Social Security Administration

Social Security Administration
Social Security Administration
Official seal
Agency overview
Formed August 14, 1935
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Woodlawn, Maryland
Employees 62,000
Annual budget $657.3 billion (FY 2008)[1]
Agency executives Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner
Vacant, Deputy Commissioner
One part of SSA headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland
Another view of SSA headquarters

The United States Social Security Administration (SSA)[2] is an independent agency of the United States federal government that administers Social Security, a social insurance program consisting of retirement, disability, and survivors' benefits. To qualify for these benefits, most American workers pay Social Security taxes on their earnings; future benefits are based on the employees' contributions.

The Social Security Administration was established by a law currently codified at 42 U.S.C. § 901. Its commissioner, Michael J. Astrue, was sworn in on February 12, 2007, for a six-year term.

SSA is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, just to the west of Baltimore, at what is known as Central Office. The agency includes 10 regional offices, 8 processing centers, approximately 1300 field offices, and 37 Teleservice Centers. As of 2007, about 62,000 people were employed by the SSA. [3] Headquarters non-supervisory employees of the SSA are represented by AFGE Local 1923. Social Security is currently the largest social welfare program in the U.S., constituting 37% of government expenditure and 7% of GDP.[4]



The Social Security Act created a Social Security Board (SSB),[5] to oversee the administration of the new program. It was created as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal with the signing of Social Security Act of 1935, August 14, 1935.[6] The Board consisted of three presidentially appointed executives, and started with no budget, no staff, and no furniture. It obtained a temporary budget from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration headed by Harry Hopkins.[5]

The first Social Security office opened in Austin, Texas, on October 14, 1936. Social Security taxes were collected first in January 1937, along with the first one-time, lump-sum payments.[6] The first person to receive monthly retirement benefits was Ida May Fuller of Brattleboro, Vermont. Her first check, dated January 31, 1940 was in the amount of US$22.54.[7]

In 1939, the Social Security Board merged into a cabinet-level Federal Security Agency, which included the SSB, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and other agencies.[8] In January 1940, the first regular ongoing monthly benefits were begun.[6] In 1946, the SSB was renamed the Social Security Administration under President Harry S. Truman's Reorganization Plan.

In 1972, Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) were introduced into SSA programs to deal with the effects of inflation on fixed incomes.

In 1953, the Federal Security Agency was abolished and the SSA was placed under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. HEW became the Department of Health and Human Services in 1980. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law 42 U.S.C. § 901 returning the SSA to the status of an independent agency in the executive branch of government.


Chairmen of Social Security Board


The SSA was one of the first federal agencies to have its national headquarters outside of Washington, D.C., or its adjacent suburbs. It was located in Baltimore initially due to the need for a building that was capable of holding the unprecedented amount of paper records that would be needed. Nothing suitable was available in Washington in 1936, so the Social Security Board selected the Candler Building on Baltimore's harbor as a temporary location. Soon after locating there, construction began on a permanent building for SSA in Washington that would meet their requirements for record storage capacity. However, by the time the new building was completed, World War II had started, and the building was commandeered by the War Department. By the time the war ended, it was judged too disruptive to relocate the agency to Washington. The Agency remained in the Candler Building until 1960, when it relocated to its newly built headquarters in Woodlawn.

The road on which the headquarters is located, built especially for the SSA, is named Security Boulevard (Route 122) and has since become one of the major arteries connecting Baltimore with its western suburbs. Security Blvd. is also the name of SSA's exit from the nearby Baltimore Beltway (Interstate 695). A nearby shopping center has been named Security Square Mall, and Woodlawn is often referred to informally as "Security." Interstate 70, which runs for thousands of miles from Utah to Maryland, terminates in a Park and Ride lot that adjoins the SSA campus.

Due to space constraints and ongoing renovations, many headquarters employees work in leased space throughout the Woodlawn area. Other components of the SSA are located elsewhere. For example, the headquarters (Central Office) of the SSA's Office of Disability Adjudication and Review is located in Falls Church, Virginia.


The SSA's coverage under the Social Security Acts originally covered nearly all workers in the continental U.S. and the territories of Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands below the age of 65. All workers in interstate commerce and industry were required to enter the program, except railroad, state and local government workers. In 1939, the age restriction for entering Social Security was eliminated.

