My Reflections on Public Service

December 28, 2015 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: December 28, 2015

Commissioner_Carolyn_Colvin_5x7As we culminate our 80th anniversary celebration and end 2015, I find myself reflecting on our accomplishments. As part of the recognition of our 80th anniversary celebration, we asked our employees to share their stories of why they serve. A recurring theme was: I serve because I enjoy working with the public providing services that matter. Touched by this sentiment, I also looked back over my career and the reasons why I serve.

I have said many times that Social Security touches the lives of nearly everyone in this great nation, often during times of personal hardship, transition, and uncertainty. I’m not only speaking as the Acting Commissioner of Social Security but as someone who has also been on the receiving end. In several instances, Social Security provided support for members of my family.

When my brother was diagnosed with a disability, Social Security provided him the financial and medical support to live independently. Today, I am grateful my brother has a decent quality of life because of the benefits he receives and his access to healthcare. When my mother was ill in her later years, her retirement benefits, and support from our family helped to cover her living expenses and healthcare. The help she received from our agency enabled her to have a good quality of life.

I also felt the support of the SSA family when my son died at 34, leaving behind four small children. The agency embraced me in ways I cannot describe and helped me through a very difficult time in my life. Survivor benefits provided strong financial support for his children after the devastating loss of their father.

I have worked in public service for many years. Throughout my entire career, I have never seen employees provide services in a more caring and compassionate way than our employees. During my tenure as Acting Commissioner of Social Security, I have given many 30-, 40-, and 50-years of service pins to employees who dedicated their entire careers to public service. I know that these employees stayed that long because of a strong commitment to our mission.

Throughout my career, I have been drawn to serve those who have the least among us. From seeing the support my family received, to feeling passionate about helping others going through similar experiences, I cannot be more proud to have served SSA twice in my career.

Social Security is here today and will be here in the future. From retirement to disability, Social Security is there, providing benefits to children and families, and protection for the American worker. Our services matter. The work we do makes a difference in the lives of Americans, when they need it the most.

And this, I am proud to say, is why I serve.

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About the Author

Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security

Acting Commissioner of Social Security (February 14, 2013 - January 20, 2017)


  1. Charlene H.

    I have to problems.
    1. I have been trying over a year to get Social Security to change my fiancees’ Social Security card, because his birth certificate is not matching his card. I have tried two months of getting it fixed and it came back undone.
    2. I do not understand why it is a rule or regulation, that even if two people that are receiving disability, get $300.00 taken away from them when they get married, that doesn’t make sense especially when one is in a wheelchair, and the other is mentally disabled. No one is working. Our economy is pretty high in the food department, and making it harder to get.

    Each time I do talk to a rep., they seem to have a nasty attitude of not wanting to help or impatient.

  2. lol

    Its fairly stunning that SS even allows comments. I’m not sure a comments section on the internet has ever resulted in something positive or productive.

    • Marc

      Boy, you got that right. The only thing Internet comments sections display is the appalling number of nasty, rude, ignorant, ungrateful people out there who apparently have nothing better to do than hate everything and everyone else in the world and aren’t ashamed to display their ignorance and hate.

  3. Ky N.

    Social Security is full of reverse discrimination. I am neither Black nor White unlike the late King of Pop (grab crotch and go “tee hee hee, and say chime on!”

    I was diagnosed with a mental illness after serving the US Navy with an honorable discharge according to my DD-214 and since the year 2001, the Social Security Administration has denied me benefits.

    During my service in the US military, I have been hospitalized due to a medical malpractice that they covered up by being given the wrong medication by a corpsman, the “medic” of the US Navy. A medical doctor at the time in the US Navy confirmed that it was the wrong medication used.

    I was finally honorably discharged, and left with nothing. I got nothing when I applied for SSI Disability through the Social Security Administration.

    What you don’t know is: in America, it’s all about power. And the ones who have any political clout would be either black people or white people. Since I am neither, no one would help me. It’s either discrimination or reverse discrimination in America and people like me are stuck in the middle like a child between a couple of divorced parents.

    Who is the real victim?

  4. egodage d.

    appreciated the series

  5. tony

    It is easy to catch a bunch of those fraudsters. I see them all the time. Valuable resources is wasted following one suspected person all day and they might not even come out of the house. Just surveillance the shopping center parking lot for people who park in the handicapped parking space. Take down their license plate and follow them. If they don’t look disabled then there is justifiable reason to run their tag. I see there people get out of their car, push around the shopping cart, and carry these heavy bags. There is so many of these fakers.

