The US Social Security Administration (SSA) is an independent agency of the United States federal government. This agency specifically administers Social Security, a social insurance program for a variety of adults, children and families.
The SSA currently consists of programs for those in need of retirement, disability, and survivors’ benefits. The SSA also provides Social Security numbers, which are assigned and administered to millions of people across the country. Social Security is designed to help many people in a variety of situations.
One program, Supplemental Security Income, aids the aged, blind, and disabled. The aged, blind and disabled are only some of those people influenced by Social Security. In fact, the program affects many other people indirectly. The family members of older Americans, disabled Americans, and wounded warriors also benefit from Social Security.
Social Security Administration Explained
As of now, there are roughly 175 million people working and paying Social Security taxes. Over 60 million people receive Social Security benefits on a monthly basis. The Administration helps to boost the quality of life for millions of Americans, from birth to death.
Starting with birth, many parents apply for a Social Security number. This number is maintained throughout the child’s lifetime and is a critical part of many important life stages and events. For instance, every new job requires that the applicant provide a valid Social Security number.
The Social Security number is also crucial to other types of applications. Typically, a citizen must provide the SSN as proof of identity, employment or some other status. The SSN is also used to track and determine one’s earnings. Worker’s Wages And Income All employers collect what is known as FICA withholdings, or Federal Insurance Contributions Act with holdings.
By tracking these with holdings, the SSA determines Social Security retirement, disability, and survivors’ coverage for individuals and families. As of now, a worker can earn as much as four Social Security credits every year. The SSA requires 40 credits, 10 years of work, to qualify for retirement benefits.
One credit in 2019 is equivalent to $1,360 in earnings.
One’s SSN is helpful in making these determinations. However, the SSN does not always stay the same. In the case of marriage, divorce or other identity changes, the SSN may change. Social Security cards are issued free of charge.
Deceased Worker Benefits
Individuals and families are also privy to benefits when a worker has died. If a child or spouse survives a parent or spouse, that survivor may be eligible for benefits. These payments help survivors to cope with the financial losses incurred as a result of such deaths.
The number of credits required for survivor benefits depends on the age at which the worker died. Unmarried children under the age of 18 may be eligible to receive Social Security benefits upon the death of a parent.
Because the SSA recognizes the importance of assistance, survivor’s benefits are awarded in many cases. Children and spouses who are struggling due to the death of a loved one may find significant financial improvements when receiving survivors’ benefits.
Understanding Retirement Age
Retirement benefits are based on how much an individual earns during his or her working career. The higher one’s lifetime earnings, the higher the benefits received. The earliest retirement age is 62, but benefits will increase if the recipient waits.
In some cases, workers may have to retire early due to health problems. When this happens, the worker can pursue Social Security disability benefits. This disability benefit amount is the equivalent of a full, unreduced retirement benefit. Social Security disability benefits are automatically converted to retirement benefits at retirement age.
In addition to survivor’s benefits, retirement benefits, and disability benefits, an individual may also receive supplemental security income (SSI). This social security program delivers monthly benefits to people of limited means and resources who are disabled, blind, or age 65 years and older.
Children who are blind or disabled may also get SSI.
History Of The SSA
In general, the Social Security agency is equipped to help a variety of people, at a variety of life stages. The SSA assists those in need through life’s complicated journey, from birth to death. The qualifications may differ, but the payment is fundamentally the same.
When determined qualified, a claimant receives regular payments. These payments are typically based on either a work history or a particular need. Disability is one type of important need.
Fortunately, the SSA has been addressing these needs and more for many decades.
In fact, the SSA has been around for over 80 years. The original Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935, just as the U.S. was beginning to recover from the Great Depression. This established the Social Security Board (SSB).
It was an important law at the time. Millions of Americans were without work and many elders and retired citizens had nothing. The social security program was created to help these people. It aimed to provide economic security to U.S. citizens.
This 1935 act was originally created to deliver lump sums of aid. It wasn’t until 1940 that monthly payments were established. Workers made periodic contributions to a “trust fund” in order to cover retirement and other benefits in the future.
By 1946, the Social Security Board (SSB) had become the entity known today as the SSA.Today, the SSA is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, not far from the city of Baltimore. This large government agency consists of 10 regional offices, 8 processing centers, and many other local field offices and teleservice locations.
Social Security is the single biggest social welfare program in the country. The program is designed to assist individuals and families across the country from birth to death. The funding from this program comes from a variety of sources.
Social Security Funding
The social security program gets a lot of its money from employees and employers. Overall, more than 85% of Social Security funding comes from payroll taxes. Over 10% of funding is derived from interest on assets in the trust fund for Social Security. A small percentage comes from taxes on Social Security benefits.
The amount paid into Social Security through payroll taxes is funded through FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) taxes. The SSA levies a 12.4% tax on earnings. Half is paid by the employee, half is paid by the employer. Self-employed workers pay both employee and employer shares. The employer share is considered a deductible business expense. However, there is a cap on taxes paid on earnings.
As of Jan. 1, 2019, the maximum earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax increased to $132,900. Thus the amount paid at 6.2% is $8,239.80. The amount for self-employed payers is 12.4% at $16,479.60.Demographic trends may affect these amounts in the future. In general, the American populace is becoming older. People are living longer and having fewer children. This means that ultimately fewer people are paying into Social Security, and more people are receiving Social Security.
The Social Security worker-to-beneficiary ratio is changing. If changes are not enacted, many people paying into the system now may not receive benefits at retirement age. However, these trends can be counteracted. Increased taxes, benefit cuts, and changes in age cut-offs are all steps that can be taken. These are all consequences of social and societal progression.
The SSA was first established to assist older Americans throughout a continuous income upon their retirement. Through the years, the program has been changed to extend benefits to a number of individuals and families. These potential recipients of Social Security include:
- spouses and minor children of retired workers,
- disabled workers,
- families who have suffered the deaths of spouses or parents, and
- those in need of health care coverage (Medicare).
Even so, many people get rejected by the system. A number of applicants simply don’t understand how to deal with the SSA. The administration carefully examines each and every application.
If an applicant fails to meet a stringent criteria, that applicant is denied. There are many reasons for first, second and third denials. Many disability claimants simply make clerical errors. Other disability applicants don’t file on time. Some claimants just don’t meet the criteria.
In total, information must be presented to the SSA clearly and concisely. Work history must be proven with the required number of work credits. Disabling conditions should be recognized and approved by the SSA. Occasionally, additional medical documentation may be necessary. This is why so many social security applicants are rejected upon first applying. The disability must be considered a total disability. It must meet one or more of three conditions:
- it has lasted at least 12 months,
- it is expected to last at least 12 months, and
- it is expected to end in death.
Applicants for social security must also demonstrate work inability. These applicants should show that they cannot perform work previously performed, and cannot adapt to other types of work. If an applicant does work, that applicant must not be engaged in “substantial gainful activity” (SGA).
SGA typically means that an individual is making more than $1,220 per month in 2019 (or $2,040 if blind). This amount of earnings is typically disqualifying. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the applicant will be rejected by the SSA. In all cases, a claimant should thoroughly review the SSA application criteria.
Different types of assistance have different requirements. Social security disability insurance (SSDI) benefits have a different basis than supplemental security income (SSI). Retirement benefit requirements are different than healthcare coverage requirements. Survivors’ benefits are different than disability benefits.
All programs under Social Security are tailored toward different individuals and groups. Social Security is a wide-reaching program with numerous benefits. However, the application process must be taken seriously.
If a claimant is unsure, or struggling, legal aid can help. The best social security lawyers are available, ready to assist.