62 in 2039, the long-range funding shortfal would increase by 3% (based on the 2020
Annual Report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, intermediate assumptions).47
Proposals to Increase Both the FRA and the EEA
Some proposals would increase the EEA and the FRA simultaneously, keeping a five-year
difference between the EEA and the FRA as under current law. Under those proposals, Social
Security benefits would general y be lower at each claiming age, the maximum actuarial
reduction rate would be the same as under current law, and benefits would not be available for
workers aged 62 to the new EEA (see Table 4). Increasing both the EEA and the FRA would
avoid the situation in which benefits for early claiming could be reduced by as much as 40%, but
it would also create chal enges for workers between the ages of 62 and the new EEA who have
health or employment circumstances that limit their ability to work at or past age 62.
OCACT estimated the cost for a variety of proposals that would increase both the FRA and the
EEA. A larger and faster increase in the FRA would general y result in a larger decrease in the
projected Social Security funding shortfal . For example, one proposal would increase both the
FRA and the EEA by three months per year starting for those attaining age 62 in 2021 until the
FRA reaches 69 for those attaining age 62 in 2030 and the EEA reaches 64 for those attaining age
62 in 2028. OCACT estimates that this option would improve the Social Security trust fund
outlook by eliminating 26% of the system’s projected long-range funding shortfal (based on the

at https://www.nber.org/papers/w24609.
44 For more information, see section “ Health Status” in “Concerns Regarding an Increase in the Retirement Age”.
45 Congressional Budget Office, “Raising the Ages of Eligibility for Medicare and Social Security,” January 2012, at
https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/112th-congress-2011-2012/reports/01-10-2012-
Medicare_SS_EligibilityAgesBrief.pdf.
46 SSA, OCACT , “Estimated Financial Effects of Several Social Security Reform Options,” June 19, 2008, at
https://www.ssa.gov/OACT /solvency/AARP_20080619.pdf.
47 SSA Retirement Age Options, Option C2.1.
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2020 Annual Report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, intermediate assumptions).48 Under
another proposal, the FRA would increase by three months per year starting for those aged 62 in
2021 until it reaches age 70 for those attaining age 62 in 2034 and then increase one month every
two years to maintain a constant ratio of expected retirement years to potential working years.49
This option would also increase the EEA from age 62 to 64 at the same time as the FRA increases
from 67 to 69. OCACT estimates that this option would improve the Social Security trust fund
outlook by eliminating 47% of the system’s projected long-range funding shortfal (based on the
2020 Annual Report of the Social Security Board of Trustees, intermediate assumptions).50
Concerns Regarding an Increase in the Retirement
Age
Supporters of increasing the retirement age contend that the average life expectancy is increasing,
health conditions of older workers are improving, and job characteristics are more suitable for
older workers. Opponents of increasing the retirement age often argue that gains in life
expectancy, health status, and job characteristics have not been equal y distributed across
individuals with different characteristics such as sex, race, educational attainment, or income
level. Therefore, increasing the retirement age may adversely affect Social Security benefits for
some workers, particularly among low-wage workers or lower-educated workers. Another
concern surrounding an increase in the retirement age is that it would likely encourage some
workers with health problems to apply for Social Security disability benefits, which would likely
increase enrollment and costs for that component of the Social Security program. Increasing the
retirement age may also result in some older workers becoming more vulnerable to
unemployment risks because they would be no longer eligible for Social Security retirement
benefits.
Life Expectancy
Policymakers who support increasing the retirement age point to gains in average life expectancy
as an indicator that people can work until older ages. For example, the FRA was 65 for those who
turned age 62 in 1999 (and age 65 in 2002) and wil increase to 67 for those turning 62 in 2022
(and 67 in 2027). Between 2002 and 2030, the remaining life expectancy at age 65 increased by
2.9 years for men (to 18.8 years) and 2.3 years for women (to 21.3 years).51 Social Security’s
trustees, using their intermediate assumptions, project that by 2050, remaining life expectancy
wil grow by another 2.0 years for men (to 20.1 years) and 1.8 years for women (to 22.4 years).52
Thus, if the FRA increased from 67 to 69 for those turning 69 in 2050, people who retired at age
69 in 2050 would on average spend about as many years in retirement as those who wil retire at
age 67 in 2030 and those who retired at age 65 in 2002.53

