Congress has not significantly altered the program since 1983. Meanwhile, multiple demographic and socioeconomic changes in the interim have led to long-term financial challenges. Without legislative action, beginning in 2034 Social Security would still be able to pay roughly three-quarters of benefits for the remainder of this century. But a reduction of this size would compromise the economic security of beneficiaries, particularly those with low and moderate incomes who rely on Social Security the most.
Lawmakers can pursue a variety of options to fix the program’s long-term shortfall by changing how it pays benefits or obtains revenue. The longer Congress waits, however, the harder and more dramatic those fixes will need to be.