Devastation: How the Pandemic Attacked the Elderly

Devastation: How the Pandemic Attacked the Elderly

5.6 million Social Security beneficiaries died between 2020 and 2021.


The Covid-19 pandemic has had a terrible effect on the elderly and disabled population in the United States. Now, we have an idea of just how devastating. 

According to The Hill, the Social Security Administration (SSA) released statistics stating that 5.6 million Social Security beneficiaries died in 2020 and 2021. That represents an increase of  840,000, or 17.7 percent, over the 2018-19 period. That number closely matches the figure of 825,000 deaths from Covid-19, as reported by the CDC as of the end of 2021. The Hill added that the death rate among Social Security recipients in 2020-2021 was 43.2 deaths per 1,000 beneficiaries, compared to the figure of 37.7 deaths in the two years pre-Covid. 


The report added that the average annual death rate for Social Security’s disabled worker beneficiaries also increased by 16.9 percent in 2020-21, from the previous two years. The Social Security Administration announced in early June that, according to its latest trustees report, the OASI Trust Fund is projected to become depleted in 2034, one year later than previously projected

As a result, Social Security will no longer be able to put out full benefits starting the following year, absent any corrective action by Congress. “It is important to strengthen Social Security for future generations. The Trustees recommend that lawmakers address the projected trust fund shortfalls in a timely way in order to phase in necessary changes gradually,” Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, said in early June. “Social Security will continue to be a vital part of the lives of 66 million beneficiaries and 182 million workers and their families during 2022.”

There are currently two efforts in Congress aimed at shoring up Social Security: the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust plan from Rep. John Larson (R-CT), and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) Social Security Expansion Act.  “At a time when half of older Americans have no retirement savings and millions of senior citizens are living in poverty, our job is not to cut Social Security,” Sanders said when the legislation was introduced. 

 “Our job must be to expand Social Security so that every senior citizen in America can retire with the dignity they deserve and every person with a disability can live with the security they need. And we will do that by demanding that the wealthiest people in America finally pay their fair share of taxes,” he continued.

However, it’s not clear if either proposal has much of a chance to pass during the current Congress. Neither proposal has been endorsed by the White House, and the long-term status of Social Security doesn’t appear to have emerged as a major consideration in this year’s midterm elections. 

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters