The main responsibility of the U.S. Social Security Administration, or SSA, is overseeing the country's Social Security program. Funded by payroll taxes, this program provides monthly benefits to senior citizens, the disabled and survivors of those receiving benefits. Social Security eligibility begins at age 62, but you receive permanently larger payments the longer you wait to claim benefits.

History of the Social Security Administration

Social Security was part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, a comprehensive economic reform program created to pull the United States out of the Great Depression and provide a social safety net for the poor and elderly. The president signed the Social Security Act provision of the New Deal in 1935, but the first Social Security office, headed by a three-person board and no staff, did not open until the following year.

A decade later, President Harry Truman, as part of his Reorganization Program, converted the Social Security board into the Social Security Administration. In the 1950s, it was placed under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, which later became the Department of Human Services, where it remained until 1994, when President Bill Clinton restored it to an independent agency under the executive branch of the government.

How Social Security Works

Workers pay into Social Security through payroll taxes, which also fund the program's health care counterpart, Medicare. As of 2015, Social Security taxes amount to 12.4% of an employee's paycheck. The employee pays half of that amount, or 6.2%, while the employer is responsible for the other half. In the case of a self-employed person, he is responsible for the full amount, since he is considered both employee and employer.

The Social Security tax is a regressive tax. It only applies to annual income up to a certain dollar amount. As of 2015, that amount is $118,500. This has prompted criticism from workers' rights groups and advocates for the poor, who argue that high-income earners shoulder a heavier burden for keeping Social Security solvent.

The revenue from Social Security taxes goes into a fund, which retirees draw from when they claim benefits at age 62 or higher. The SSA periodically raises the retirement age and is expected to keep doing so due to the fact longer life expectancies have disrupted the balance between the program's revenues and expenditures.


The Social Security Administration headquarters reside in Woodlawn, Maryland, just outside of Baltimore. The agency also maintains over 1,300 field offices throughout the country. More than 62,000 people work for the SSA; with Social Security being the largest entitlement program in the United States, as well as accounting for over 20% of the government's annual expenditures, it takes a lot of man hours to keep the program running.

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