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What Is the Social Security Administration (SSA)?


Social Security is commonly known for providing an income for people in retirement. However, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does much more than provide social retirement plans. The SSA also provides social insurance protection to workers who become disabled and provides survivor benefits to families when the main income earner dies, among other services. Consider working with a financial advisor who can help you maximize your Social Security benefits.

What Is the Social Security Administration (SSA)?

The SSA is the federal government agency that, since 1935, has been managing the various programs that are part of Social Security. These programs are designed to help U.S. citizens and residents who have additional needs get the financial assistance necessary to thrive. These needs include retirement, disability, and survivors’ benefits as well as other taxpayer benefits.

These benefits are paid regardless of other streams of income, including savings and private insurance and are a right for all Americans. Nearly all employment in the U.S. is covered by Social Security.

The most common support of the SSA is through its social insurance programs. These programs are for people in retirement, those who have disabilities, and those who lost a family member who is the sole provider for the family.

What Programs the SSA Provides

Social Security Administration (SSA)

Nearly every American worker pays federal taxes. A portion of these taxes goes toward Social Security. While most people are familiar with the retirement benefit of Social Security, there are other benefits that it’s important to be aware of. These benefits include insurance programs and health services benefits.

Social Insurance Programs

Social insurance programs are the most popular programs the SSA offers. These programs include:

  • Retirement benefits – When a worker retires and reaches age 67, they are eligible for full retirement benefits permitting that they have earned at least 40 credits. People can earn one credit for each quarter they earned taxable income. On average, retirees will receive about 40% of their pre-retirement income from Social Security. But the amount fluctuates for each person depending on how much they earn during their working years.
  • Survivors benefits – If someone was married to a breadwinner and their spouse dies, they are entitled to their deceased spouse’s Social Security retirement benefits until their death.
  • Disability benefits –  If a worker becomes disabled and can no longer work, they may be entitled to disability benefits. However, they must meet a rigorous set of qualifications. These qualifications include proof that they worked a set amount depending on their age.
  • Supplemental Security Income benefits – For those who are disabled and have a limited income and resources, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits. The SSI also pays benefits to those who are 65 years old or older without disabilities when they meet specific financial limits.

Health Insurance and Health Services

Health care issues are becoming increasingly important as the coronavirus pandemic continues and also as the number of seniors in the United States grows. Medicare and Medicaid help ensure that all Americans have access to health care.

  • Medicare – People over age 65 are eligible for Medicare and can receive hospital services, skilled nursing care, and hospice care. Medicare also covers primary coverage of physician services.
  • Medicaid – Medicaid provides medical coverage for low-income individuals, families, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities. Keep in mind, coverage varies by state. In 35 states and the District of Columbia, Medicaid eligibility is determined by Supplemental Security Income (SSI ) benefits. Essentially, in those states, the SSI application and the Medicaid application are the same. The remaining states use their own eligibility requirements.

In addition to these benefits, the SSA offers indirect support for various state-run programs such as unemployment or benefits for veterans.

How to Contact the SSA

Social Security Administration (SSA)

If you have further questions about the SSA and how you can get support, they have multiple ways to reach it. By using these ways, you can do anything from replacing your Social Security card, legally changing your name, or apply for retirement benefits. There are three ways to contact the SSA, including the traditional way of going to your local SSA field office for an in-person meeting.

Besides an in-person meeting, one of the fastest ways to get your questions answered is by calling the SSA and speaking with a representative. They are open Monday through Friday. The phone number is (800) 772-1213. It’s best to call as soon after they open as possible to reduce the time you are placed on hold. If you have questions outside of normal business hours or want to conduct business on your own, you can use the SSA website. There, you can apply for benefits, get an instant proof of income letter, and create a My Social Security account.

Bottom Line

The SSA does much more than administer retirement benefits. The Social Security Administration helps to prevent poverty in America and provides a foundation for millions of workers to gain access to social insurance. Over the years, the SSA has developed its service offerings and now includes an easy-to-use website where taxpayers can get all the information they need about the various services that the SSA offers.

Retirement Tips

  • Consider working with a financial advisor to get the most out of all the benefits the SSA provides. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • The SmartAsset Retirement Guide offers a calculator to show you how much you need to save for retirement. It also has a retirement tax friendliness calculator to help you weigh various options if you are moving after your retirement.

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