48 SSA Retirement Age Options, Option C2.7.
49 T he number of expected retirement years is defined as the life expectancy at FRA, while the number of potential
working years is defined as “FRA minus 20.”
50 SSA Retirement Age Options, Option C2.5.
51 2002 and 2020 Annual Report of the Board of T rustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal
Disability Insurance T rust Funds, T ables for the Period Life Expectancy.
52 2020 Annual Report of the Board of T rustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability
Insurance T rust Funds, T able V.A4, at https://www.ssa.gov/OACT /T R/2020/.
53 A study from the Urban Institute uses the Alternative Measures of Age tool to compare actual and potential Social
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Those who oppose an increase in the retirement age, however, point out that the general increase
in the average U.S. life expectancy has flattened or even slightly declined in recent years. For
example, the remaining life expectancy at age 65 decreased from 19.4 years (18.0 for men and
20.6 for women) in 2014 to 19.3 years (18.0 for men and 20.5 for women) in 2015.54 The average
life expectancy at birth also decreased from 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.6 years in 2017.55 A news
article has suggested that the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic might
result in more death in 2020 than the prior year.56 However, it is stil unclear to what extent
COVID-19 wil affect the mortality rate in the future.57
Additional y, gains in life expectancy have not been shared equal y across different segments of
the population. Opponents cite research showing that life expectancy is lower for individuals with
lower socioeconomic status (i.e., less education and lower earnings) and that the gap in life
expectancy by socioeconomic status has been growing over time.58
Differential gains in life expectancy are important in the context of Social Security. The actuarial
adjustments to benefits for early or delayed retirement (i.e., for claiming benefits before or after
the FRA) are based on average life expectancy. That is, the actuarial adjustments are designed to
provide a person with roughly the same total lifetime benefits regardless of the age at which he or
she claims benefits, assuming the person lives to average life expectancy. Research has shown
that differential gains in life expectancy have resulted in a widening gap in the value of lifetime
Social Security retirement benefits between low earners and high earners.59

Security retirement ages across generations. In 1940, the average eligible 65 -year-old woman born in 1875 had a
remaining life expectancy of about 13.4 years (11.9 years for men). In 2018, a woman would need to be age 74.6 (74.3
for men) before life expectancy fell to a similar level of 13.4 years (11.9 years for men). T hus, a person with average
life expectancy retiring at age 65 in 2018, at least by this measure, would on average retire fo r close to 10 more years
than someone retiring at the same chronological age in 1940. See Eugene Steuerle and Damir Cosic, “How Should
Social Security Adjust When People Live Longer?,” Urban Institute, August 2018, at https://www.urban.org/sites/
default/files/publication/98907/how_should_ss_adjust_4.pdf.
54 Elizabeth Arias and Jiaquan Xu, United States Life Tables, 2015, National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 67 no. 7
(November 2018), at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr67/nvsr67_07-508.pdf; and Elizabeth Arias, Melonie
Heron, and Jiaquan Xu, United States Life Tables, 2014, National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 66 no. 4 (August 2017),
at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr66/nvsr66_04.pdf. The remaining life expectancy at age 65 was 19.4 years
in 2016 and 2017 and increased to 19.5 years in 2018 and 19.6 years in 2019. See Jiaquan Xu et al., Mortality in the
United States, 2018
, National Center for Health Statistics, January 2020, at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/
db355-h.pdf; and Kenneth D. Kochanek, Jiaquan Xu, and Elizabeth Arias, Mortality in the United States, 2019,
National Center for Health Statistics, December 2020, at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db395-H.pdf.
55 Elizabeth Arias and Jiaquan Xu, United States Life Tables, 2017, National Vital Statistics Reports, vol. 68, no. 7
(June 2019), at https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_07-508.pdf. T he average life expectancy at birth
increased from 78.6 years in 2017 to 78.7 years in 20 18 and 78.8 years in 2019. See Kochanek, Xu, and Arias,
Mortality in the United States, 2019.
56 Janet Adamy, “ Covid-19 Deaths to Reverse U.S. Life-Expectancy Gains,” Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2020,
at https://www.wsj.com/articles/covid-19-deaths-to-reverse-u-s-life-expectancy-gains-11608613261.
57 For information of estimates for mortality rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, see Joshua R. Goldstein and Ronald
D. Lee, “Demographic Perspectives on Mortality of Covid-19 and Other Epidemics,” NBER Working Paper No.
27043, 2020; and Andrew J. G. Cairns et al., “ T he Impact of Covid-19 on Future Higher-Age Mortality,” Pensions
Institute, May 2020.
58 CRS Report R44846, The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy by Income: Recent Evidence and Implications for the
Social Security Retirem ent Age
.
59 CRS Report R44846, The Growing Gap in Life Expectancy by Income: Recent Evidence and Implications for the
Social Security Retirem ent Age
.
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Health Status
Statistics have shown that healthier older people are general y more likely to work.60 Older
Americans can work longer today than in the past partly because they are general y healthier
today than they were five decades ago. Research based on the data from the National Health
Interview Survey found that, between 1972 and 2000, the share of individuals aged 55-61
reporting fair or poor health fel from 25.5% to 17.2%, and the share for those aged 62-65 fel
from 28.6% to 20.0%.61 However, the trend in health status is ambiguous among older workers in
the most recent two decades.62 It is also not clear how health status wil change in coming
decades.
Opponents of increasing the retirement age argue that the improvement in health status was
unequal y distributed among the population. Researchers have found that, among older people,
health problems are concentrated among those of color and those with limited education.63 One
study, using data for non-Hispanic Whites, suggests that more educated people can achieve better
health by accessing better health insurance, adopting better health behaviors such as not smoking
and engaging in vigorous exercise, and taking advantage of the benefits of improving medical
technology.64 One study also shows that higher-income Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans
have better health than members of their groups with less income.65 Therefore, an increase in the
retirement age might adversely affect some lower-income, lower-educated minority individuals
whose health problems limit their ability to work into older ages.
Additional y, many older workers may develop work-limiting disabilities in older ages. One study
found that, among a sample of workers aged 51-55 without work limitations in the Health and
Retirement Study (HRS), 35% of them developed an impairment or health problem by age 65 that
limited the type of work they could do. The study also found that non-Hispanic Blacks and lower-
educated workers were more likely to develop work limitations during older ages.66

