Selected Research & Analysis: History (General, Agency, Programs)
A Look Back at the Last Decade of the Retirement Research Consortium and the Disability Research Consortium
This article provides an overview of the Retirement Research Consortium (RRC) and the Disability Research Consortium (DRC) from the Social Security Administration's perspective, including a brief history of the development of the consortia, a discussion of their aims, and some thoughts on the future of extramural retirement- and disability-related research. The RRC and DRC planned and conducted research to develop information to assist policymakers, the public, and the media in understanding Social Security, retirement, and disability issues. Both consortia have been remarkably successful extramural research ventures that have expanded and advanced the knowledge base, trained new scholars to become the next generation of subject-matter experts, and provided objective, research-based input to the policymaking process.
Congress established the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program in 1956, after more than 20 years of debate. From the outset of the debate, however, there had been general agreement that the DI program should be for workers with substantial work histories, be funded through payroll taxes, include stringent disability criteria, provide modest benefit levels, and require return-to-work supports. Using administrative data on current DI beneficiaries, this issue paper examines how the program reflects those original tenets as it nears its 60th anniversary.
This article provides an overview of the Retirement Research Consortium (RRC) from the Social Security Administration's perspective, including a brief history of the development of the RRC, a discussion of the aims of the RRC, and some thoughts on its future. The mission of the RRC is to plan and conduct a broad research program to develop Social Security and retirement policy information to assist policymakers, the public, and the media in understanding the issues. The RRC has been a remarkably successful extramural research venture that has advanced the knowledge base on Social Security and retirement issues, trained new scholars to become the next generation of Social Security and retirement policy experts, and provided objective, research-based input to the policymaking process.
The use of the Social Security number (SSN) has expanded significantly since its inception in 1936. Created merely to keep track of the earnings history of U.S. workers for Social Security entitlement and benefit computation purposes, it has come to be used as a nearly universal identifier. Assigned at birth, the SSN enables other government agencies to identify individuals in their records and private industry to track an individual's financial information. This article explores the history and meaning of the SSN and the Social Security card, as well as the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) SSN master file, generally known as the Numident. The article also traces the historical expansion of SSN use and steps SSA has taken to enhance SSN integrity.
The Social Security Protection Act of 2004 (SSPA), with its administrative remedies and program protections, can be seen as another incremental step in the development of a social insurance program that best meets the evolving needs of American society. This article discusses the legislative history of the SSPA in detail. It also includes summaries of the provisions and a chronology of the modification of these proposals as they passed through the House and Senate, and ultimately to the president's desk.
In a federal government career that lasted more than four decades, Mollie Orshansky worked for the Children's Bureau, the Department of Agriculture, the Social Security Administration, and other agencies. While working at the Social Security Administration during the 1960s, she developed the poverty thresholds that became the federal government's official statistical measure of poverty; her thresholds remain a major feature of the architecture of American social policy and are widely known internationally.
The Railroad Retirement program was established in the 1930s. It provides retirement, survivor, unemployment, and sickness benefits to individuals who have spent a substantial portion of their career in railroad employment, as well as to these workers' families. This article describes the history, benefit structure, and funding of the Railroad Retirement program.
Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI, Social Security) benefits are indexed for inflation to protect beneficiaries from the loss of purchasing power implied by inflation. In the absence of such indexing, the purchasing power of Social Security benefits would be eroded as rising prices raised the cost of living. Recently, the Consumer Price Index used to calculate the Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) for OASDI benefits has come under increased scrutiny. Some argue that the current index does not accurately reflect the inflation experienced by seniors and that COLAs should be larger. Others argue that the measure of inflation underlying the COLA has technical limitations that cause it to overestimate changes in the cost of living and that COLAs should be smaller. This article discusses some of the issues involved with indexing Social Security benefits for inflation and examines the ramifications of potential changes to COLA calculations.
Social Security and the "D" in OASDI: The History of a Federal Program Insuring Earners Against Disability
This article explores the efforts of Social Security planners to establish a disability program in the United States and the history of the program over the past 50 years. It describes how the program has evolved and the internal and external influences that have affected its development.
The publication of this article coincides with the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Social Security Act. The history and development of the Social Security program from its inception to the present is discussed. Special attention is given to historical debates that have relevance to today's policy discussions. In particular, the article discusses themes regarding program growth, pay-as-you-go financing, reserve funding, rates of return on payroll contributions, and the adequacy of benefits.
This article details the congressional effort to recognize the important contributions of Filipino veterans in World War II that led to the enactment of a new title VIII of the Social Security Act, "Special Benefits for Certain World War II Veterans." It describes the evolution of a proposal to pay a reduced Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit to Filipino and other World War II veterans who want to return to their homeland or otherwise live outside the United States. The article highlights the different options considered and the early implementation of payments by the Social Security Administration under the new program. Title VIII is the first benefit program administered by the Social Security Administration since the enactment of the legislation that created the SSI program in 1972.
It is becoming increasing difficult worldwide for the aged to sustain a minimum level of income protection into retirement. Rapidly aging populations and lower fertility rates are creating serious fiscal strains on current social insurance systems. A report issued by the World Bank maintains that countries whose primary mechanism for providing old-age income protection is a publicly managed social insurance system will experience significant difficulties unless they make structural changes in their programs. Actuarial estimates indicate that benefit payments in the United States could in fact exceed income to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund by 2029 and a variety of proposals to address this problem are being advanced. We suggest a framework to evaluate such proposals based on a set of core values (fairness, adequacy, and efficiency) and analyze some of the proposed changes both in relation to how they have been employed in other countries and within the context of the framework. The purpose of this article is to inform and help structure a most important debate.