October 5, 2010

Social Security Among the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government


By Cyndi Hagen
Social Security Assistant District Manager
Davenport, Iowa

Social Security employees rate their agency as one of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government according to The Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. Among the large federal agencies in the top ten Best Places to Work, Social Security also had the greatest improvement in overall employee satisfaction.

“I am always impressed by the outstanding work of our employees and by their commitment to public service,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “Our workloads have grown tremendously due to the recession and we are under more pressure than ever to keep up with the increased demand for our services. Despite these pressures, every day our employees bring the energy and teamwork necessary to provide the public with the highest standard of considerate service.”

The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings draw on responses from more than 263,000 federal employees to produce detailed rankings of employee satisfaction across 290 federal agencies and subcomponents. Data from the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is used to rank agencies according to a Best Places to Work index score, which measures overall employee satisfaction. In addition to the employee satisfaction rating, agencies are scored in workplace categories such as effective leadership, employee skills/mission match, pay and work/life balance. Social Security employees gave the agency higher ratings in all of these categories when compared to the prior survey.

“Our employees make a positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans,” Commissioner Astrue said. “I encourage anyone looking for a career in public service to look closely at Social Security. You can make a difference in people’s lives and your own.”

To learn more about careers with Social Security, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/careers. For more information about the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government® rankings, go to www.bestplacestowork.org.



Question: What can I do at www.socialsecurity.gov?

Answer: There are a myriad of things you can do at Social Security’s website. You can get an estimate of future benefits, find out if you qualify for benefits now, and even apply for benefits. Or, you can read one of our 150 or so publications. Many are in Spanish and some are in 14 other languages as well as in audio and alternative formats. Online, you also can find your local Social Security office or find out what documents you need to make a change to your Social Security card. And for the curious, check out the fun facts on our website, like this one: did you know the first Social Security payment of 17 cents went to a fellow named Ernest Ackerman in January 1937? It was a one-time, lump-sum pay-out — the only form of benefits paid during the start-up period January 1937 through December 1939.

Question: Congratulations on your 75th anniversary. Who received the first Social Security check?

Answer: First, let’s explain how things worked back then. From 1937 until 1940, Social Security paid benefits in the form of a single, lump-sum payment. The purpose of these one-time payments was to provide some “payback” to those people who contributed to the program but would not participate long enough to be vested for monthly benefits.

Under the 1935 law, monthly benefits were to begin in 1942, with the period 1937 through 1942 used both to build up the trust funds and to provide a minimum period for participation to qualify for monthly benefits.

The earliest reported applicant for a lump-sum benefit was a Cleveland motorman named Ernest Ackerman, who retired one day after the Social Security program began. During his one day of participation in the program, 5 cents was withheld from Mr. Ackerman’s pay for Social Security, and, upon retiring, he received a lump-sum payment of 17 cents. The average lump-sum payment during this period was $58.06. Although Ernest Ackerman was the first person to receive a lump-sum benefit, a woman named Ida May Fuller, from Ludlow, Vermont, was the first recipient of monthly Social Security benefits. Learn more about Social Security’s early days at our History Page. You’ll find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/history.

Question: I’ve decided I want to retire. How do I begin?

Answer: The fastest and easiest way to apply for retirement benefits is to go to www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline. To use our online application to apply for Social Security retirement or spouse’s benefits, you must:

• Be at least 61 years and 9 months old;
• Want to start your benefits in the next four months; and
• Live in the United States or one of its commonwealths or territories.

If you are already age 62, your benefits could start as early as this month. If you are almost 65, your application for benefits will include Medicare. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.