1981 National Commission

The National Commission on Social Security was created by Congress in December 1977 and was instructed to undertake a "fundamental, long-term, comprehensive consideration for change in the entire Social Security system." This was the first time that a Commission composed entirely of private citizens has been chartered by Congress to do such a study. The nine-member bipartisan Commission issued its final reportin March 1981. Its fundamental finding was "the Commission concludes that the Social Security system is sound in principle and, of all alternatives, is the best structure of income support for the United States."

Unlike the Greenspan Commission, whose Report in 1983 would lead directly and almost immediately to major legislative change, the 1981 Commission's work had little immediate impact. However, the Report is notable for the comprehensive scope of its analysis of the Social Security program. Many of the Report's recommendations would in fact eventually find their way into law and public policy and others are still the focus of active debate to this day. Although its direct influence was limited, the 1981 Report serves as an excellent road-map to the major public policy issues confronting Social Security in the closing decades of the 20th century.


(Note: All material in Adobe PDF format)

Cover Letter & Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Overview- 1
Chapter 2: Summary of Major Recommendations- 21
Chapter 3: Alternatives to Social Security- 35
Chapter 4: Financing Social Security & Medicare- 52
Chapter 5: Retirement Age- 120
Chapter 6: Retirement Earnings Test- 140
Chapter 7: Social Security Benefit Structure- 153
Chapter 8: Coverage of Social Security- 168
Chapter 9: Disability Programs- 193
Chapter 10: Social Security Appeals- 217
Chapter 11: Women and Social Security- 225
Chapter 12: Supplemental Security Income- 245
Chapter 13: Medicare and Medicaid- 257
Chapter 14: Administration of the Social Security Programs- 299
Chapter 15: Consumer Price Index for the Elderly- 313
Chapter 16: Other Recommendations for Changes in Social Security- 322
Chapter 17: Costs of the Commission's Recommendations- 328
Chapter 18: Dissenting and Supplementary Statements- 330
Chapter 19: Glossary- 365
Chapter 20: Appendices
Appendix A: Summary of Hart Survey- 375
Appendix B: Common Misconceptions- 380
Appendix C: Rodgers' Retirement Age Proposal- 391
Appendix D: Gender-Based Distinctions- 413