60 CBO, Employment of People Ages 55 to 79, September 2019, Exhibit 9, at https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2019-
09/55454-CBO-employment-people-55-79.pdf.
61 Richard W. Johnson, Is It Time to Raise the Social Security Retirement Age? Urban Institute, November 2018, at
https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/99327/is_it_time_to_raise_social_security_retirement_age.pdf.
62 One study using the National Health Interview Survey found that the share of individuals aged 55-65 who reported
fair or poor health declined slightly from 2000 to 2017, and the p resence of health problems that limited employment
options did not show a clear declining trend from 1997 to 2017. See Johnson, Is It Tim e to Raise the Social Security
Retirem ent Age?
Another study using the Health and Retirement Survey found that the shar e of individuals aged 50-59
reporting excellent, very good, or good health declined from 1994 to 2014. See Alicia H. Munnell, “ Socioeconomic
Barriers to Working Longer,” Journal of the American Society on Aging (Fall 2019), pp. 42-50. Additionally, one study
using the Current Population Survey found that the share of women aged 55 -79 reporting very good and excellent
health increased from 37% in 1996 to 44% in 2018, and the share of men aged 55 -79 reporting very good and excellent
health increased from 42% to 45% during the same period. See CBO, Em ploym ent of People Ages 55 to 79, September
2019, at https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/2019-09/55454-CBO-employment-people-55-79.pdf.
63 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report—United States, 2013,”
November 22, 2013, at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/ind2013_su.html#HealthDisparities2013 ; and Johnson, Is
It Tim e to Raise the Social Security Retirem ent Age?

64 Dana Goldman, and James P. Smith, “T he Increasing Value of Education to Health,” Social Science and Medicine,
vol. 72 no. 10 (2001), pp. 1728-1737.
65 Steven H. Woolf et al., How Are Income and Wealth Linked to Health and Longevity? Urban Institute, Virginia
Commonwealth University, April 2015, at https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/49116/2000178-How-
are-Income-and-Wealth-Linked-to-Health-and-Longevity.pdf.
66 Johnson, Is It Time to Raise the Social Security Retirement Age?
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An increase in the retirement age would likely encourage workers with health problems to apply
for public disability benefits, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).67 SSDI is part
of Social Security and provides benefits to nonelderly insured workers who meet the statutory
definition of disability and to their eligible dependents.68 General y, disabled workers can gain
financial y by collecting SSDI benefits even after they qualify for early retirement benefits,
because SSDI benefits are not subject to the actuarial reduction.69 The incentive to apply for SSDI
benefits rises as the gap between the EEA and the FRA increases and as the EEA increases. Some
researchers have suggested that the increase in the FRA from 65 to 66 in the first half of the
2000s slightly increased SSDI applications.70 Researchers also built their analysis on the
assumption that early claimers for Social Security would move to SSDI if the EEA increases.71
However, not al workers with health problems or work-related limitations can receive disability
benefits. One study showed that more than half of workers aged 50-64 in the bottom 20% of the
function ability distribution did not receive any disability-related benefit.72 Another study
estimated that about 11% of individuals aged 62-64 were not working, had health problems, were
not collecting SSDI, and were collecting Social Security retirement benefits in 2014.73 If the
retirement age increased, then work-limited individuals who do not qualify for disability benefits
might have to wait longer to apply for Social Security retirement benefits (under an increase in
the EEA) or receive a larger actuarial reduction due to early retirement (under an increase in the
FRA only).
Job Characteristics
Over the past four decades, the workplace has general y become less physical y demanding,
which has been considered to be a trend more suitable for older workers to remain employed. One
study found that the shares of workers in jobs requiring workers to engage in moderate or

