Social Security

Social Security in the United States

Plain-English Law

Social Security as defined by Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law (p. 437-455): The general term that describes a number of related programs administered by the federal government, including retirement, disability, and dependents and survivors benefits. These programs operate together to provide workers and their families with some monthly income when their normal flow of income shrinks because of the retirement, disability, or death of the person who earned that income.

Legal Materials

The laws, rulings and guidance documents that govern the U.S. Social Security program are available through the Social Security Administration’s Social Security Program Rules Home Page. To see if a Social Security Ruling or Acquiescence has been Rescinded, locate it on the Finding List; Rescinded rulings are marked “Rescinded.”

Cornell’s Legal Information Institute posts a Social Security Library with key laws, regulations, rulings and recent developments, plus an electronic version of Martin on Social Security and links to related Web sites. For questions, visit the Social Security Administration’s Social Security Online site or call the Administration at 800-772-1213.

CCH’s Unemployment Insurance Reporter (Volumes 1, 1A and 1B are devoted exclusively to Social Security) compiles Social Security-related statutes, regulations, tax tables, benefit tables. The Reporter also has a large prose section called “Benefits Explained.” Alternatively, the statutes are published in the U.S. Code; the regs are published in the CFR, etc.

The Social Security Administration’s Program Operations Manual System (POMS) sets forth the rules that govern the SSI program. For better searching, a version is also available on Lexis (LABOR;POMS).

The SSA also posts its Guide for Organizational Representative Payees.

The Social Security Law Wiki is actually a respected treatise on Social Security benefits law (formerly Martin on Social Security). For a more comprehensive treatment of the subject, see the Social Security Practice Guide (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender).

Benefits calculator:You can estimate a person’s Social Security benefits using the SSA’s Benefits Calculator.

Social Security Numbers

Applying for a number: You apply for a Social Security Number by filing an SS-5 form with the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration’s posts SS-5 forms .

Finding Social Security Numbers: If you have a person’s name, you might be able to look up his or her social security numbers using Accurint, TLO, KnowX and/orLocatePlus. However, you should probably check with the company first, because the number will probably be masked for privacy purposes. The database vendors may be willing to unmask the data for certain businesses (e.g. collections firm).

If the person might have died, search the Social Security Death Index on

Other places to find social security numbers: court records, death records and professional licensing records. You might also be able to get a social security number by hiring a private investigator.

Validating a Number: If you have a social security number, the SSN Validator will tell you whether that number was actually issued and, if it was, where and approximately when, and possibly whether there is a related death record. You could also register and use the government’s official Social Security Number Verification Service, or you could run the number through the databases discussed in the entry for “Finding People.”

Most Popular Entries related to Social Security

Finding the law: Social Security in the U.S. Code

A collection of general and permanent laws relating to social security, passed by the United States Congress, are organized by subject matter arrangements in the United States Code (U.S.C.; this label examines social security topics), to make them easy to use (usually, organized by legal areas into Titles, Chapters and Sections). The platform provides introductory material to the U.S. Code, and cross references to case law. View the U.S. Code’s table of contents here.


See Also

Disabilities Law
Labor Law
Finding People
Employer Identification Numbers

Further Reading

Social Security Act of 1983 and Tax Law

There are more details about Social Security Act of 1983 in thetax compilation of the legal Encyclopedia.

Social Security in the International Business Landscape

Definition of Social Security in the context of U.S. international business and public trade policy: Otherwise known as the Old Age Survivors Disability Insurance program (OASDI), created during the Great Depression in 1935 to provide income support for dependent populations without the means of self support.

Social Security: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Social Security. This part provides references, in relation to Social Security, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Social Security by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Social Security and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Social Security or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Social Security and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Social Security. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Social Security should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Social Security when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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