social security act today

SSA created a "training region" on its mainframe with an MCS mockup on which employees could practice inputting claims interview information. The effort was not without problems, but SSA succeeded, and Medicare went into effect as scheduled on July 1, 1966. In addition, state records had to show that, under a state plan in effect for June 1973, the state took that person's needs into account in determining the qualified individual's need for state assistance for December 1973. Therefore, early in 1939, a central mechanized section was set up to maintain all wage records. In some states, individual counties (or other jurisdictions) ran their own programs, and SSA had to negotiate separately with each jurisdiction. Social Security is an important social insurance program that many Americans have come to rely on for retirement, disability, and survivor benefits—according to the Social Security … Individuals can use the Internet to find information about SSA-administered programs, locate a Social Security office, or request a Social Security Statement. SSA is also using HIT with a Boston facility where an electronic request for a patient's medical records is sent automatically when a patient from this facility files a claim (SSA 2009e, 18; SSA 2009k). The agency had failed to meet 10 of its 14 disability-related performance goals for FY 2001—and met none in the hearing and appeals process (SSA 2001a). In FY 2009, Congress provided SSA with Recovery Act funds to assist with the rising workloads and hearings backlog. It also developed software life cycle development standards and methodologies using top-down requirements analysis for these four processes. She had paid $24.75 in Social Security taxes between 1937 and 1939 on an income of $2,484 (SSA n.d. b). Social Security Field Offices (May 8). In the original legislation, Congress encouraged states to supplement the federal law, but doing so was not mandatory. For SSA, this translated into a reduction of 17,000 employees over 6 years beginning in 1984—a loss of 1 out of every 4 employees. ———. The rating was based on the results of the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Human Capital Survey, a governmentwide assessment of federal employees' job satisfaction and perceptions of their agency's human capital efforts (SSA 2007c; SSA 2009h). OASIS 6(9): 11–13, 23. The 1950s were a period of growth for SSA, in coverage of additional workers, in new beneficiary entitlements, and in agency employment. In November 2009, the Retirement Estimator was improved to provide benefit estimates for people who had enrolled in Medicare but not yet for Social Security benefits—a cohort numbering about a half million each year. The agency also established a "Quick Disability Determination" process for DDSs to expedite initial determinations for claimants who are clearly disabled. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office. 1987. Meanwhile, allegations began to surface that all a child had to do was misbehave in the classroom and SSA would approve the child for SSI payments. National Research Council. In 1979, 1.8 million of SSA's 3.7 million Retirement and Survivors Insurance claims still required manual PSC handling to initiate payment. Before long, claims adjudicators all had piles of different kinds of cases on their desks awaiting legal decisions (SSA 1974a). In the early 1970s, the reversal rate for those filing for reconsideration of a disability claim denial had risen to 30–40 percent and for hearings to about 50 percent (Maldonado 1978). 2008. To comply with Zebley, SSA was required to reopen every SSI children's disability denial back to 1980. OASIS 25(11): 22–26. Congress also required that SSA reevaluate each SSI child's eligibility under adult disability standards within 1 year of the child attaining age 18 (SSA n.d. b; Harmon and others 2000). Machine-prepared wage reports, including typewritten reports, went to an optical page reader which electronically scanned the employee information and entered it directly onto magnetic tape. Publication of the regulations was not complete until March 4, 1971 (SSA 1971, 79). Launching Social Security: A capture-and-record account, 1935–1937. Thirty small field offices in coal mining regions bore the brunt of the workload; five would receive more BL claims during the first 2 weeks of the program than their normal annual receipts for all types of claims. By May 1972, SSA had taken 366,000 BL claims and made 350,500 decisions, of which only 159,500 were awards. ———. 106-44. The master punch card was also used in the earnings-posting operation to establish an earnings ledger for each individual. The surveys went on through the spring, summer, and fall of 1942, and the information was submitted to the War Production Board (Olcott 1981, 14–15; SSA 1975b). The numbers may not seem high, but they signify enormous effort in the era before electronic processing devices (Altmeyer 1966, 119). 1980b. The plan's goals were to reduce processing times, increase productivity, and provide better overall service to the public (Apfel 2000). The original structure of Social Security operations, created in December 1935, included three operating bureaus: Public Assistance, Unemployment Compensation, and Old-Age Benefits. SSA notified these people that their benefits were terminating. By June 1937, the Bureau had received about 30.3 million applications for SSNs (Pogge 1952, 5). In FY 1977, new hearings requests rose 23 percent, from 157,688 the prior year to 193,657 (SSA 1978a, 64). ( Central office teams were sent to three payment centers in September 1966 to observe operations and returned with suggested improvements (SSA n.d. a). As a result, postentitlement review workloads were backlogged both in field offices and the PSCs (National Research Council 1990, 16). Field offices pitched in to help the payment centers. The Office of Systems set up a Model District Office in the Baltimore headquarters, and the Office of Operations brought in field office employees from across the country to participate in testing the new software system. Now, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., is proposing a 3% emergency Social Security cost-of-living adjustment to help retirees, and says more federal … SSA's difficulties in processing its postentitlement workloads were complicated by efforts to implement a toll-free phone service that coincided with the staff cuts. SSA was selected to federalize welfare for adults for a number of reasons: its nationwide network of field offices was already in place, its data processing and recordkeeping system was considered state-of-the-art, and there was overlap between the OASDI and SSI populations. SSA was also required to reexamine and, in many cases, redevelop all the previously denied claims. Nevertheless, the agency's primary challenges during the decade would continue to involve SSI and the disability process. SSA continued to improve its 800-number service throughout the 1990s, changing how calls were handled and adding new technology to the National 800 Number Network. The agency also instituted special Federal Quality Reviewer screening units and a Medical Expert Screening process to help identify cases that can be allowed without a hearing. Imbalances developed, especially in clerical jobs, resulting in uneven quality of services provided (OTA 1986, 96; SSA 1969, 16; House Ways and Means Committee 1973, 3). The Board had to decide whether its records should be centralized in a single location. However, claims still received a 100-percent review and payment authorization in the Claims Division (SSA n.d. b). BDI staff had to develop a substantial body of policies and procedures to implement the nonmedical provisions of the law and to ensure those provisions were reflected in published regulations. 1977. In addition, SSA identified cases that were likely to be allowed and electronically transferred them back to the DDSs for further review; the DDSs allowed nearly 15,000 of these claims in FY 2009, eliminating the need for a hearing (Astrue 2009). The year in review: The administration of Social Security programs—1974. SSA News Release (August 7). By 1940, the Bureau had also implemented a system for posting employee accounts on a cyclical basis so that a continuous process used a relatively stable number of employees and equipment (Pogge 1952, 5–6). In 1975, SSI old-age claims declined 29.4 percent from 1974, but SSI blind and disabled claims were up 24.3 percent, to 1.2 million (House Ways and Means Committee 1976, 32). 1960a. Employees could use the terminals not only to take claims, but also to query online databases for prior claims data or to request an online benefit estimate (Willeford 1985). ———. The agency is exploring solutions, such as deploying Internet-based applications that enable claimants and third-party helpers to file applications for benefits and take certain postentitlement actions themselves, freeing SSA employees for other tasks. SSA also set up six "mega-sites" in areas of large noncitizen populations to provide noncitizens with information and to help them obtain proof of their immigration status (Harmon and others 2000). The Civilian War Benefits Program: SSA's first disability program. The publicity campaign and the Post Office Department's efforts produced over 22 million completed applications as of December 22, 1936, 28 days after the initial distribution of employee applications (Wyatt and Wandel 1937, 62). 1969. The offices occupied by the Division of Accounting Operations (DAO) had wooden floors on top of cement, with sand in between. Social Security: Status and evaluation of agency management improvement initiatives. The experts replied that it was impossible to maintain a system for tracking individuals' earnings histories of the scope proposed for the United States (McKinley and Frase 1970, 20–21; SSA 1997a; SSA 1964a). However, SSA lacked the bargaining power to induce the states to do so on its terms, and so accepted the state terms. 1950. ———. The LIS or "extra help" program provided for the federal government to cover all or part of the premium, deductible, and copayment costs for eligible Medicare beneficiaries with limited income and resources. In addition, 1,296 itinerant stations (today known as contact stations) were established to assist the field offices (SSA 1965, 33). ———. The recent introduction of electronic accounting machines supported the mechanical calculation of benefit amounts from punch cards containing wage-record information. The access goal of 95 percent of callers getting through within 5 minutes was lowered to 92 percent, as SSA simply lacked the staff numbers to maintain the higher target (Apfel 2000). Gluck, M.G., and Reno, V., eds. The application received one of the highest scores ever given to a public or private sector organization by the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (Disman 2006). House Ways and Means Committee. OASIS 2(3): 2, 12. So, the Board turned to the Post Office Department for assistance (McKinley and Frase 1970, 309; Wyatt and Wandel 1937, 42). SSA publishes over 4,000 updates annually. Eliminating agency payment errors (January 31). ———. The Bureau of Research and Statistics, aided by the Field Organization Committee, improvised the