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One part of SSA headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland
Another view of SSA headquarters (to illustrate its size)
The United Statesmarker Social Security Administration (SSA) 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 . Its current commissioner is Michael J. Astrue, who was sworn in on February 12, 2007 and whose six-year term expires on January 19, 2013.

SSA is headquartered in Woodlawnmarker, Marylandmarker, just to the west of Baltimoremarker, at what is known as Central Office. The agency includes 10 regional offices, 8 processing centers, approximately 1300 field offices, and 37 Teleservice Centers. , about 62,000 people were employed by the SSA. Social security is currently the largest social welfare program in the U.S., constituting 37% of government expenditure and 7% of GDP, and is currently estimated to keep roughly 40% of all Americans age 65 or older out of poverty.


The Social Security Act created a Social Security Board (SSB), 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. 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.

The first Social Security office opened in Austin, Texasmarker, on October 14, 1936. Social Security taxes were collected first in January 1937, along with the first one-time, lump-sum payments. The first person to receive a Social Security benefit was Ernest Ackerman, who was paid 17 cents in January 1937. This was a one-time, lump-sum pay-out, which was the only form of benefits paid during the start-up period January 1937 through December 1939. 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.

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. In January 1940, the first regular ongoing monthly benefits were begun.

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 returning the SSA to the status of an independent agency in the executive branch of government.


Chairmen of Social Security Board


The SSA is one of the few Federal agencies to have its headquarters outside of Washington, D.C.marker It was located in Baltimoremarker 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 harbormarker 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 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 Utahmarker to Marylandmarker, 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.


The SSA's coverage under the Social Security program originally covered nearly all non-government workers in the continental U.S. and the territories of Alaskamarker, Hawaiimarker, 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. When it was introduced, all of these people were brought into Medicare as well.

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". A Section 218 Agreement is a voluntary agreement between a state and SSA. The original 218 interstate instrumentalities were signed in the 1950s. All states have a Section 218 agreement with the Social Security Administration. For more information see Chapter 10 of the Social Security Handbbook. The Social Security handbook chapter 10, section 1002 defines what is an "interstate instrumentality.The provisions of Section 218 of the Social Security Act and the instrumentalities agreement and subsequent modifications determine social security and medicare or Medicare-only coverage for state and local government employees enrolled in state and local government retirement systems. To determine if your state has signed a 218 agreement contact your State Social Security Administrator. A list of State Social Security administrators that administer section 218 agreement is maintained on-line atAll State and local government hired since 1986, or who are covered by section 218 agreements, participate in Medicare even if not covered by Social security. How State And Local Government Employees are covered By Social Security And Medicare see The Federal-State reference guide appendixOther 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.It is believed that some state and local governments continue to maintain their own pension plans and have not executed Section 218 agreements; if so, their workers do not participate in Social Security. (If those workers also have service in Social Security, however, 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 old age, survivors, and disabled social insurance programs, which provide monthly benefits to retired 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 financed by mandatory contributions which employers, employees, and self-insured persons pay. These revenues are placed into a special trust fund.

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.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

SSA administers the SSI program, which is needs-based, for elderly, blind, or disabled persons. This program was originally called by its 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 U.S. In addition, some states pay additional SSI funds. Approximately 7 million persons are covered by SSI.


The administration of the Medicare program is a responsibility of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but SSA district offices and program service centers are used for determining eligibility, processing premium payments, and for some public contact.


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.


While the establishment of Social Security predated the invention of the modern digital computer, punch 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.

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.

See also


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.

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