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55577726 - Administering sociAl security chAllenges...

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Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 3, 2010 27 Introduction They said it couldn’t be done. In 1935, the Social Security Board, predecessor of the Social Security Administration (SSA), started to plan the implementa- tion of the Social Security Act. Board administrators contacted European experts who were experienced with such programs. The experts replied that it was impossible to maintain a system for tracking individu- als’ earnings histories of the scope proposed for the United States (McKinley and Frase 1970, 20–21; SSA 1997a; SSA 1964a). Despite these pessimistic assess- ments, the Board persevered, and the Social Security program was successfully launched 75 years ago this month—and while the agency may have stumbled a few times during its 75-year history, it is still on its feet and getting the benefit payments out via the Trea- sury Department every month. In fact, SSA has never missed a month of sending the payments out on time. SSA is an efficient agency with very low adminis- trative costs of 0.9 percent of total expenditures (Board of Trustees 2009). Agency employees have a very well-defined sense of the agency’s mission, and SSA constantly strives to improve its service to the public. Today, SSA faces many challenges. Nearly 80 mil- lion baby boomers will file for retirement benefits over the next 20 years, an average of 10,000 per day (SSA 2008e). The agency was already struggling with a backlog of disability claim hearings when the 2008 recession hit. The recession compounded the agency’s problems because the number of individuals filing for retirement and disability benefits increased. 1 In addition, some states furloughed the SSA-funded state employees who make disability determinations for Social Security claimants. Keeping abreast of the latest technology on a restricted budget has also been Selected Abbreviations ALJ administrative law judge AWR annual wage reporting BDI Bureau of Disability Insurance BDP Bureau of Data Processing BL black lung BOAI Bureau of Old-Age Insurance BOASI Bureau of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance * The author is with the Office of Research, Evaluation, and Statistics, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration. Note: Contents of this publication are not copyrighted; any items may be reprinted, but citation of the Social Security Bulletin as the source is requested. To view the Bulletin online, visit our Web site at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy. The findings and conclusions presented in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Social Security Administration. A dministering s ociAl s ecurity : c hAllenges y esterdAy And t odAy by Carolyn Puckett* In 2010, the Social Security Administration (SSA) celebrates the 75th anniversary of the passage of the Social Security Act. In those 75 years, SSA has been responsible for programs providing unemployment insurance, child welfare, and supervision of credit unions, among other duties. This article focuses on the administration of the
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