Social Security

Your Social Security Number

Social Security numbers (SSNs) were created to help the federal government administer Social Security benefits. The Social Security Administration used this nine-digit number only to identify workers and to keep records on Social Security taxes paid by each worker. Today, federal, state, and local governments use SSNs to identify people for a variety of purposes. So do other entities, such as insurers, employers, banks and other financial institutions. These days, everyone seems to want to know your SSN.

Social Security's Insurance Programs

The U.S. Social Security Administration runs several social welfare and social insurance programs. Its largest insurance program is Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI). This program provides monthly cash payments to former wage earners who become disabled or retire, based on their lifetime earnings and retirement age. The OASDI program also provides benefits to former wage earners' dependents and survivors. Social Security also has two health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid. You must have an SSN to receive benefits from these Social Security insurance programs.

Who Is Allowed to Use Your Social Security Number?

Employers, banks, and other financial institutions require you to provide your SSN, usually to comply with federal laws and regulations. Other companies also use the number to identify you. Many medical providers, health insurance companies, and life insurance companies ask for their clients' SSNs. They use the numbers to identify patients, reimburse policy holders, and pay benefits to beneficiaries.

Private Businesses Cannot Require an SSN

Private businesses other than employers, banks, and health insurers cannot legally require you to provide your Social Security number. However, they may refuse to provide you with services unless you do. To keep your SSN as confidential as possible, consider the risks before you give your number to anyone not legally entitled to ask for it.

Apply to the Social Security Administration

If you do not have a Social Security number or you need a replacement Social Security card, you can submit Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card to the Social Security Administration. You must also provide the agency with original documents to prove that you are a U.S. citizen and to verify your age and your identity. To get an SSN for a child, you must provide proof of your own identity in addition to the documents required to prove the child's citizenship, age, and identity.

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This article was verified by:
Daniel D. Coughlin | April 07, 2015
777 Anderson Street
(423) 764-1174 View Profile

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