67 Disability benefits are designed to provide income supports for working-age adults who are unable to perform a
minimum level of work because of physical, emotional, or cognitive impairments. SSDI is the primary payer of
disability benefits. Other important public disability programs include workers’ compensation , Supplemental Security
Income, and Department of Veterans Affairs disability compensation and death pension. For more information, see
CRS In Focus IF10506, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI); CRS In Focus IF10308, Workers’ Com pensation:
Overview and Issues
; CRS In Focus IF10482, Supplemental Security Incom e (SSI); and CRS Report R44837, Benefits
for Service-Disabled Veterans
.
68 See CRS In Focus IF10506, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
69 Under current law, SSDI beneficiaries are transferred automatically to Social Security retirement benefits at the FRA.
T he Social Security Amendments of 1983 (P.L. 98-21) raised the FRA for Social Security retirement benefits, thereby
increasing both the number of insured workers in their older and more disability -prone years and the duration of benefit
receipt for older SSDI beneficiaries close to the FRA. For more information, see CRS Report R43318, The Social
Security Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund: Background and Current Status
.
70 John Bound, T odd Stinebrickner, and T imothy Waidmann, “Health, Economic Resources, and the Work Decisions of
Older Men,” Journal of Econom etrics, vol. 156, no. 1 (2010), pp. 106-129; Mark Duggan, Perry Singleton, and Jae
Song, “ Aching to Retire? T he Rise in the Full Retirement and Its Impact on the Social Security Disability Rolls,”
Journal of Public Econom ics, vol. 91, no. 7-8 (2007), pp. 1327-1350; and Xiaoyan Li and Nicole Maestas. Does the
Rise in the Full Retirem ent Age Encourage Disability Benefits Applications? Evidence from the Health and Retirem ent
Study
, 2008, Michigan Retirement Research Center, Working paper 2008-198.
71 Constantijn Panis et al., The Effects of Changing Social Security Administration’s Early Entitlement Age and the
Norm al Retirem ent Age
, RAND Corporation, 2002, at https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/contractreports/agereport.pdf.
72 Richard W. Johnson, Melissa M. Favreault, and Corina Mommaerts, Work Ability and the Social Insurance Safety
Net in the Years Prior to Retirem ent
, Urban Institute, at https://www.urban.org/research/publication/work-ability-and-
social-insurance-safety-net-years-prior-retirement.
73 Johnson, Is It Time to Raise the Social Security Retirement Age?, Figure 22.
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strenuous physical activities decreased from 57% in 1971 to 46% in 2006.74 However, relatively
smal changes were found based on data in the recent two decades. For example, one study, using
the data from the HRS, found that about 34% of workers aged 55-65 reported that their jobs
required substantial physical effort in 1998, and the share remained the same in 2014.75
Despite the fact that the physical demands faced by older workers general y declined in the past
few decades, older workers with limited education are more likely to work in physically
demanding jobs than those with relatively more years of education. One study found that, in
2014, 49% of workers aged 55-65 who did not attend college reported physically demanding jobs
in the HRS, compared to 26% of those who attended college. In the same year, 23% of workers
aged 55-65 who did not attend college were employed in jobs requiring heavy lifting, compared
to 10% of those who attended college.76 The 2015 American Working Conditions Survey also
found similar statistics: A larger percentage of individuals aged 50 and older without a college
degree than those with a college degree worked in jobs involving moving heavy loads or people,
tiring or painful positions, or standing.77
Older workers who find it difficult to continue with physically demanding jobs may apply for
Social Security retirement as early as age 62 (the EEA under current law). Studies have found that
early beneficiaries aged 62-64 who had health problems are more likely to work in blue-collar
jobs than white-collar jobs in their most recent employment prior to retirement,78 and a majority
of early male retirees are in poorer health and have higher mortality risk than those who retire at
age 65 and older.79 Therefore, those early retirees who have work-related health impairment and
relatively shorter life expectancy would be disadvantaged under an increase in the EEA, the FRA,
or both, assuming they do not qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Labor Market Conditions
Statistics show that older workers are general y less likely than younger workers to become
unemployed, but job layoffs are common for the older workforce and are more likely among
workers with fewer years of education. According to the HRS, 30% of workers aged 51-55
became unemployed by age 65, including 36% of those with no high school diploma and 26% of
those with four or more years of college education.80 Additional y, studies found that older
workers general y experience longer spel s of unemployment than younger workers.81 Research

74 Richard W. Johnson, Gordon B. T . Mermin, and Matthew Resseger, “Job Demands and Work Ability at Older
Ages,” Journal of Aging and Social Policy, vol. 23, no. 2 (2011), pp. 101-118.
75 Johnson, Is It Time to Raise the Social Security Retirement Age? T he author also found that the share of older
workers reporting having to lift heavy loads or sto op, kneel, or crouch on the job did not change much between 1998
and 2014.
76 Johnson, Is It Time to Raise the Social Security Retirement Age?, T able 1.
77 Nicole Maestas et al., 2015 American Working Conditions Survey: Focus on Older Versus Younger Workers,
Michigan Retirement Research Center, 2016, at https://mrdrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/papers/pdf/wp362.pdf.
78 Michael V. Leonesio, Denton R. Vaughan, and Bernard Wixon , “Early Retirees Under Social Security: Health Status
and Economic Resources,” Social Security Bulletin, vol. 63, no. 4 (2000). In this study, blue-collar jobs is defined as
service, production, craft, and repair occupations, or working as operators, fabricators, or laborers, while white-collar
jobs
is defined as managerial, professional, technical, sales, or administrative occupations.
79 Hilary Waldron, Heterogeneity in Health and Mortality Risk Among Early Retiree Men , SSA, Office of Research,
Evaluation, and Statistics (ORES) Working Paper No. 105, May 2004; and Hilary Waldron, Links Between Early
Retirem ent and Mortality
, ORES, Working Paper No. 93, 2001.
80 Johnson, Is It Time to Raise the Social Security Retirement Age?, Figure 12.
81 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Record Unemployment Among Older Workers Does Not
Keep T hem Out of the Job Market,” Issues in Labor Statistics, March 2010, at https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/archive/
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based on field experiments also found that older workers are less likely to be cal ed back for
interviews than younger workers with similar qualifications.82
Unemployed workers may qualify for unemployment insurance benefits,83 but displaced workers
aged 62 and older may also collect Social Security benefits to help them meet current expenses,
especial y during economic recessions. One study showed that, between 2008 and 2011, 83% of
unemployed workers aged 62 and older collected Social Security benefits six months after
layoff.84 Another study found that, in 2007, the year before the Great Recession of 2007-2009,
33.5% of fully insured men and 36.3% of fully insured women chose to claim Social Security
retirement benefits at age 62.85 These figures increased in 2009 (when those born in 1947 turned
62) when the recession hit a low point, as 35.8% of fully insured men and 38.9% of fully insured
women started receiving benefits at age 62.86 Increasing the retirement age would make those
unemployed workers aged 62 and older either no longer eligible for Social Security retirement
benefits (under an increase in the EEA) or subject to a larger permanent actuarial reduction in
monthly benefits for the rest of their lives if they claimed benefits at or close to EEA (under an
increase in the FRA only).
Addressing Concerns About Increasing the
Retirement Age
Concerns regarding the effects of increasing the retirement age, especial y on certain segments of
the population, are not new. The Social Security Amendments of 1983, which increased the
retirement age gradual y from 65 to 67, mandated a study to examine the effects of increasing the
retirement age on workers in physical y demanding jobs or il health.87 To address the concerns

