Q.1.1 What is the history behind the Social Security
A: SSA has continually emphasized the fact that the SSN
identifies a particular record only
and the Social Security Card indicates the person whose record is
identified by that number. In
no way can the Social Security Card identify the bearer. From 1946
to 1972 the legend "Not for
Identification" was printed on the face of the card. However, many
people ignored the message and
the legend was eventually dropped. The social security number is
the most widely used and carefully
controlled number in the country, which acts it an attractive
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Q.1.1.1 What are the prefix (eg. "W" or "A") letters in front of the social security
A: A claim number is defined as a SSN followed by a designation letter (D for death benefit, M or T for Medicare benefits etc.)
These codes are called "Beneficiary Benefit Code" or BIC.
The code indicate the reason benefits were paid to a living person; the relationship of the living person to the Social Security number holder is as follows:
|BIC Code||Paid to...
|A|| Worker, based on E/R (Earning Record).
|B|| Spouse (of an employed individual).
|C|| Child of worker
|D|| Widow/widower age 60 or older
|W||Disabled widow/widower age 50 or older
|E|| Young mother/father with child in care
These are the common denotation. However, there are other letters for other classes of benefits: B, C, D, W, E's - all of these letters may or may not have a number after
them, e.g., D - widow; D1 - widower; D6 - divorced widow - several others D2, D4, D9,
etc - each has a particular meaning). B - wife; B6 - divorced wife, etc.
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[The above parargaph(s) was received from: email@example.com (Judy Atkisson)]
Q.1.2 Is the Social Security Records a public record?
A: With the exception of the restrictions imposed on Federal
and some State and local
organizations by the Privacy Act of 1974, organizations requiring
a unique identifier forp urposes
of controlling their records are not prohibited from using (with
the consent of the holder) the
SSN. SSA records are confidential and knowledge of a person's SSN
does not give the user access
to information in SSA files which is confidential by law.
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Q.1.3 I see commercial usages of Social Security numbers,
A: Many commercial enterprises have used the SSN in various
promotional efforts. These uses
are not authorized by SSA, but SSA has no authority to prohibit
such activities as most are not
illegal. Some of these unauthorized uses are: SSN contests;
skip-tracers; sale or distribution of
plastic or metal cards; pocketbook numbers (the numbers used on
sample social security cards in
wallets); misleading advertising, commercial enterprises charging
fees for SSN services;
identification of personal property.
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Q.1.4 What is the meaning of each segment of the Social
A: The Social Security Number (SSN) is composed of 3 parts,
XXX-XX-XXXX, called the Area,
Group, and Serial.For the most part, (there are exceptions), the
Area is determined by where the
individual APPLIED for the SSN (before 1972) or RESIDED at time of
application (after 1972). The
areas are assigned as follows:
|223-231|| VA |
|247-251|| SC |
|400-407|| KY |
|408-415|| TN |
|518-519|| ID *Guam, American Samoa,|
|520|| WY Northern Mariana Islands,|
|521-524|| CO Philippine Islands|
|580|| VI Virgin Islands|
|581-584|| PR Puerto Rico|
|586|| PI Pacific Islands*|
|596-599|| PR Puerto Rico|
627-699 unassigned, for future use
700-728 Railroad workers through 1963, then discontinued
729-899 unassigned, for future use 900-999 not valid SSNs, but
were used for program purposes
when state aid to the aged, blind and disabled was converted to a
federal program administered by
As the Areas assigned to a locality are exhausted, new areas
from the pool are assigned. This
is why some states have non-contiguous groups of Areas.
Area Group Serial
The Social Security number consists of nine (9) digits. The first three (3) digits denote the area (or State) where the application for an original Social Security number was filed.
Within each area, the group number (middle two (2) digits) range from 01 to 99 but are not assigned in consecutive order. For administrative reasons, group numbers issued first consist of the ODD numbers from 01 through 09 and then EVEN numbers from 10 through 98, within each area number allocated to a State. After all numbers in group 98 of a particular area have been issued, the EVEN Groups 02 through 08 are used, followed by ODD Groups 11 through 99.
Within each group, the serial numbers (last four (4) digits) run consecutively from 0001 through 9999.
This chart below shows how Group numbers are assigned:
The Group portion of the SSN has no meaning other than to
determine whether or not a number
has been assigned. SSA publishes a list every month of the highest
group assigned for each SSN
Area.The order of assignment for the Groups is: odd numbers under
10, even numbers over 9, even
numbers under 9 except for 00 which is never used, and odd numbers
over 10. For example, if the
highest group assigned for area 999 is 12, then we know that the
number 999-04-1234 is an invalid
number because even Groups under 9 have not yet been assigned.
|ODD || 01, 03, 05, 07, 09
|| EVEN ||10 to 98
|EVEN ||02, 04, 06, 08
|| ODD || 11 to 99
The Serial portion of the SSN has no meaning. The Serial is
not assigned in strictly
numerical order. The Serial 0000 is never assigned.
Before 1973, Social Security Cards with pre-printed numbers
were issued to each local SSA
office. The numbers were assigned by the local office. In 1973, SSN
assignment was automated and
outstanding stocks of pre-printed cards were destroyed. All SSNs
are now assigned by computer from
headquarters. There are rare cases in which the computer system can
be forced to accept a manual
assignment such as a person refusing a number with 666 in it.
A pamphlet entitled "The Social Security Number" (Pub. No.
