Open Government Initiative
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Social Security Administration (SSA) Monthly Data for
Retirement & Survivor Insurance Applications (including Medicare)
(Filed via the Internet)
Last updated on
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Benefits offered by the SSA are part of the retirement plan of almost every American worker. By the end of 2015, over 40 million retired workers received Social Security Retirement Insurance (SSRI) benefits. Based on the most recent economic assumptions, we believe that retirement applications will continue to remain at high levels.
These datasets give monthly, national level data for Social Security Retirement & 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 these datasets.
These datasets include SSRI 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.
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.
To read a description of the SSA’s retirement insurance program, go to Retirement Benefits.
To read a description of the Medicare retirement insurance program, go to Medicare 2017.
- A Federal Fiscal Year (FY) is the 12-month period from October 1st through September 30th. Most years our fiscal year workload reports contain 52 weeks since we include only full weeks, rather than cut off in the middle of a week. Every few years the reporting period is 53 weeks when we apply the end of week cutoff. Fiscal Year 2016 is a 53-week year for our workload reports.
- We provide both counts since the 52-week data may be more appropriate for comparing 2016 to prior years that were 52-week reporting periods. This would be particularly relevant for looking at receipts and clearances, for example. The 53-week data may be more relevant for viewing the end of year status of workloads, especially pending cases and it represents the efforts achieved with the entire year’s resources.
These datasets provide 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 (for all datasets)
Fiscal Year (FY): The 12-month period from October 1st through September 30th.
Month (by District Office Workload Reporting (DOWR) Month): The month the data was produced. DOWR reporting months are administratively set reporting periods and do not necessarily correspond exactly to calendar months.
Receipts: The number of claims for benefits submitted.
Completed: The number of claims for benefits cleared.