record-unemployment -among-older-workers-does-not-keep-them-out-of-the-job-market.pdf; and Richard W. Johnson,
“Older Workers and COVID-19: T he Harsh Economic Realities,” May 28, 2020, Urban Institute, at
https://www.economicpolicyresearch.org/images/Retirement_Project/Presentations/May28_OlderWorkersWebinar/
Johnson_presentation_May_28_2020.pdf.
82 David Neumark et al., Do State Laws Protecting Older Workers from Discrimination Laws Reduce Age
Discrim ination in Hiring? Experim ental (and Nonexperim ental) Evidence
, Michigan Retirement Research Center,
2016, at https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/135722/wp349.pdf; and David Neumark, Ian Burn,
and Patrick Button, “ Is It Harder for Older Workers to Find Jobs? New and Improved E vidence from a Field
Experiment,” Journal of Political Econom ics, vol. 127, no. 2 (April 2019), at https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/
abs/10.1086/701029.
83 See CRS Report RL33362, Unemployment Insurance: Programs and Benefits.
84 Richard W. Johnson and Alice Feng, Financial Consequences of Long-Term Unemployment During the Great
Recession and Recovery
, Urban Institute, 2013, at https://www.urban.org/research/publication/financial-consequences-
long-term-unemployment -during-great-recession-and-recovery.
85 A worker is fully insured for benefits if he or she has earned at least one credit for each year elapsing after the year in
which he or she attains age 21 and before the year in which he or she attains age 62, dies, or becomes disabled,
whichever occurs first. A worker is perm anently and fully insured if he or she has at least 40 credits (at least 10 years of
work) and will not lose fully insured status when he or she stops working under covered employment.
86 Jason J. Fichtner, John W. R. Phillips, and Barbara A. Smith, Retirement Behavior and the Global Financial Crisis,
Pension Research Council, September 2011, at https://pensionresearchcouncil.wharton.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/
2015/09/PRC-WP2011-10-Fichtner-Phillips.pdf. Similar results also found in Richard W. Johnson and Corina
Mommaerts, “Social Security Retirement Benefit Awards Hit All-T ime High in 2009,” Urban Institute, January 2010,
at https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/28286/412010-Social-Security-Retirement -Benefit-Awards-Hit-
All-T ime-High-in—.PDF.
87 T he report prepared by SSA is reprinted in the Social Security Bulletin. See “ Increasing the Social Security
Retirement Age: Older Workers in Physically Demanding Occupations or Ill Health ,” Social Security Bulletin, vol. 49,
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that increasing the retirement age may result in financial hardship for some older Americans,
policymakers and researchers have suggested some possible approaches that could accompany an
increase in the retirement age and might offer certain income protections to vulnerable older
adults. Some of those approaches would make changes to the Social Security retirement program,
and some would modify other programs.
Possible Approaches Under the Social Security Retirement System
To address concerns regarding the effects of increasing the retirement age on some older
Americans, some policymakers and researchers propose exempting certain groups of individuals
from an increase in the retirement age. For example, recognizing that some workers may be
physical y unable to work beyond the current EEA (62) and may not qualify for Social Security
disability benefits, in 2010, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (also
cal ed the Simpson-Bowles Commission after co-chairs Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles)
recommended a hardship exemption for up to 20% of retirees in conjunction with proposed
increases in the EEA and FRA. Under the proposal, as the EEA and FRA increase, certain
beneficiaries with 25 years of employment and low lifetime earnings could continue to claim
benefits at age 62, and their benefits would not be subject to additional actuarial reductions.88 The
commission specified that SSA would design the policy taking into consideration factors such as
the physical demands of labor and lifetime earnings in developing eligibility criteria.89
Special Rules Based on Years of Work and Average Lifetime Earnings
As discussed above, the Simpson-Bowles Commission recommended workers with low lifetime
earnings and significant employment be exempt from an increase in the retirement age.
Researchers who supported similar proposals argued that workers at high risk of hardship and
with low life expectancy tend to have low lifetime earnings.90
Setting the retirement age based on average lifetime earnings and employment attachment,
however, may result in some significant assistance flow to people who are not at risk of hardship.
One study suggested that this policy may offer a better retirement option to certain beneficiaries
(such as women) who tend to have lower lifetime earnings but longer life expectancy, as wel as
some secondary earners in the household who have lower lifetime earnings but can receive a
higher household standard of living based on the benefits from primary earners in the