05-10633) provides an explanation
of the SSN's structure and the method of assigning and validating
Social Security numbers.
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Q.1.5 How do I know someone indeed had a Social Security
A: [From SasiC@aol.com, original author unknown] The following
chronology may help to determine that the none" in the SSN field of a death certificate,
for example, may mean that the person never had one:
- 1935 - Social Security Act passed
- 1936 - Enrollment begins, first SSNs issued to covered
- 1937 - Payroll ("FICA") tax withholding begins (1% on first
$3,000 in wages!)
- 1940 - Payment of benefits begins.
Initially, workers under age 65 in commerce and industry were
the following years, Congress made significant expansions of
- 1950 - Regularly employed farm and domestic workers; non-farm
- 1954 - Self-employed farmers professions, except most medical
- 1956 - Military and remainder of professionals, except
Some groups, such as government employees, firefighters,
and clergy came in over longer periods, with coverage first being elective and later
mandatory with limited exemptions.
- 1965 - Mass enumeration of those over age 65 without social security numbers for Medicare entitlement purposes - this meant that many who had never had a number were now assigned numbers even though never worked.
[The above parargaph was received from: firstname.lastname@example.org (Judy Atkisson)]
Not until the mid-1970s, did SSA routinely assign SSNs as part
of the benefit application
process for dependents of the worker, such as spouses, widows, and
dependent children without an
SSN.Dependents had a claim number which was the worker's SSN plus
a letter suffix.Thus, the
husband's SSN sometimes appears on the death certificate of a wife
or widow who never had one.
The Social Security Administration issued SSN's only to record
earnings from which benefit amounts were calculated, and rather consistently resisted
initiatives and trends to make the SSN a universal identifier.In the past two decades, that stance has been overwhelmed by the insistence of private entities, such as credit bureaus, and other branches of government (most notably IRS),
for a unique identifier that could be used by computers for
drivers' licenses, curbing tax evasion
and welfare fraud.As one Rooter observed, most children born today
have SSNs requested by their
parents as an optional step in the birth registration process.
SSA has abstracted the data from SSN applications into its
database, but does not release
this or other information to other parties during the lifetime of
the individual.Until the
mid-1970's, the worker's actual SSN application was inserted into
the claims folder, which,
unfortunately due to the cost of storage, is generally not retained
very long after the death of
the worker or the last survivor goes off the benefit rolls.Most
claims folders also include a copy
(and translation, if necessary) of the beneficiaries' birth
certificates or other proofs of age
and relationship, not to mention a written explanation when Guy
Rivers' papers show his name at
birth as Jose Rivera.
When SS benefits were instituted in 1937, individuals claiming
benefits had to document their births even if their states had not required birth registration.The
1880 and 1900 federal census enumerations were partially of fully indexed to help provide this
documentation. Another methos was to file evidence as part of an application for a delayed birth
The individual applying had to submit a petition to the
county court stating his/her name,
address, birth date, birthplace, father's name, race, as well as
evidence to support the facts
presented.The evidence could be in the form of a baptismal
certificate, Bible record, school
record, affidavit from the attending physician of midwife,
application for an insurance policy,
birth certificate of a child, copy of an application for a Social
Security account number, of
an affidavit from a person having definite knowledge of the facts.
The delayed birth certificate lists vital information
abstracted from the supporting
evidence. Most states have delayed birth records, some of which
are indexed and easily usable.Some
delayed birth records have been filed for individuals born as
early as 1840.These records are
usually filed in the county where the individual applied and not in
the county of birth. Though
comparatively infrequent, these records provide information about
the individual and his/her
parnets when vital records were not widely kept.The records and
testimony used as supporting
evidence for the document will lead you to other information
sources and also show which relatives
were living at the time the certificate was applied for.
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Q.1.6 Did everyone who had a Social Security Number shows up in the Social Security Death Index?
No. Only those whose names were reported to the Social Security Administration. Typically, such reporting would be done to receive a Lump Sum distribution for the benefits of the Social Security Number holder.
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Q.1.6.5 Did people who did NOT have a Social Security Number appear on the SSDI?
While "grandfathering" work history for benefits was certainly done, and
benefits paid to widows and dependent children, to find the death date of the
spouse in the files may be rough. Social Security always provided a "floor"
benefit for those who could not prove the required work history/tax payments,
but met the other requirements of age or disability. A widow might qualify
under her own account, so no date of death for her spouse would be in the
file. The SSDI is a listing of those who received a death benefit (a lump
sum paid upon death) and you are refering to survivor benefits. Still, a
request under the FOIA may get you some info.
[contributed by Shelley Volk and published with her permission]
Furthermore, some states aid programs allowed for no proof of eligability for a surviving spouse of orphan expect for the proof of financial hardship, while some required a colledaral such as a house or part or whole of a farm.
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Q.1.7 When was the SSN first used for Income Tax Return purposes?
In 1942 the use of a SSN was optional. In 1946 it became
mandatory. However, in our experience the IRS will not release any tax
information whatsoever to individual, regardless of the taxpayers' status
(included long deceased).
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Q.1.8 I recall hearing that when Social Security was initially started it was
against the law to use the SSN for any purpose other than Social Security.
There was a fine if the SSN was used for a purpose other than Social
Security. Is this true?
Not exactly. The law was (and still is) such that you are not required to
provide your SSN to anyone as a form of identification.
I am not a lawyer but I believe this is the law nowadays.
Try applying for a credit card without a SSN and you'll see that its possible!
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