Recommendation: Given the potential impact of the totalisation agreements on social security trust funds, the Social Security Commissioner should cooperate with the Office of the Chief of actuary to set up a regular process that reviews the costs initially projected and the beneficiaries concerned in relation to what has actually happened over time and uses this information, if any, to adapt future methods of estimating totalization agreements. For more information on these totalization agreements, see www.socialsecurity.gov/international/. Since 2005, TSCL has requested the disclosure of documents relating to the agreement through several requests and appeals by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As a result, the first public copy of the 2006 totalization agreement was published to TSCL, but there were no long-term estimates of the financial impact contained in the disclosed documents. Determined to know what the government usually accepts, TSCL filed more FOIA applications and another complaint. Recently, a new federal judge ruled that TSCL deserves more information. TSCL expects that additional documents will be published as soon as possible, unless the government appeals. Comments: SSA provides short- and long-term projections on the cost of future totalization agreements. These estimates from the Actuarial Board (OCACT) reflected all expected changes in costs and returns in the first five years following implementation. OCACT estimates, which would be for the short-range period (10 years), as well as the potential effects on the long projection period (75 years). OCACT will continue to provide short- and long-term estimates for potential future agreements. In addition, OCACT has developed methods to illustrate possible fluctuations in cost estimates for potential future totalization agreements. Social security actuaries believe that a totalization agreement with Mexico would have a negligible long-term effect on trust funds.
An agreement with Mexico would save U.S. workers and their employers about $140 million in social security and health insurance taxes in Mexico during the first five years of the agreement. Recommendation: Given the potential impact of totalisation agreements on social security trust funds, the Social Security Commissioner should set up a formal process to identify and assess the main risks associated with entering into agreements with other countries. Such a process should include mechanisms for assessing the integrity of a country`s data and pension records and documenting the range of SSA analyses. The United States currently has social security agreements with Canada, Chile, South Korea, Australia and most of Western Europe. If you have any questions about international social security agreements, please contact the Office of International Social Security Programs at 410-965-3322 or 410-965-7306. However, do not call these numbers if you want to inquire about a right to an individual benefit. Comments posted: SSA returned to Mexico and conducted additional studies of the Mexican social security program that GAO deemed insufficient. The Agency has also developed several initiatives to identify risks associated with totalization agreements, including the implementation of vulnerability assessments, to identify potential problems with documents and data from abroad. This has allowed SSA to thoroughly assess the risks involved and to resolve important issues. If you live abroad, you may have heard of agreements between the United States and your country, which are known as totalization agreements.
You may also have heard that they are referred to as social security agreements. For American expats who live and work abroad, it is very important to know if the U.S. has a totalization agreement with your host country and the details of such an agreement.