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Social Security Administration

Programs The Social Security Administration Currently Administers

SSA’s responsibilities have evolved as the OASDI programs expanded and lawmakers created additional programs to meet the needs of society. Today, SSA has complete responsibility for administering the Old-Age Insurance program, the Survivors Insurance program, the Disability Insurance program, and the Supplemental Security Income program. SSA also administers enrollment in the Medicare program; however, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administers benefit payments and other aspects of the Medicare program. Finally, SSA provides administrative support to other programs, such as the Black Lung program, Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Railroad Retirement. The following descriptions provide a basic overview of the current programs for which the Social Security Administration has primary responsibility.

Old-Age Insurance. Retirement benefits are available to retired workers as early as age sixty-two, at a reduced rate. Unreduced benefits are available at age sixty-five if the worker was born before 1938. The age for full retirement benefits is scheduled to rise gradually from age sixty-five to sixty-seven, with the first increase affecting workers who reached sixty-two in the year 2000. To qualify for retirement benefits, a worker must have paid Social Security payroll taxes for at least ten years (or forty quarters) over the course of a lifetime.

Survivors’ and Disability Insurance. If a worker who has paid Social Security taxes for a specific length of time dies, monthly survivor insurance benefits may be paid to the worker’s widow or widower (including those from marriages ending in divorce) as well as to children, and dependent parents. If a worker becomes disabled and meets certain conditions related to his ability to work, he or she may qualify for disability insurance benefits. The disabled worker’s dependent children and the other parent of his children may also qualify for benefits.

Supplemental Security Income. If a worker is not eligible for benefits under the OASDI programs, or only qualifies for a small payment, he may receive benefits under the SSI program. The SSI program is a means-tested program designed to help low-income aged, blind, or disabled individuals. Unlike OASDI benefits, SSI payments and related administrative expenses are financed from general tax revenues rather than a specific payroll tax.

Over the years, these programs have grown both in terms of beneficiaries served and dollars spent. The Old-Age Insurance program, as originally enacted, covered approximately 60 percent of jobs. Over time, the OASDI programs changed, and today they cover 98 percent of jobs. The Social Security programs are now an essential part of insurance coverage for today’s society. Approximately one in six Americans receives a Social Security benefit.

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