The Social Security System (SSS) saw an increase in benefit payments and improved actuarial position after structural reforms were taken in January last year, a top official said.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio S. de Quiros Jr., said the state-agency has so far paid P139.2 billion in total benefits since January 2014 or 52 percent higher than 2013 record. A big portion of the releases went to retirement at P76.2 billion; followed by death, P45 billion; maternity, P6.2 billion; disability, P5.2 billion; funeral, P3.9 billion; sickness, P2.6 billion; and medical and rehabilitation services, P23.6 million.

The SSS reserve fund also went up almost 2.9 percent as of April 2015 to P430 billion from P418 billion in 2014, the official said.

“The figures speak for themselves. The reform agenda enabled the SSS to maintain its financial position solidly at a level that can support higher benefit payments.” De Quiros said.

SSS implemented its new contribution rate at 11 percent and increased its monthly salary credit to P16,000 effective January last year as part of the SSS reform agenda that seeks to lengthen the actuarial life of the Social Security Fund.

The reform agenda also aims to reduce the unfunded liability, which was previously reported at P1.1 trillion by five percent to P908 billion, De Quiros said in a previous report. Unfunded liability refers to the wide gap between contributions paid and amount of benefits received.

At present, SSS funds are projected to last until 2042, with three years added to its fund life as a result of the contribution rate hike in 2014.

“In addition, SSS was able to raise the monthly pensions of existing pensioners as of May 31,2014 by five-percent in June 2014,” De Quiros said, stressing that a definite source of funding or a corresponding adjustment would provide an opportunity for another pension increase.

“We are cognizant of the difficulties our members are faced with, however, we can only do so much under the constraints and limitations of the law that governs us. That said, we continuously look for permissible solutions to improve the SSS program, with them always in mind,” De Quiros said.

The SSS Chief said that members can also look forward to an increase in the maximum amount of funeral benefit, from the current fixed amount of P20,000 to a variable of P20,000 to P40,000 based on the member’s number of contributions and average monthly salary credit.

“We want our members to know that we are all on the same page and that everything we do is aimed towards having a reliable social security program and more meaningful benefits,” De Quiros said.