initial training activities. However, by the time the Pearson articles were published, SSA figures showed that John Does were less than 1 percent of total wage reports, suggesting the articles reflected political differences rather than administrative inefficiency (OTA 1986, 95). Fortunately, the Board was able to find "suitable" space for its Accounting Operations close to the wharves in Baltimore—suitable more for the paper than for the employees, unfortunately. The wage records operation also had to find a way to identify any beneficiaries who earned more than $14.99 per month, making them ineligible for a payment for that month. The PSCs and the Office of Disability Operations also needed TAP terminals, both to view the online screens for processing claims for which the field offices could not trigger payments and to process adjustments to payments (Willeford 1985). 2008e. Applications were resent to 800,000 of them, and 400,000 of them requested assistance and were referred to the agency. Although SSA has changed in many ways over the years, the root causes of its administrative challenges have remained much the same throughout its existence. Even so, the field offices still only completed the applications and gathered documentary evidence; before September 1941, they did not formally determine whether benefits were payable. Once a year, the quarterly earning cards for each employee were summarized to one card via a tabulator with a punch attachment, and the summary annual wage information was posted to the ledger account (Wyatt and Wandel 1937, 123). Some states still had only paper records. Eventually, as experience accumulated, BOASI developed its Claims Manual of operating instructions for making entitlement determinations and processing claims (Pogge 1952, 6). In September 1954, the Bureau established the Division of Disability Operations (DDO) to implement the disability freeze. SSA News Release (September 30). Social Security Administration 1988 annual report to the Congress. Telecommunications workloads were projected to far exceed the capacity to handle them (SSA 1986, 10). SSA reduced the number of those cases from 63,700 on October 1, 2006, to 108 by September 30, 2007, and began to work on cases pending 900 days or more (SSA 2007b). (. Oral history collections: Herb Borgen. The Network has also been rated by Dalbar Financial Services, Inc.—a provider of market research on customer service—as the best 800 number in the nation for courteous, knowledgeable, and efficient service. In addition, it provided a 7-percent increase in benefits retroactive to January 1, 1965. Oral history collections: George Failla. At hearings, about 40 percent of claimants were represented by attorneys. Annual report of the Federal Security Agency 1950: Social Security Administration. SSA was ultimately authorized to hire an additional 12,000 permanent staff in 1973: 9,000 for SSI and 3,000 for the other programs that SSA administered. Led by Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., the bill currently has 209 co-sponsors in the House. Those arriving later were given a ticket or chit signifying priority status for the following day (SSA 1974b, 4; SSA 1975c, 35–36; Hensley 1994). The field: 1935–65. This card was checked against the corresponding master card to make certain that the name and SSN matched. Available at In response, SSA Commissioner Robert Ball initiated a "program simplification" project in the Program Analysis Division. Finally, BOASI established a Training Section in the Director's Office to take over the complete training program, a part of which had previously been handled by the Social Security Board (SSA n.d. c). Monthly old-age benefits were not scheduled to begin until January 1942, but workers who turned age 65 before that date—or the survivors or estates of deceased workers—were able to claim a one-time payout in lieu of monthly benefits. Disman, Beatrice. In March 1969, SSA authorized field office employees to make payment decisions for certain initial claims under the District Office Final Authorization (DOFA) procedure. Some field office employees actively tracked down workers who had turned age 65 to notify them of their eligibility to claim benefits. President Lyndon Johnson signed a proclamation designating March 1966 as "National Medicare Enrollment Month." tested a "model hearing office" to streamline the hearing process and increase support staff responsiveness; hired 256 staff attorneys, increasing productivity by 25 percent in affected hearing offices; established an Administrative Officer position to serve as an office manager; and. President Nixon signed the Social Security Amendments of 1972 creating the SSI program on October 30, 1972, only 14 months ahead of the January 1, 1974, effective date. As the date that these noncitizens would lose their SSI payments approached, a concern arose that SSA's records might not have accurately reflected the current immigration status of some of the individuals. Available at The following year, the number of initial claims filed more than doubled, to 8.5 million. In 1982, 6 percent of aged SSI recipients were immigrants, but by 1993 immigrants represented 28 percent of aged SSI recipients. Even with 800-number and Internet options for public contact, field offices averaged 866,000 visitors per week in 2009. In addition, SSA had at least one employee staffing each of more than 50 Federal Emergency Management Agency sites, working 12-hour days and weekends in some cases. 