no. 10 (October 1986), at https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/v49n10/v49n10p5.pdf.
88 National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, The Moment of Truth: Report of the National
Com m ission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform
, December 2010, https://www.ssa.gov/history/reports/ObamaFiscal/
T heMomentofTruth12_1_2010.pdf. For cost estimation, see SSA Retirement Age Options, Option C2.3. T he estimate
includes a “hardship exemption” with no EEA/FRA change for workers with 25 years of earnings (with four quarters of
coverage each year) and average indexed monthly earnings less than 250% of the poverty level (wage -indexed from
2013). T he hardship exemption would be phased out for those above 400% of the pov erty level.
89 National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, The Moment of Truth, p. 51. T he commission also
recommended policies that would provide people with more flexibility in claiming benefits. Specifically, t he
commission recommended allowing people to claim up to half of their benefits at age 62 (with an actuarial reduction)
and the other half at a later age (with a smaller actuarial reduction). T his option was intended to provide a smoother
transition for those interested in phased retirement or for households where one member has retired and another
continues to work. In general, it could provide a stream of income for those with financial difficulties by allowing them
to claim a portion of their benefits early and avoid taking a permanent reduction on the full benefit amount.
90 Natalia Zhivan et al., An “Elastic” Earliest Eligibility Age for Social Security, Center for Retirement Research,
February 2008, at https://crr.bc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/IB_8-2_508x.pdf.
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household.91 Researchers also indicated that workers with significant earnings not covered by
Social Security may be exempt from this option,92 so those workers would not be treated the same
as beneficiaries who have low lifetime earnings and whose employment is al covered by Social
Security.93
Special Rules Based on Physically Demanding Jobs
Special pension provisions that al ow early retirement for workers in certain physically
demanding jobs are a feature of public pension systems in many countries. One study found that
18 nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) al owed
workers engaged in “hazardous or arduous” employment to collect public retirement benefits at
relatively young ages.94 The definition of hazardous or arduous is general y different for each
country and could include miners, armed forces, firefighters, police officers, airline pilots, and
train drivers. The hardships in a hazardous or arduous work environment can be physical, mental,
or some combination. Some hardships can result in deterioration in workers’ health, a loss of
productivity, or lower life expectancy, and some others can make it difficult for workers to
continue to carry out the same job or remain in the same occupation when they age. Pensions with
different retirement ages in certain occupations usual y provide benefits based on length of
service, such as 30 years of service in an occupation.95
Establishing different Social Security program rules—in this case, a different eligibility age for
retirement benefits—for workers in certain occupations, however, may raise several issues. For
example, it may be difficult to determine, in a fair and equitable way, which specific occupations
should be designated as al owing workers to claim retirement benefits at younger ages relative to
the rest of the Social Security–covered workforce, especial y if retirement benefits for those
workers are not subject to reduction (or further reduction) based on claiming age. One study
found that the types of demanding jobs with early retirement treatment vary greatly across
countries, ranging from those that are inherently dangerous (such as underground mining) to
those that general y are not performed by workers at older ages (airline pilots, for example, are