    • Ky N.

      Tony, are you a doctor? Do you have their medical history in front of you?

      How do you now they don’t have Cancer, AIDS, or something that is not so obvious on the outside?

      Go get an education before you post ignorant responses!

      • tony

        Why don’t you get an education before you post ignorant response.

        Handicapped parking are for people who are severely mobility impaired. You can actually see it on the outside because they can’t get around.

        • Marc

          You are WRONG again. A person with a neurological illness or perhaps has had a stroke are also disabled AND “mobility impaired,” and no, you cannot see it. You are not a doctor and it’s not up to you to decide whether or not anyone is “disabled” enough to use a handicapped parking space. What’s it to you, anyway? I know its definitely not about standing up for handicapped people because of your attitude about who is or isn’t disabled. I have a fantasy wish that every person who says someone shouldn’t use a handicapped parking spot because they “don’t look disabled to me” would immediately be stricken with the exact same disability as the person they think isn’t disabled. Let’s see how they feel about who’s disabled or not then. Of course, in the fantasy wish you can have the handicapped parking tag – if it’s that important to you. How sad that there are people so petty and mean-spirited (on top of ignorant) that they would resent and envy a DISABLED PERSON getting a closer parking spot. What is wrong with people? !

          • tony

            This isn’t about the parking space. It is about people collecting social security disability who are not disabled. They need to be caught.

  6. egodage d.

    am happy to read yours i hold green
    card pr to travel for USA .but since 15/12/2015 no response from ( consular Colombo @ )
    from mr athul keshab of ambassador for sri lanka and maldives yet and pending by officers
    i too a on line working for odni sevrices
    i am happy to be a american who still in sri lanka vworking for usa +world wide americans
    i too active organiation for action for mr barak obama work help suporter for usa generation
    member for national institute of justice ,fbi ,odni daily forwarding updates by email
    yes of course i was seured by fbi/odni/nij and happy to all commiuniation
    being a us citisen happy life time but please ake as soon as possible my visa release by embassy srilanka .i too appeal under unhrc hrc act of civil
    rights .
    i am 90% happy about all usa and 2% is pending my process and all small things but higher imporatnt things in complete for me .how ever social security is 99% happy by me beause of us official work from srilanka .
    this is private& confidential by human rights love u all by a man kind being human world wide
    wish u all happy & prosperous new year 2016
    fbi/usa member on line
    universal time 04.57am

  7. Jerry M.

    You GO GIRLThoughtful Reflections!

  8. MJean

    Every government employee knows about the massive corruption and waste of tax dollars, but of course rarely say anything if they want to keep their job!
    Whistleblowers are Punished!!

  9. Barbara C.

    Commissioner Colvin,
    I am moved by your story but very upset by the reality of how SSA is turning it’s back on the most vulnerable members of our society. As a disability lawyer for more than 30 years, I am appalled at the record high unfavorable ALJ decisions which are apparently the result of political pressure your office has succumbed to in the last few years. I am heartbroken for the sick who have lost their ability to work while the government who took a large portion of their income during their years of good health now deserts them in their time of need. Shame on SSA and Congress.

  10. Paul R.

    Again I write, on the subject of my wife having been injured on a job. Her task was to assist a semi-bed ridden senior client from prone positions in bed or recliner. Also to assist in daily health care, Bathing feeding, exercise etc.

    During an assist of a patient my wife injured her back. There were two other management employees present and observing who did not make any attempt to help my wife help her patient and in the process my wife hurt her back.

    The organization sent her to an aid station where a “Fly In” doctor examined her and prescribed minimum post accident care. Then he left to return to his home state in S, Carolina. One State away from our N. Florida location. What is wrong with using local physicians?

    My wife was released after voodoo medicine by the fly-by-day (to see his only patient at the time = my wife) and disappeared into the whereabouts we do not know where. And damn well do not care to see again

    There was no contact during the :recuperation with the flying doc duck.

    My wife still suffers with back pain,

    My wife can not get a job when the prospects see the “Have you ever been injured on the job? .. answer Yes!
    Try as we may no one gives a crap about one injured employee who cant get a job.

    I guess it’s time we find a lawyer who will sue.

    What advice does SSA have for us?

Comments are closed.