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Ranking Member Larson Opening Statement at Joint Subcommittee Hearing on Protecting Americans’ Identities

May 23, 2017
Press Release

(Remarks as prepared)


I’d like to thank my friend Tom Rice for leading today’s joint subcommittee hearing, in the absence of our Chairman Sam Johnson.


Social Security represents a sacred compact between the federal government and the hard-working men and women who pay into this important insurance program. I was proud to join with Chairman Johnson in introducing the Social Security Must Avert Identity Loss (MAIL) Act to require the Social Security Administration to remove beneficiaries’ Social Security numbers from mailed notices.


To highlight the importance of protecting people’s Social Security numbers, we are partnering here with the Information Technology Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. I am honored to welcome Chairman Will Hurd and Ranking Member Robin Kelly to our hearing room.


Since 2014, hundreds of millions of Americans have lost their personally identifiable information – including their Social Security numbers-- to large-scale cyber-attacks. The number was originally created in 1936, for the purpose of running the nation’s new Social Security system. However, its usefulness as a unique, governmental identifier has made it near ubiquitous across government and the private sector.


To date, the Social Security Administration has not suffered any large-scale data breach. But ongoing vigilance is needed, including adequate support for updating and modernizing IT infrastructure. Altogether, the Social Security Administration has been able to remove the 9-digit SSN from about one-third of the mailings it sends out. The severe constraints on the Social Security Administration’s budget, however, are preventing the agency from removing the numbers from all notices right away, as they have estimated it would cost $14 million to do so immediately, rather than piecemeal.


Since 2010, the number of beneficiaries has grown by 13 percent as the baby boomers enter retirement, but Social Security’s operating budget has fallen by more than 10 percent in that same time period, after accounting for inflation. The Social Security Administration simply cannot serve more and more people with less and less money each year.


The Social Security Administration is already struggling to serve its beneficiaries at the level they deserve. My constituents are experiencing multi-year wait times on disability appeals hearings. Their phone calls are going unanswered. They face delays in correcting errors in their benefit payments. To make matters worse, the President’s FY2018 budget released today also attacks Social Security benefits for those with disabilities, as much as $70 billion over 10 years.


President Trump promised repeatedly and explicitly, throughout the campaign, not to cut Social Security or Medicare. He broke his promise to the American people. I hope my colleagues will join me in fighting these cuts to Social Security.


With that, I look forward to the testimony from the four agencies who are here today.