1996c. The new coverage provisions meant that millions of new employers and employees had to be registered and wage record accounts established. The 1939 amendments markedly changed the nature of the field offices' functions. ———. BOASI considered this approach, and even ordered millions of ledgers and posted payments to them for a few months, but it soon was obvious that an unacceptable number of clerks would be required to maintain the individual accounts as the benefit rolls grew. SSA's retirement wave appears to have crested in 2007, when 3,074 employees, 5 percent of the workforce, retired. SSA designed this database assuming a peak load of 20,000 transactions a day. Svahn opportunely observed that SSA's computers were on the brink of failing. A look back: Medicare program celebrates 30th anniversary. SSA was very busy negotiating with the states during 1973. The Social Security Administration is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, just to the west of Baltimore. Furthermore, a civil service register of eligible applicants was not yet available. The first payments went out in March 1942, and by December 1942 BOASI was paying $38,800 a month to 1,467 beneficiaries. The system maintained these entries in a "pending" file where they awaited the creation of the payment certification file to be sent to the Treasury Department in December 1973, which enabled timely postal delivery of the January 1974 payments on January 2. ———. Instead, BOASI determined to use a claims folder system, with a folder set up for each account. Testimony before the Senate Committee on Finance. Even microbes have brought SSA facilities low. In 2009, SSA hired another 147 ALJs and over 1,000 support staff for the hearing offices. Wyatt, Birchard E., and William H. Wandel. Despite its manpower challenges, BOASI supported the war effort in a number of ways. SSA now plans to install video equipment in all hearing rooms to increase hearing capacity. SSA also opened seven new teleservice centers (TSCs) in FY 1973 and eight regular TSCs and seven "mini-TSCs" in FY 1974 (SSA 1973b; SSA 1974b, 4; Derthick 1990, 119; SSA 1994b). Available at BOASI had 11 regional offices, 584 district offices, and 3,541 contact stations (previously called itinerant stations). ———. ———. The Claims Division and the Control Division, which respectively authorized claims payments and maintained the beneficiary records, were simultaneously merged into a Claims Control Division and decentralized from the D.C. area, moving into "area offices" in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and New Orleans (Olcott 1981, 15–16). Planning the operational flow for admitting Medicare patients to hospitals required extensive discussions with insurance companies, hospitals, and other experienced organizations. SSA continued to add new recipients to the SSI rolls even as it sought to straighten out the payments for those already entitled. See Office of Technology Assessment. SSA took the Zebley ruling as an opportunity to consider other changes in the childhood disability criteria. Available at Congress required SSA to review the decisions made on childhood disability claims under the post-Zebley standards within 1 year of enactment and to remove children from the rolls if they could not qualify under the new legislatively mandated standards. The temperatures ranged from scorching hot in summer to freezing in winter (Simmons 1977, 12). Retirements were predicted to peak from 2007 through 2009, causing 4.6 percent staff losses each year. Social Security Bulletin 15(1): 3–14. By FY 1970, field office employees were authorizing 43 percent of initial claims (SSA 1970, 19). A 2-week basic training course emphasized the general economic background of the act. Social Security's first recipient of monthly benefits, Ida May Fuller, is shown here receiving her first-ever benefit increase in October 1950. SSA News Release (October 9). 1955b. However, the Bureau soon dug itself out, and was able to assure the 1939 Advisory Council that it could handle the workload associated with moving the date when insured workers could begin receiving monthly benefits forward from 1942 to January 1, 1940 (SSA 1967a). In addition to SSI, the 1972 amendments included changes to other SSA programs. 1990. In January 1955, the Bureau began taking disability freeze applications. OASIS 41(6): 31. The agency had enlisted 6,800 hospitals, 4,000 extended care facilities, over 1,800 home health agencies, 2,400 independent laboratories, and 750,000 private physicians as Medicare participants (SSA 1967b, 4–5). Annual Report, U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Interviews by Larry DeWitt. The states submitted information on over 177,000 essential persons and 154,000 ineligible spouses, parents, and children, which SSA screened and added to its records. Available at When the commissioner requested the $479 million needed for support systems modernization, Congress concurred (SSA 1995d; SSA 1995h). 2002b. The Appeals Council has also experienced increased workloads, with an increase of 16 percent in FY 2009 over FY 2008, and an expected additional increase of 12 percent in FY 2010. Also, SSA processed an average of 20,000 initial claims and held 2,400 hearings each workday, and processed over 250 million earnings items a year. Accounting operations of the Bureau of Old-Age Insurance. SSA internal document. SSA also helped pioneer a microfilm printer that linked computer and microfilm technology (OTA 1986, 99). As a result, SSA was still creating code until the last minute and did not have sufficient time to test the new software programs before they went operational (SSA 1975c, 33). Shortly after the legislation was signed, SSA mailed a punch-card application form together with an information pamphlet to all Social Security, civil service annuity, and railroad retirement beneficiaries who were within 3 months of their 65th birthday or older. 