Railroad workers were covered by the Railroad Retirement Board before Social Security was founded; they still are, though a portion of each railroad pension is designated as "equivalent" to Social Security. Railroad workers also participate in Medicare.

Most state and local government workers were eventually brought into the Social Security system under "Section 218 Agreements". The original 218 interstate instrumentalities were signed in the 1950s. All states have a Section 218 agreement with the Federal government's Social Security Administration. For more information see Chapter 10 of this Social Security Handbbook.[9] This July 8, 2004 Social Security Handbook chapter 10, section 1002.1 defines what is an "interstate instrumentality.[10] The provisions of Section 218 of the Social Security Act and the instrumentalities agreement and subsequent modifications determine Social Security and Medicare benefits or Medicare-only coverage for state and local government employees enrolled in state and local government retirement systems. To learn more about 218 status or inquire about it from an offical verifiable source, contact the Social Security office or representative nearest to the request, or visit the official Social Security website [11] Also the national "1-800" line, 1-800-772-1213 can help to direct you to information. A list of physical Social Security offices and administrators is maintained on-line at[12] All State and local government employees hired since 1986, or who are covered by section 218 agreements, participate in Medicare even if not covered by Social Security financial benefits.[13] How State And Local Government Employees are covered By Social Security And Medicare see The Federal-State reference guide appendix[14] Other local and state employees were brought into coverage under a 1991 Social Security law that required these employees to join Social Security if their employer did not provide them with a pension plan. Some state and local governments continue to maintain pension plans and have not executed Section 218 agreements; if so, those workers may not participate in Social Security taxation. (If workers have previously paid appropriate Social Security taxation or an equivalent, their Social Security benefits are reduced by a rule known as the Windfall Elimination Provision; there is also a similar Government Pension Offset for their spouses.)

Old Age, Survivors and Disability

The SSA administers the retirement, survivors, and disabled social insurance programs, which can provide monthly benefits to aged or disabled workers, their spouses and children, and to the survivors of insured workers. In 2004, more than 47 million Americans received approximately US$492 billion in Social Security benefits. The programs are primarily financed by taxes which employers, employees, and the self-insured pay annually. These revenues are placed into a special trust fund. Also known as Retirement, Survivors, Disability Insurance(RSDI).

The SSA administers its disability program partly through its Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), which has regional offices and hearing offices across the United States. ODAR publishes a manual, called HALLEX, which contains instructions for its employees regarding how to implement its guiding principles and procedures.

This program is the primary benefits program administered by the U.S. government, and for some beneficiaries is the vital source of income. Increasing access to this benefit program for low-income or homeless individuals is a goal of the Social Security Administration. SSA is a member of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness[15] and works with other municipal, county, state, local and federal partners to increase access and approval for SSI/SSDI benefits who are eligible.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSA administers the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which is needs-based, for the aged, blind, or disabled. This program was originally called by separate names, Old Age Assistance (originally Title I of the Social Security Act of 1935), and Disability Assistance (added in 1946). In 1973, these assistance programs were renamed and reassigned to SSA. SSI recipients are paid out of the general revenue of the United States of America. In addition, some states pay additional SSI funds. As of this writing, 7 million people are covered by SSI.

For some claimants, this program is harder to receive than funds from RSDI. To warrant a processing time of anything more than a day and an immediate denial, criteria including citizenship status, having less than $2000.00 in countable financial resources, or having countable income of less than $694.00 per month from any source must be met. Disposal of a financial resource can prevent a person from receiving a SSI benefit for a period up to 36 months. Every person with or without a Social Security Number is eligible to apply, however if a person does not meet any of the above criteria or is a documented resident of the United States, their claim can only be taken on paper and will be immediately denied. Even documented residents with permanent legal resident status after August 1996 are immediately denied unless they meet some or all of the SSI criteria listed above.


The administration of the Medicare program is a responsibility of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but SSA offices are used for determining initial eligibility, some processing of premium payments, and for limited public contact information. They also administer a financial needs-based program which supplements Medicare Part D program enrollees. This program may be applied for at any time, even previous to enrollment in Part D. It only provides no more than a $40.00 relief for monthly medicare part D premiums.