91 Hilary Waldron, “Mortality Differentials by Lifetime Earnings Decile: Implications for Evaluations of Proposed
Social Security Law Changes,” Social Security Bulletin, vol. 73, no. 1 (2013), at https://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/ssb/
v73n1/v73n1p1.pdf.
92 Under current law, the windfall elimination provision is a modified benefit formula that reduces the Social Security
benefits of certain retired or disabled workers who are also entitled to pension benefits based on earnings from jobs that
were not covered by Social Security and thus not subject to the Social Security payroll tax . See CRS Report 98-35,
Social Security: The Windfall Elim ination Provision (WEP) .
93 Jack Smalligan, Aaron R. Williams, and Chantel Boyens, Social Security’s Earliest Eligibility Age, Urban Institute,
July 2019, at https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/100732/
social_securitys_earliest_eligibility_age_1.pdf.
94 Ashgar Zaidi and Edward R. Whitehouse, Should Pension Systems Recognize ‘Hazardous and Arduous Work’?
OECD, 2009, at https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/social-issues-migration-health/should-pension-systems-recognise-
hazardous-and-arduous-work_221835736557. The United States is one of those 18 nations that allow workers in
certain occupations to retire at relatively early ages. T hose special pension provisions are not included in Social
Security but are available in the railroad retirement program and some state or local public pensions. For example,
railroad workers may retire as early as age 60 if they meet the eligibility criteria. (See CRS Report RS22350, Railroad
Retirem ent Board: Retirem ent, Survivor, Disability, Unem ploym ent, and Sickness Benefits
.) Some state and local public
pensions for firefighters and police offices offer a relatively young retirement age.
95 For example, railroad workers in United States with at least 30 years of covered railroad work may receive
unreduced retirement annuities at age 60. (See CRS Report RS22350, Railroad Retirem ent Board: Retirem ent,
Survivor, Disability, Unem ploym ent, and Sickness Benefits
.) T ypical examples in many countries also include
firefighters, members of the police and other law enforcing authorities, and members of the armed forces. (See Zaidi
and Whitehouse, Should Pension System s Recognize ‘Hazardous and Arduous Work’? )
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subject to a mandatory retirement age) and those that are cultural y protected (such as bullfighters
and musicians).96 Additional y, studies indicated that early retirement from demanding
occupations might cause high disincentives to continue working97 and increase the cost of the
pension system.98 Moreover, researchers have also suggested that al owing early retirement in
demanding occupations might discourage investment in technological improvements that aim to
reduce the demanding nature of those jobs.99
Possible Approaches Outside the Social Security Retirement
System
Recognizing that certain groups of older workers might be financial y vulnerable under an
increase in the retirement age, some researchers have suggested making improvements to
programs outside the Social Security retirement system to provide income support to some older
workers. Those approaches usual y target a specific group of older workers.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Some researchers suggest changes to the SSI program to expand eligibility for SSI benefits for
the aged. SSI is a needs-based public assistance program that provides monthly cash benefits to
the aged, blind, or disabled.100 SSI benefits for the aged are available to individuals aged 65 and
older. Some researchers have proposed lowering the SSI eligibility age for aged beneficiaries
from age 65 to 62 if the Social Security EEA were raised.101 Expanding SSI eligibility for the
aged would al ow some workers who cannot work past age 62 and who have difficulty meeting
their basic living expenses to qualify for a monthly cash benefit from the SSI program. To qualify
for SSI, a person’s countable income and resources—gross income and resources minus al
applicable exclusions—must be within certain limits.102 Therefore, this approach would target
those individuals at early retirement ages with little or no income and very limited assets.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
Some suggest modifying the SSDI program to expand eligibility for certain older workers with
severe health conditions that limit their ability to work. One possible option is to eliminate the
employment requirement prior to the onset of disability for those aged 62 and older under an
increase of the retirement age.103 Under current law, to be eligible for SSDI, workers must have
worked in jobs covered by Social Security for about a quarter of their adult lives and for at least

96 Zaidi and Whitehouse, Should Pension Systems Recognize ‘Hazardous and Arduous Work’?
97 OECD, OECD Economic Surveys: Greece 2007, at https://doi.org/10.1787/eco_surveys-grc-2007-5-en.
98 Michele Boldrin, Sergi Jiménez-Martín, and Franco Peracchi, Micro-Modeling of Retirement Behavior in Spain,
NBER, 2004, at https://www.nber.org/chapters/c10707.pdf.
99 N. Vermeer, M. Mastrogiacomo, and Arthur van Soest, Demanding Occupations and the Retirement Age, Institute
for the Study of Labor, 2015, at http://ftp.iza.org/dp9462.pdf.
100 See CRS In Focus IF10482, Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
101 David C. Stapleton, Employment Support for the Transition to Retirement: Can a New Program Help Older
Workers Continue to Work and Protect Those Who Cannot?
AARP, 2009, at https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/econ/
2009_05_transition.pdf.
102 T he limit for countable income is equal to the federal benefit rate, which is the maximum monthly SSI payment
available under the program. Currently, the rate is $783 per month for an individual and $1,175 per month for a couple
if both members are SSI eligible. T he limit for countable resources is $2,000 for an individual and $3,000 for a couple.
103 Smalligan, Williams, and Boyens, Social Security’s Earliest Eligibility Age.
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five of the 10 years prior to the onset of disability.104 One study shows that about half of Social
Security retirement beneficiaries who were aged 62-64 and had severe work limitations did not
meet the prior employment requirement, also known as a “recency-of-work test.”105 Under this
policy option, older workers with work-related health impairments who have worked for decades
and left the labor force for a few years before the onset of disability might qualify for SSDI
benefits.
Another potential option is to simplify the disability determination process for those aged 62 and
older if the retirement age increases. Under current law, an SSDI applicant would not receive
benefits if he or she could perform work that exists in the national economy, taking into
consideration his or her age, education, and work experience.106 Some researchers propose
eliminating this step in the disability determination for those aged 62 and older under an increase
of the retirement age.107 Evidence shows that more than 80% of SSDI applicants aged 50 and
older who were denied disability benefits based on the ability to perform work had no earnings in
the five years after the determination.108 Under this policy change, older workers aged 62 and
older who have qualified work-related health impairment and could not perform past related work
might receive SSDI benefits.
These changes in eligibility rules would likely increase the number of SSDI awards and program
outlays, thus affecting the program solvency.109
Unemployment Insurance (UI)
Others suggest extending UI for older workers. As noted earlier, older workers tend to have
longer unemployment spel s than younger workers, and many displaced older workers choose to
claim Social Security retirement benefits at the EEA to compensate for the loss of earnings. To
reduce the potential negative impact of increasing the Social Security retirement age on those
older workers, researchers have suggested extending UI benefits from the current 26 weeks to 52

