My Reflections on Public Service

December 28, 2015 • By

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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. Warin W.

    In 2011 I applied for disability benefits. I was approved BUT WAS NEVER TOLD by the hospital where I was recovering.

    In 2016 I applied for retirement benefits and was told that the SSA would first have to process my disability benefits. I was shocked.

    Now, the SSA owes me approximately Fifty-Four Thousand Dollars ($54,000) in unpaid back payments and they’re doing everything they can NOT to pay me.

    Certified letters to the case manager have mysteriously disappeared. The same case manager has refused to answer any of the written questions that were sent to her regarding my case.

    Right now I am forced to live off my savings. They are simply hoping that I will run out of money and die so that they can keep my money.

    The SSA is worse than the Mafia! Yes, the Mafia extorts money – but so does the government. However, if you hit the number or your team wins, the Mafia bookie pays off. The government seldom does; and only after an extraordinarily long wait.

  2. Inge B.

    Thought-provoking analysis – I was fascinated by the specifics – Does someone know where my business could access a template DA 67-9-1 form to type on ?

  3. margaret b.

    my first time visiting this spot. Very nice to read. Thank you for sharing

    • Ray F.

      Thank you Margaret, we hope you will continue visiting our blog.

  4. Marilyn V.

    My SS check has been diverted to fraudsters accounts two times! each time required me to go to the local SS office in Perrine Fl. What a fiasco the office is! each clerk is behind bars and the noise level in the background (mostly Spanish) is deafening! the security guard is forced to scream to get people to quiet down.
    the worst part is after spending two entire days in this horrible environment and despite talking to a supervisor my checks are now suspended (due to error in Perrine SS) and I have not received 2 checks in a row. I have waited the 15 days (now in the second 15 day wait) and NO RESOLUTION! I have worked since age 13 and thank God I am still working (age 69) or I would be in an even more frustrating situation!

  5. Robert H.

    Who ever it was that made sure there was no cost of living increase this year should take a cost of living decrease as the people that survive on SSD. After I was notified that there wouldn’t be a c o l increase this year the renew cost on the same part “D” I had last year was doubled and now have $300+ deductible on the policy. Last year there wasn’t a deductible on same policy. My rent increased on the first and I’ve had other necessities increase also. The cost of living is and apparently will continue to increase! Yet we were denied the same! Wake up and smell the facts SS,because just because SS states the economy hasn’t increased there obviously has been increases. Now many are doing without because of this!

  6. Herb Z.

    All public servants in SSA should be applauded. As you can see from many of the comments here, it is a difficult job that always has constant attention from the public, financial industry, politics, media, etc. Everyone has their own point of view on the SSA programs, but we should be able to agree that the men and women who devote their lives to making it work better should be thanked. If we want social programs to work better, we need great leaders and great employees dedicated to public service.

  7. MJean

    Really? Sad if it does not bother you to be part of the federal government that is Extremely Wasteful & Very Corrupt!
    I pray every day that our next POTUS Ted Cruz will clean house thoroughly!!

  8. Randy

    While I know and understand there are cheaters out there.I think it is criminal to make an applicant for SS disability appeal 3, 4 or more times, often waiting 18 months between hearings. Then after years of hardship, their claim is approved.

  9. Frank

    I am thankful that SS was there as I spent my life “making other people money” and forgot to take care of my earned money for old age. SS is MY and MY employer’s money’s put away with INTEREST but I EARNED IT. I will never see all of it nor will many others. The GOVERNMENT has squandered it like IT was THEIRS LIKE A PONZI SCHEME.

  10. Terri G.

    I, too, would like to thank you, and the rest of your fellow workers. While it seems that most issues go rather smoothly (that there is a flow to what is happening) it can’t be easy to have a highly emotional person in front of you demanding answers RIGHT NOW/

    Also, when my Dad was dying from emphysema my Brother and Sister took our Dad’s medical files to the local SS office, along with his notarized POA. After going through his file, they approved his application immediately. One of the very few times that I have ever heard of this being done. But we did the correct things, and brought the correct things, before the office visit.

    That was 16 years ago. He died about 1 year later. Thank you.

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