Social Security faces a significant financial challenge in the coming decade. Its two components, Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI), are financed by revenues from payroll taxes and income taxes on benefits that are credited to separate trust funds. But those revenues are not sufficient to cover the benefits that are due under those programs.
In the Congressional Budget Office’s projections, the OASI trust fund is exhausted in fiscal year 2032, when its balance reaches zero. The DI trust fund is exhausted in 2052. If the two trust funds were combined, they would be exhausted in fiscal year 2033.
Such long-term projections are uncertain. Demographic factors are one key source of that uncertainty. Economic growth is another, particularly in projecting trust fund exhaustion. If the economy grew more quickly than projected, annual revenues would be greater and the trust funds would be exhausted later than projected. If the economy grew more slowly than projected, the opposite would occur.
CBO produces long-term projections for Social Security under two scenarios, which differ in the concepts used to estimate benefits after the projected exhaustion of the trust funds:
Scheduled benefits—benefit amounts are paid as scheduled under current law, regardless of whether balances in the program’s trust funds are sufficient to cover those payments.
Payable benefits—total benefit amounts are limited to annual revenues from payroll taxes and income taxes on benefits after the combined trust funds are exhausted.