January 21, 2022

Social Security Administration (SSA) Definition

What is the Social Security Administration (SSA)?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a United States government agency that administers social programs that include disability, retirement, and survivor benefits. It is also responsible for issuing social security numbers and managing the program’s finances and trust fund.

Key learning points

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees and administers the Social Security program in the United States.
  • Benefits administered by the SSA include Social Security retirement income and disability income programs.
  • The SSA is also responsible for issuing Social Security Numbers and managing the program’s finances and trust funds.

Understanding the Social Security Administration

The SSA manages the Social Security program. Social security is an essential part of the plan retirement income strategy of many Americans, especially as the savings rate remains low – 7.3% in October 2021, up from 8.2% in September 2021. The decline reflects the winding down of pandemic-related aid programs, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

However, the wide range of services the SSA provides encompasses many vital areas of the American social safety net. For example, in October 2021, nearly 70 million Americans, including retired workers, disabled workers and survivors, were receiving Social Security benefits, according to the SSA. Social Security is one of the largest government programs in the world.

The benefits are financed with payroll taxes of employers, employees and the self-employed. The tax revenue goes to two Social Security trust funds: the Trust Fund for Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) for retirees and the Trust Fund Disability Insurance (DI) for benefit recipients – who pay benefits to people who qualify.

Unlike most US federal government agencies, the SSA is not headquartered in Washington, DC. Instead, the agency is located in the city of Woodlawn, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. In total, the Social Security Administration has 10 regional offices, six processing centers and approximately 1,230 field offices in cities across the country. More than 60,000 employees work there.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all local Social Security offices will remain closed for walk-in services, although in-person appointments can be scheduled in advance by phone.

Social Security Administrative Services

The SSA has gone through numerous name changes and operational revisions over the course of its existence as several administrations have formed the agency. In addition to overseeing retirement and disability programs, the SSA offers a wide range of services, including determining citizen eligibility and premium payments for the Medicare program.

It also manages the granting of Social Security Numbers (SSNs), which have become de facto a national identification number that must be provided to access numerous services such as credit, insurance coverage and even hunting licenses.

History of the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration was established in 1935 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt de Social Security Act in the law. Formerly under the Department of Health and Human Services, the SSA has been operating as a fully independent agency since 1994.

In July 2021, President Biden fired SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul and appointed Kilolo Kijakazi, deputy commissioner for pension and disability policy at the SSA, as acting commissioner. Saul was criticized for his efforts to reduce access to disability benefits, delays in providing the information needed to provide stimulus payments, and clashing with unions over security planning during the COVID-19 crisis.

The SSA is an independent body and Saul was appointed until January 2025, but two Supreme Court rulings have given presidents more powers to remove appointees. One determined on June 29, 2020 that President Trump was free to become the head of the… Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPB), and a second, on June 23, 2021, authorized President Biden to appoint the chief of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Social Security Administration: Annual Report

Each year, the Social Security Board of Trustees issues a report on the current and projected financial status of the SSA’s programs. According to the 2021 report, the Social Security Board of Trustees predicts that the reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI) will be depleted in 2033 (versus 2034 according to the 2020 report), due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. 19 pandemic that led to reduced employment and income. At that point, the continued tax revenue will be enough to pay 76% of the planned distributions going forward. The report also predicts that the Disability Insurance Trust Fund (DI) will dry up in 2057 (versus the 2065 estimate in the 2020 report).

The report recommends that: “Legislators should address these financial challenges as quickly as possible. Taking action sooner rather than later allows a wider range of solutions to be considered and more time to make changes gradually, giving the public plenty of time to prepare.”

What programs does the Social Security Administration oversee?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) oversees the Social Security program, which provides benefits to qualified retirees, the disabled, and their spouses, children, and survivors. The SSA also offers a wide range of services, such as determining citizen eligibility and premium payments for Medicare and issuing Social Security numbers.

What is the difference between Supplemental Security Income and Social Security?

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides monthly cash benefits to the elderly or disabled who have little or no income to meet their basic needs. This program is separate from the retirement and disability benefits administered by Social Security.

How do I replace my Social Security card?

If you need to replace your Social Security card, with no other changes, you can: apply for a new card online on the Social Security website. You can also download a printed version of the application and send it back by post.

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