To ensure consistent and efficient treatment of Social Security beneficiaries across its vast bureaucracy, SSA has compiled a giant book known as the Programs Operations Manual System (POMS) which governs practically all aspects of SSA's internal operations. POMS describes, in excruciating detail, a huge variety of situations regularly encountered by SSA personnel, and the exact policies and procedures that apply to each situation.


A few of the hundreds of keypunch operators SSA employed throughout the late 1930s and into the 1950s

While the establishment of Social Security predated the invention of the modern digital computer, punched card data processing was a mature technology, and the Social Security system made extensive use of automated unit record equipment from the program's inception. This allowed the Social Security Administration to achieve a high level of efficiency. SSA expenses have always been a small fraction of benefits paid. As a percentage of assets, the administration costs are 0.39%.[16]


SSA operates its own administrative adjudication system, which has original jurisdiction when claims are denied in part or in full. SSA decisions are issued by Administrative Law Judges and Senior Attorney Adjudicators (supported by about 6,000 staff employees) at locations throughout the United States of the U.S. Office of Disability Adjudication and Review (ODAR), who hear and decide challenges to SSA decisions. Dissatisfied claimants can appeal to ODAR's Appeals Council, and if still dissatisfied can appeal to U.S. District Court.

Over the years, ODAR has developed its own procedural system, which is documented in the Hearings and Appeals Litigation Law Manual (HALLEX). ODAR was formerly known at the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) and, prior to the 1970s, the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. The name was changed to ODAR in 2007 to reflect that about 75% of the agency's docket consists of disability cases. ODAR also adjudicates disputes relating to retirement claims and has jurisdiction when the paternity of a claimant or the validity of a marriage is at issue when a claim is filed for benefits under the earnings record of a spouse or parent. The agency also adjudicates a limited number of Medicare issues, which is a residual of when SSA was part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Criticism and controversy

Bloomberg reported that the Social Security Administration made a $32.3 billion mistake when reporting 2009 US wage statistics. The error when corrected, further reduces the average 2009 US wage to $39,055.[17] In 2009 the average US wage was reported as $39,269. [18]

Baby name popularity report

Each year, just before Mother's Day, the Social Security Administration releases a list of the names most commonly given to newborn babies in the United States in the previous year, based on applications for Social Security cards. The report includes the 1,000 most common names for each gender. The Popular Baby Names page on the SSA website provides the complete list and allows searches for past years and particular names.[19]


To date, the social security administration does not keep any records regarding the use of a social security number by anyone to create bank accounts, get loans, investments, etc. Four corporate entities known as the consumer reporting agencies handle consumer records regarding credit, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is responsible for monitoring.

See also


  1. ^ SSA, The Fiscal Year 2008 Budget, Press Release, accessed 4 September 2007.
  2. ^ (SSA Pub. No 25-1556 p. 7)
  3. ^ SSA, How We're Organized, accessed 4 September 2007
  4. ^ Feldstein, M. (2005). Rethinking social insurance. American Economic Review, 95(1), pp. 1-24.
  5. ^ a b Social Security Administration. "Brief Graphic Organizational History". U.S. Government. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 
  6. ^ a b c (SSA Pub. No 25-1556 p. 15)
  7. ^ Social Security Administration. "The First Social Security Beneficiary". U.S. Government. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 
  8. ^ Social Security Administration. "Special Collections Chronology: 1930". U.S. Government. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 
  9. ^ 1002.1
  10. ^ "What is an interstate instrumentality? Social Security Handbook (July 8, 2004), Section 1002.3.
  11. ^
  12. ^ The United States Social Security Administration
  13. ^ Untitled Document
  14. ^ Publication 963 (Rev. 11-2010)
  15. ^ Member Agency | United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)
  16. ^ Robert Genetski. "Administration Costs and the Relative Efficiency of Public and Private Social Security Systems". CATO Institute. Retrieved 2010-09-27. 
  17. ^ `Invalid' Forms by Supposed Billionaires Skew U.S. Wage Figures - Bloomberg
  18. ^$FILE/Tables%20(continued)%20.pdf
  19. ^ Social Security Administration. "Popular Baby Names". U.S. Government. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 

SSA Pub. No 25-1556. Teleservice Representative Basic Training Curriculum Introduction Unit 1 Lessons 01-08 Student. pp. 7–15. Social Security Administration. April 2006.

Further reading

External links

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