104 Younger workers may qualify with less work experience based on their age. See CRS In Focus IF10506, Social
Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
.
105 Michael V. Leonesio, Denton R. Vaughan, and Bernard Wixon, Increasing the Early Retirem ent Age Under Social
Security: Health, Work and Financial Resources
, National Academy of Social Insurance, December 2003, at
https://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/nasiBrief_risk7_03.pdf.
106 T o meet the statutory definition of disability, workers must be unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity
(SGA) due to any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that is expected to last for at least one year or
to result in death. SSA uses an earnings threshold to determine whether an individual’s work activity constitutes SGA,
which the agency adjusts annually for average wage growth. In 202 1, the SGA earnings limit for most workers is
$1,310 per month. In general, workers must have severe impairment s (or combinations of impairments) that prevent
them from doing any kind of substantial work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy, taking into
consideration their age, education, and work experience.
107 Smalligan, Williams, and Boyens, Social Security’s Earliest Eligibility Age.
108 Jody Schimmel Hyde, April Yanyuan Wu, and Lakhpreet Gill, The Benefit Receipt Patterns and Labor Market
Experiences of Older Workers Who Were Denied SSDI on the Basis of Work Capacity
, Mathematica Policy Research,
March 2008, at https://www.mathematica.org/our-publications-and-findings/publications/the-benefit-receipt-patterns-
and-labor-market -experiences-of-older-workers-who-were-denied-ssdi.
109 See CRS Report R43318, The Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund: Background and Current
Status
.
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weeks for displaced older workers.110 Researchers have also pointed out that extending UI
benefits may discourage job search efforts among older workers.111
Employment Services and Training Programs
Researchers also argue that expanding access to employment services and training opportunities
could help promote work for older adults and cushion the impact of raising the Social Security
EEA. The current federal support for employment and job training targeted to older adults is
limited. For example, the Senior Community Service Employment Program authorizes the U.S.
Department of Labor to make grants to support part-time community service employment
opportunities for eligible individuals who are aged 55 or older, low-income, and unemployed. In
FY2019, appropriations for these programs were $400 mil ion and supported approximately
41,000 positions.112 In addition, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA; P.L. 113-
28) is the primary federal law that supports workforce development. Workforce development
programs provide a combination of education and training services to prepare adult individuals at
al ages for work and to help them improve their prospects in the labor market.113 From April
2018 to March 2019, about 141,500 individuals aged 55 or older (or about 17% of participants at
al ages) were served by WIOA adult and dislocated worker programs, and 5,604 adults aged 55
or older received training (or 6.5% of those received training at al ages) under the WIOA adult
program.114 However, evidence is limited in determining if these programs can adequately
address the chal enges created by increasing the Social Security retirement age. Research also
suggests that more federal support might be needed to improve employment opportunities for
low-skil ed older workers.115


110 Johnson, Is It Time to Raise the Social Security Retirement Age? T here are potential program interactions among the
major income sources for current retirees and Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefit payments. Federal law
requires that states reduce an individual’s weekly UC benefit “ by the amount, allocated weekly, of any governmental or
other pension, retirement or retired pay, annuity, or any other similar periodic payment which is based on the p revious
work of such individual” (26 U.S.C §3304[a][15]). States may reduce the UC benefits of workers receiving Social
Security or SSDI payments. See “ Effect of Social Security Payments” in DOL’s 2019 Comparison of State
Unemployment Insurance Laws, available at https://oui.doleta.gov/unemploy/pdf/uilawcompar/2019/nonmonetary.pdf.
Currently, only Minnesota offsets UC benefits by 50% of Social Security payments. In some states, individuals who
receive SSDI are deemed ineligible for UC or have those payments treated as deductible income.
111 Richard W. Johnson and Corina Mommaerts, Age Differences in Job Loss, Job Search, and Reemployment, Urban
Institute, January 2011, at https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/27086/412284-Age-Differences-in-Job-
Loss-Job-Search-and-Reemployment.PDF.
112 See CRS Report R45626, Older Americans Act: Senior Community Service Employment Program .
113 See CRS Report R44252, The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the One-Stop Delivery System .
114 US Department of Labor, Employment and T raining Administration, PY 2018 Data Book, February 2020, T able I-4
and T able II-10, at https://www.doleta.gov//performance/results/WIASRD/PY2018/PY_2018_WIOA_and_Wagner-
Peyser_Data_Book.pdf.
115 Angela Hanks and David Madland, “Better T raining and Better Jobs: A New Partnership for Sector T raining,”
Center for American Progress, 2018, at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2018/02/22/447115/
better-training-better-jobs/.
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Author Information

Zhe Li

Analyst in Social Policy


Acknowledgments
The previous author of the report was CRS Specialist Dawn Nuschler. An earlier version was written by
former CRS Analysts Wayne Liou and Alison Shelton.

Disclaimer
This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
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under the direction of Congress. Information in a CRS Report should n ot be relied upon for purposes other
than public understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members of Congress in
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