Plain Talk (About Social Security)

June 6, 2015 • By

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

A happy family looks at a computer.The report cards are in. For the second year in a row, some of the best writing in federal government came from Social Security!

…we have made it a priority to speak to you plainly.

The Center for Plain Language issued its annual Federal Plain Language Report Card. The annual report grades federal agencies on how well they communicate with the nation’s taxpayers, and gives grades from A to F on:

  • Compliance with the requirements of the Plain Writing Act of 2010:
  • Plain writing; and
  • Information design.

This year, the Social Security Administration tied for top grades with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Homeland Security. We’re the only agency that has received top marks for two consecutive years.

Let’s face it:  There’s only so much time in the day. There are limitless distractions between your social media feeds and work emails. Do you have time to sift through confusing government jargon and paperwork that you have to read multiple times to understand?

We could explain our programs with complex legalese and confusing run-on sentences. We could add some infographics and long web links. We could even reference SPORT without actually clarifying that, in our world, it’s an acronym for Special Procedures for Overpayment Reduction.

Instead, we have made it a priority to speak to you plainly.

Our mission is to deliver world-class services and make our communications about those services as clear, concise, and easy to understand as possible. You can see our high grades, and those of other federal agencies here.

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About the Author

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. Gail J.

    i am a mother of three children from my first marriage and one from my second marriage. Now when my divorce came final I was wandering if I am entitled to some compensation from him for his three children. He didn’t give child support support. My youngest was five at the time, the next one was eleven and the last one was fifth teen. He passed away in the year of 2010. He was born 6/2/1954.
    Please give me an answer.



    I remarried in the year 1991

    • Joanne G.

      To my knowledge, his children should get benefits until the age of 18, and you as their mother would also receive benefits until the last child is 18. That you remarried might negate YOURS, but the children should receive theirs. You need to talk to them…..good luck. You have a computer, do it on line.

  2. mary

    Come on everybody. Because there isn’t enough money doesn’t mean social security deserves all the frustration. SSI is even worse, but that doesn’t change the fact that social security people are no longer speaking in legalese.

    SS employees can still be caring. Still be competent. The award is deserved and so is respect; what isn’t deserved is computer hacks for personal records.

    Even social security employees and officials might like complements. And I can say this without telling you that you have enough money. They are two separate issues, and I don’t think the same people are necessarily responsible.

    So congratulations on the award and sympathy on poverty or inadequate income or any other hardships to all of us.

  3. Hal L.

    Is it true about IOU’s in our US social security trust fund, if this is true how did this begin.

    • Lorenzo D.

      Hal, you’re not alone in wondering about the Social Security Trust Funds. Please read our Trust Fund Frequently Asked Questions for a full explanation.

  4. Corine H.

    I worked at an Ind. School District for 20 years. I got caught at the time of the LOOP hole. I retired and didn’t get any S/s until I was a widow. I was 75 years old. Was told I couldn’t draw both (any of my husbands.) I didn’t have enough quarters. Others that I knew went to Schools that paid S/s and could get some from their spouce at age 62+. And say they retired from that school by working there one day.
    NOT FAIR AT ALL. I still get only 1/3 of what my husband got before death drew.

  5. bettyg

    i’d like to see improvements be made on ADULT LIST OF APPROVED IMPAIRMENTS FOR DISABILITY including a detailed section on:

    LYME/TICK disease and EACH of the vector-borne diseases ticks carry.

    lyme disease is mentioned in 14.09 but NO details whatsoever.

    also,since ssdi/dds drs. do NOT see us physically, i don’t see how their opinions are given PRIORITY over the specialists and our own drs. who have thoroughly examined us but DIDN’T write down everything in our medical records.

    took me 5 yrs. of hell and 2 ssdi apps to be approved. my medical records sent to you were at least 2.5 – 3″ thick!

    bettyg, iowa lyme disease activist

    • Tee

      Excellent point there, about the “expert testimony from so called doctors that have never touched some and, secondly, your so correct about the records not being recorded honestly or in their factual complete state. I know from experience, doctors do what they want to, if they do not want to get involved with potential issues such as law suits or they do not want to take on challenges that make them have to work harder or testify for their long term patients. They omit and avoid, regardless of how this destroys what they are trying to treat. US! Not all doctors, attorneys, police or even governments are bad but the majority are miserable and lost. Getting saved and building a serious relationship with Jesus is the solution to all our issues. Saving faith will be like saving for retirement. Accept retirement with God is never ending bliss.
      God Bless you all!

  6. LFW

    Maryland Social security service for Food stamps and Medical help (2d floor) are irresponsible, they do not return phone calls, and work slowly with mistakes and make subjected decisions. You should check them by providing e-survey after phone calls, or services they provide as it is done by any reputable organization that want to know how they are doing. There are no accountability, and managers cover-up for their staff.
    On another hand, the Housing department (4th floor) is well organized, works via email, effective and responsive.

    • Joanne G.

      GOVERNMENT employees….what else would you expect? They have no “oversight”, their supervisors are as bad as they are. In private business, very few of them would be able to hold a job!

    • HunterSThompson

      SSA does not administer or issue food stamps, your problem is at the state level.

  7. Jim

    The signboard outside my church says it all –
    “Well done” is much better than “Well Said”

    • GIGator


      • Tee

        Both done well, reap best results!

  8. Andre M.

    So many times disappointed in how my case has been determined. Giving the infomation to the people resposible for the interpretation of a persons case is sometimes put in the hands of people who care nothing about you. And it’s wrong that they have so much leverage. People tell me to lie to get what i need. Sorry, the truth should be enough.

    • Tee

      Why depend on mere humans, if your a Christian, chosen by God, trust Him, not humans. Things will go much smoother. It worked for me, still does but one must give it away. To give is to receive.

      Hope this helps. Not offends. There is only One True Savior, God, Jesus Christ! Money is allot of peoples God. I used too be all about money and when I had none, all about griping and worrying. Once I let go and let God, I had no more slavery to money and things started to work out better than ever before. God’s Grace to you.

  9. GramaCat2U

    Such wonderful flowery words…now try going into SS Office ! Waiting 3 hours , screaming babies, undisciplined little children,adults reeking of cigarette smoke or worse. After enduring this, nothing but attitude from the Clerk. What a horrid experience !

    • Tee

      That is why learning to surf the net could come in handy. Or, hiring a representative to handle this for you.

      You may experience a 20 minute hold time on the phone but your at home and comfortable while waiting.

      People stop griping and start being proactive. There are usually more than one way to skin a cat. Learn from past mistakes and do it another way next time.

      If we are very honest, we cause the majority of our stress by complaining, being greedy or learning to live with little or much and being happy either way.

      The only way to have true peace and security is through a relationship with Jesus Christ. A part from Him, there will be no satisfaction.

      Read John 3:16, if you haven’t that would be the first, most important step in your life. The rest is all down hill from that point.

      God Bless and Keep us all!

    • Dawn A.

      Been ther don that I had a 9 AM appoint 5 PM they locked the door I was still waiting

  10. EG

    How can you claims this when CNN just reported the following:

    The Social Security Administration has paid an estimated $1.3 billion in disability insurance payments to thousands of people who weren’t eligible for the benefits, a government watchdog report finds.

    • HunterSThompson

      Which has nothing to do with the article. Which , if you missed it, is about how this agency is attempting to put the policy and benefit procedures in more lay terms, instead of hiding it all behind legal mumbo jumbo.

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