Data for Retirement Insurance Applications filed via the Internet

Last updated on December 16, 2013

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Background

Benefits offered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are part of the retirement plan of almost every American worker. By 2012, over 36 million retired workers received Social Security Retirement Insurance benefits. Based on the most recent economic assumptions, we believe that retirement applications will continue to remain at high levels.

Most people can file for retirement benefits online. Our goal is to increase the use of our retirement and other online services. However, we will continue our commitment to provide options for those people who want to access our services in ways that are more traditional such as by telephone, in person at a Social Security office, or by mail.

This dataset gives monthly, national level data for Social Security Retirement and Survivors Insurance applications and for initial claims for Medicare filed on the Internet, by telephone, in person, or by mail. Federal fiscal year 2009 is the first year we show in the dataset.

The dataset includes Social Security Retirement Insurance receipts and clearances for retired workers who:

  • have enough covered employment to be insured ( you need 40 credits or 10 years of work),
  • are at least 61 years and 9 months old,
  • want to start receiving benefits within the next four months, and
  • live in the United States or one of its commonwealths or territories.

It also includes their dependents. Dependents can be:

  • the spouse of a retired worker who must either (1) have a child under age 16 or a disabled child in his or her care, or (2) be at least 62 years old (this includes a divorced spouse if the marriage lasted at least 10 years),
  • a minor child who is under age 18,
  • a child (of any age) disabled before the age of 22,
  • a child who is a high school student under age 19.

The dataset also includes receipts and clearances of claims filed for survivor benefits (e.g., widows, widowers, and surviving children) and initial Medicare claims filed with SSA.

Specific data elements we include are counts by month for claims received into SSA’s case processing system, and clearance counts of these claims when completed by the agency.

SSA uses this data to improve our retiree and other core services.

Index:

Agency Program Description

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers the Old-Age, Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund. The OASI Trust Fund is a separate account in the United States Treasury.

The Treasury deposits a fixed proportion (which depends on the allocation of tax rates by trust fund) of the taxes received under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act and the Self-Employment Contributions Act into the OASI Trust fund. Unless needed to pay immediate expenses, the Treasury deposits these taxes into the trust fund every business day.

SSA has  automatic spending authority to pay monthly benefits from the trust fund. Due to this spending authority, we do not need to request money from the Congress to pay SSA benefits.

Under OASI, SSA pays monthly benefits to retired, insured workers, their spouses and children, and to survivors of deceased insured workers. SSA can pay a reduced benefit as early as age 62 to a retired worker who worked in covered employment long enough and is insured. We call this “early retirement.” We reduce the amount paid based on the worker’s age at the time they first begin to receive benefits.

Full retirement age (also called "normal retirement age") was 65 for many years. However, the 1983 Social Security Amendments included a gradual increase in the age for collecting full Social Security retirement benefits. These Amendments raised the full retirement age for people born in 1938 or later. The retirement age will increase from 65 to 67 over a 22-year period. This period includes an 11-year period when the retirement age will remain at 66. The Congress cited improvements in the health of older people and increases in average life expectancy as the primary reasons for increasing the normal retirement age. Since the program first began paying monthly Social Security benefits in 1940, the average life expectancy for men reaching age 65 has increased nearly 4 years to age 81; for women reaching age 65, the average life expectancy has increased nearly 6 years to age 84.

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn “credits” toward Social Security benefits. The number of credits you need to get retirement benefits depends on when you were born. If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits (or 10 years of work). If you stop working before you have enough credits to qualify for benefits, the credits you earned will remain on your Social Security record. Later on, if you go back to work you can earn more credits, and you could earn enough credits to qualify. SSA cannot pay any benefits until you have the required number of credits.

SSA bases your benefit payment on how much you earned during your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years when you did not work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily. The age at which you decide to retire also affects your benefit. If you retire at age 62 (the earliest possible retirement age for Social Security), your benefit will be lower than if you wait until later to retire.

The "primary insurance amount" (PIA) is payable at the normal retirement age (also called the full retirement age); maximum benefits are payable at age 70. The PIA is the benefit (before rounding down to next lower whole dollar) you receive if you elect to begin receiving retirement benefits at your normal retirement age. At your full retirement  age, SSA doesn’t reduce your benefit for early retirement, or increase your benefit for delayed retirement.

Anyone can enroll in Medicare who is age 65 and:

  • is eligible to receive Social Security benefits; or
  • receives or is eligible to receive railroad retirement benefits; or
  • worked and paid enough Medicare taxes in a government job in order to qualify for Medicare, or be the spouse or divorced spouse of a government worker, living or dead, who paid enough Medicare taxes to qualify; or
  • is the dependent parent of a fully insured deceased child.

Most people age 65 or older are eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance (Part A). You can sign up for Part A( whether or not you want to begin receiving retirement benefits) when you are within 4 months of turning 65. Medical insurance (Part B) helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies not covered by hospital insurance. Anyone who is eligible for free Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) can enroll in Medicare medical insurance (Part B) by paying a monthly premium.

A description of SSA’s retirement insurance program can be found at http://www.ssa.gov/pgm/links_retirement.htm.

A description of the Medicare retirement insurance program can be found at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html#part3.

Dataset Description

This dataset provides monthly data at the national level beginning with federal fiscal year 2009 and onward for Social Security Retirement and Survivors Insurance applications filed on the Internet, by telephone, in person, or by mail, and for initial Medicare claims.  

Data Collection Description

When someone files a retirement insurance, survivor insurance, or initial Medicare application by telephone, in person through a local SSA field office, or by mail, an SSA claims representative (CR) enters the information into SSA’s Modernized Claims System (MCS). SSA’s online system puts an indicator on all retirement applications, spouse, or initial Medicare claims filed online to show SSA received the information via the Internet. An SSA CR retrieves the online application and enters the information into SSA’s MCS. When a CR completes an application, we count it as a clearance and enter information into SSA’s MCS. We download data from MCS nightly to the Title II Operational Data Store, SSA’s primary source of management information for initial claims processing. We use batch processes to prepare the data and aggregate the counts to provide national level numbers. We provide dates based on the District Office Workload Report (DOWR) receipt dates. The DOWR is an integral part of SSA’s work measurement system. We use DOWR data to provide weekly and monthly volume counts of our mission-related workloads.

Data Dictionary

Field A:  Federal Fiscal Year (FY) (by District Office Workload Report (DOWR) Month), a federal fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30.

Field B:  Months -DOWR Month indicates the month the data was produced.  DOWR months are administratively set reporting periods and do not necessarily correspond exactly to calendar months.

Field C:  Social Security Retirement and Survivor Application Receipts, indicates the number of claims for benefits submitted.

Field D: Social Security Retirement and Survivor Applications Completed, indicates the number of claims for benefits cleared.