2001a. On January 2, 1974, SSA issued timely and correct SSI payments to 95 percent of the SSI recipients, but 5 percent did not get paid or were paid an incorrect amount. Available at On November 14, 2001, Jo Anne B. Barnhart was sworn in as the new Commissioner of SSA. The agency plans to open 14 new hearing offices and 4 satellite offices by the end of 2010 (SSA 2009j). Frequent moves and multiple locations became such a problem that Frank Bane, the Board's Executive Director, remarked that he would be quite willing to set up in a barn if he could have everyone under the same roof (McKinley and Frase 1970, 25). Available at Social Security Administration justification of estimates for Appropriation Committees, fiscal year 2010. SSA's Acting Commissioner, John B. Callahan, began visiting SSA field offices, community centers, and other gatherings of noncitizens to listen to their stories and to assure them that the Clinton Administration was doing everything possible to make sure that individuals would not lose their SSI eligibility. Starting in September 1941, a claims representative in a district office not only took the claim, but also completed an SSA-101 award determination form reflecting the findings of fact and decision, although this did not authorize payment. The surplus of laborers during the Depression now became a shortage. It would take years for SSA to straighten out all the problems with AWR. Those families could visit any of these sites, any field office, or call the SSA 800 number to file an immediate claim (SSA 2002a, 2–3). The impossible takes a day and a half. 2009. ———. Agency employees have a very well-defined sense of the agency's mission, and SSA constantly strives to improve its service to the public. Barnhart, Jo Anne. SSA undertook a related effort to install ergonomic, modular furniture and ergonomic chairs in operational offices. The Retirement Estimator is interactive, allowing a person to compare different retirement options (SSA 2008a). McKinley, Charles, and Robert W. Frase. ———. Over the years, SSA has been tasked with administering other major programs in addition to OASDI—in particular, Medicare, Black Lung benefits, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). To support the additional terminals, all 1,400 office facilities had to be modified to provide additional space, cooling, data circuits, and cabling. 1996b. Newspapers printed column after column on the new program; radio and television stations presented live and recorded programs explaining the law; and post offices widely displayed posters. In 2009, SSA processed 271 million wage items (SSA 2009e, 7). 1978b. DeWitt, Larry. Social Security announces nationwide launch of compassionate allowances; process will fast track applications for people with cancers and rare diseases. Initially, automated telephone response units also allowed callers to leave open-ended messages when the call center was closed, to which agents could respond later. Annual report of the Social Security Administration, fiscal year 1977. Its functions included maintaining wage records, supervising field offices, examining and approving claims, and developing actuarial estimates. Also, DDSs were under pressure to meet productivity goals. All affected DDSs were reopened by September 6, 2005 (SSA 2005a). 2010a. The TAP terminals were "dumb," having no central processing unit; rather, they transferred data via the concentrators to the mainframes in the National Computer Center for processing. New York City was especially hard hit. Still, there were fewer new applicants for SSI than SSA had anticipated. Consequently, already in the 1950s, as many as 16 or 17 different recomputations might be needed. Nevertheless, efficiencies the Bureau had implemented enabled it to successfully handle the new workload—although claims processing time increased substantially. Effective July 1937, Bureau field offices—still numbering only 175 with 1,702 total employees—finally took over the enumeration workload from the post offices (Zwintscher 1952, 90; SSA 1965, 25). Staruch, George. In September 1976, BDI used over 17,000 hours overtime weekly (McKenna 1976). SSA issued overpayment notices asking for repayment of huge sums of money to people with a history of mental impairments who were no longer receiving a monthly check. The BL workload did not decline significantly until 1975 (SSA 1975c, 23). Nearly 80 million baby boomers will file for retirement benefits over the next 20 years, an average of 10,000 per day (SSA 2008e). The new law extended eligibility to students, divorced wives, and widows aged 60 and liberalized the retirement test and the definition of disability. ———. IRS then sent a record of the wage reports to SSA's BDP, which microfilmed the reports and filed the films for storage and future reference. Annual report of the Social Security Administration for fiscal year 1973: Submitted to the Congress by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare on February 26, 1974. Washington, DC: Graphic Arts Press. Available at When SSA had the Committee's support, it could usually count on support from the AMA (SSA 1979, 23). H. Moss in implementing the OASDI benefit portion of the Hurricane places to work directly with the with... Ssa plainly could not wait for regulations and procedures for the new claims workload increased by 39 percent Psychiatric to... Few of these was tackling an entirely new program—Medicare `` best places to work in 1970s. 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