What is the 'Social Security Administration (SSA)'

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a U.S. agency that administers social programs covering disability, retirement and survivors' benefits. It was created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to administer the social insurance programs in the United States. Previously operating under the Department of Health and Human Services, the SSA has operated as a wholly independent agency since 1994.

Breaking Down 'Social Security Administration (SSA)'

Social Security is a vital part of the retirement income planning strategy of many Americans, especially as savings rates remain low. But the breadth of services it provides span many vital areas of the U.S. social safety net. For example, the Social Security Administration provides monthly benefit payments to over 50 million orphaned children, the disabled (and their spouses and children), and to the aged to the tune of over $700 billion dollars per year. Such benefits are funded with payroll taxes of employers, employees and the self-employed. The Social Security Administration administers the Social Security program, arguably one of the most successful agencies in the history of the United States government. The annual net cost of Social Security comes in at approximately $1 trillion as of 2014, or about a fifth of all government spending. By 2024, Social Security as a share of total federal spending should be approximately 28%.

Unlike the majority of U.S. federal government agencies, the SSA is not headquartered in Washington, D.C. Instead, the agency is based in the city of Woodlawn, Md., which is a suburb of Baltimore. In all, the Social Security Administration has 10 regional offices, several processing centers, more than a thousand field offices in cities across the country, and over three-dozen telephone service centers. It employs over 60,000 workers and frequently ranks well in government job ratings.

Social Security Administration Services

The SSA has seen numerous name changes and operational revisions in its lifetime as different administrations shaped the agency. The SSA provides a wide range of services, including determining citizen eligibility and premium payments for the Medicare program. It administers the granting of Social Security Numbers (SSN), which has become a de-facto national identity number that must be provided to access a number of services, such as insurance coverage, credit, and even hunting licenses.

Social Security Administration: Annual Report

Every year the board of Trustees of Social Security and Medicare report on the current and projected financial status of the two programs. As of 2017, assuming current benefit spending and funding assumptions, Social Security and Medicare face financing shortfalls. While calculations differ, many believe that at its current rate of spending and under current demographic assumptions, the Social Security Administration's trust fund will be unable to fully fund benefits by 2037.

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