Special Minimum Benefit
Released: March 2013
DEFINITION: The special minimum benefit is a special minimum primary insurance amount (PIA) enacted in 1972 to provide adequate benefits to long-term low earners. The first full special minimum PIA in 1973 was $170 per month. Beginning in 1979, its value has increased with price growth and is $804 per month in 2013.
- The number of beneficiaries receiving the special minimum PIA has declined from about 200,000 in the early 1990s to about 75,000 in 2010.
- Fewer new beneficiaries are receiving the price-indexed special minimum PIA because wage growth typically exceeds price growth, thus, their wage-indexed regular PIA is usually higher.
- 2016 is projected as the last year a new beneficiary could theoretically be awarded a special minimum PIA that is higher than his or her regular PIA, but 1998 is the last year it actually happened.a
- The value of the regular PIA has held constant while the value of the special minimum PIA has declined relative to the average wage.
- The value of the regular PIA has risen while the value of the special minimum PIA has held constant relative to the poverty threshold.