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Federal Agencies


Social Security Administration

Headquarters: Windsor Park Building
6401 Security Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21235
Phone: 800-772-1213
Employees: 66,000
Acting Commissioner: Carolyn Colvin


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The Social Security Administration oversees Social Security payments for retired workers and disabled Americans.

In 2012, there were 61.9 million Americans that received Social Security benefits with 5.5 million receiving SSI. Women make up 55% of everyone receiving Social Security benefits in 2012.

The earliest possible age to receive Social Security retirement benefits is 62. The average benefit per month paid for newly eligible retirees is $1,292 per month. The maximum benefit paid per month is $2,533.

The agency announced recipients will receive a 1.5% cost-of-living adjustment beginning in 2014.

Social Security is largely a pay-as-you-go program. Most of the payroll taxes collected from today's workers are used to pay benefits to today's recipients. In 2012, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds collected $840.2 billion in revenues. Of that amount, 83.8% was from payroll tax contributions and reimbursements from the General Fund of the Treasury and 3.2% was from income taxes on Social Security benefits.

The Social Security trust funds are financial accounts in the U.S. Treasury. There are two separate Social Security trust funds, the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund pays retirement and survivors benefits, and the Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund pays disability benefits.

Social Security taxes and other income are deposited in these accounts, and Social Security benefits are paid from them. The only purposes for which these trust funds can be used are to pay benefits and program administrative costs.

The Social Security trust funds hold money not needed in the current year to pay benefits and administrative costs and, by law, invest it in special Treasury bonds that are guaranteed by the U.S. Government. A market rate of interest is paid to the trust funds on the bonds they hold, and when those bonds reach maturity or are needed to pay benefits, the Treasury redeems them.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is headed by a Commissioner and has a staff of almost 66,000 employees. SSA's central office is located in Baltimore, Maryland. The field organization, which is decentralized to provide services at the local level, includes 10 regional offices, 6 processing centers, and approximately 1,260 field offices.

On February 14, 2013, Carolyn W. Colvin became the Acting Commissioner of Social Security.


On June 8, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a message to the Congress, announced his intention to provide a program for Social Security. Subsequently, the President created by Executive Order the Committee on Economic Security, which was composed of five top cabinet-level officials. The committee was instructed to study the entire problem of economic insecurity and to make recommendations that would serve as the basis for legislative consideration by the Congress.

The CES assembled a small staff of experts borrowed from other federal agencies and immediately set to work. In November 1934 the CES sponsored the first-ever national town-hall forum on Social Security. The CES did a comprehensive study of the whole issue of economic security in America, along with an analysis of the European experience with these perennial problems. Their full report was the first comprehensive attempt at this kind of analysis in many decades and it stood as a landmark study for many years. In slightly more than six months, the CES developed a Report to the Congress and drafted a detailed legislative proposal.

In early January 1935, the CES made its report to the President, and on January 17 the President introduced the report to both Houses of Congress for simultaneous consideration. Hearings were held in the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee during January and February. Some provisions made it through the Committees in close votes, but the bill passed both houses overwhelmingly in the floor votes. After a Conference which lasted throughout July, the bill was finally passed and sent to President Roosevelt for his signature.

The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.

Payment of monthly Social Security benefits began in January 1940, and were authorized not only for aged retired workers but for their aged wives or widows, children under age 18, and surviving aged parents.

On August 1, 1956, the Social Security Act was amended to provide benefits to disabled workers aged 50-64 and disabled adult children. In September 1960 President Eisenhower signed a law amending the disability rules to permit payment of benefits to disabled workers of any age and to their dependents.

By 1960, 559,000 people were receiving disability benefits, with the average benefit amount being around $80 per month.

Updated October 31, 2013