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A Social Security Number (SSN) is a nine-digital number issued by the U.S. government. All U.S. citizens and eligible U.S. residents who apply receive one. The governmenr uses this number to track how long you’ve worked and how much money you’ve ever made.

When it’s time to retire, or if you need disability income, the government calculates your benefit payments based on this info. Most people have the same Social Security Number forever, but some may need a new one because of identity theft.

What are Social Security Cards?

All legal American residents have a Social Security Number, with rare exceptions. Even non-working residents have an SSN because it’s useful for the government. The Social Security Administration deals with SSNs and issuing cards. The Social Security Act provides the legal framework for Social Security.


Nowadays, Social Security Numbers are completely random digits. Before 2011, this was not the case.


Before then, the first three digits represented where you were born. The next numbers were supposed to represent a month or year of birth. But having this formula would make it even easier to falsify information, so it instead represented a group number. The rest of the digits were always random.


So far, the government hasn’t reused any Social Security Number, but two people have received the same one before.

Requirements to Change Gender Marker

For those wondering “how do I change my gender on Social Security records,” the answer is reasonably straightforward. Some requirements vary between states, and others operate on a federal level. Some states want proof of gender-affirmation surgery, while others only need a doctor’s note.


For many people, it is not even possible to get these documents. Fees can be prohibitively expensive, and legal restrictions may occur. Further, lack of healthcare access is another common roadblock. Services like Online Application may be able to help.

How do I Change my Gender on Social Security Records?

A Social Security card only lists the name and number, not gender. But the Social Security Administration keeps all information in its computer records. That includes date of birth and gender. This is to help generate aggregate data for research and statistical reasons. Further, some third-party organizations uses SSA gender data to verify identity.

The Social Security Administration accepts any of the following documents to change gender:

  • A valid 10-year American passport displaying the right gender
  • A state-issued birth certificate displaying the right gender
  • A court order that recognizes the right gender, or
  • A signed letter from an MD confirming gender transition

The physician letter is only valid if you have an existing relationship with a licensed doctor. This doctor must be familiar with the treatment involved in your transition. It doesn’t need to be a specialist of any kind. The physician’s license or certificate number should appear in this letter.

Does Changing a Gender Marker Affect Anything?

Social Security benefits don’t depend on gender, so you should receive those as normal.


Usually, private health insurance won’t change after changing your gender marker. Some insurance plans could deny service coverage that doesn’t appear to be relevant to your gender marker. But private plans don’t generally match with Social Security records.


If you’re enrolled in Medicaid, Medicare, or SSI, then those records come from Social Security data. In these situations, automatic refusals may come in for the same relevancy reason. But you can contact the plan or use a specific billing code to resolve this.

Who needs to change gender markers
Who Needs to Change Gender Markers?

The majority of people never need to change or update their Social Security gender marker. For trans folks, making this change is often an important milestone that affirms their identity. More critically, corrections serve as measures against violence or discrimination from outing.

When are Social Security Cards Needed?

Whenever you get a job, your new employer will need your Social Security Number. The accounting department uses this number to report your income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They also report wages to the Social Security Administration. If your state has an income tax, then your employer also uses your SSN to report state income tax.


If your employer participates in E-Verify, he or she will ned your SSN. They will verify that you can legally work in the United States before you start.


The following are other common reasons to need your Social Security Number:


When opening a bank account anywhere in the United States.

Since 1970, all banks need to get Social Security Numbers from their customers. All financial institutions check your credit with your SSN. They’ll also use it to manage your account, and to report tax-deductible mortgage interst, or other sources of income or loss. You may be able to provide an Employer Identification Number (EIN) instead. The IRS provides this number upon application.

When seeking a federal loan.

To ensure you’re eligible when applying for a federal loan, the government uses your SSN. For example, if you want federal student loans, you can’t be in default of another federal loan. Likewise, you must either be a citizen or have an eligible visitor status. Finally, most male applicants should have registered for the Selective Service.

When seeking some kinds of public assistance.

This includes programs like unemployement or Social Security disability income. The state and federal government handle these forms of assistance, they use SSNs to make sure only those entitled to benefits receive them.

When applying for Medicare. 
The SSA works together with Medicare and Medicaid services to enroll applicants.
When getting a new passport.
If you have an SSN, federal law requires you provide it. Otherwise, there will be delays as the government processes your American passport. Beware of neglect; if you don’t provide an issued SSN, you could owe a $500 fine.
When filing annual taxes.
Social Security Numbers matches the income you report to what your employer reports. If you are claiming a child as a dependent on your tax return, you will also need that child’s Social Security Number.
Getting a driver’s license.
 To get a driver’s license in the United States, you must provide a Social Security Number, if you have one.

When Not to Provide Your Social Security Number

Anyone can ask for your Social Security Number under federal law, but you don’t have to tell them. In fact, you should give it away as little as possible. Not everyone who asks for your number needs it.

For example, most medical providers usually ask for your SSN. But, they don’t usually question it if you leave it blank when filling out the rest of the form. There are other ways your doctor and businesses can identify and track you. That said, businesses have the right to refuse service without this number.

It’s also a bad idea to walk around with your Social Security card, unless you know you’re using it that day. For example, it’s fine to take it to fill out paperwork at your new job, and to show it as proof of citizenship. Of course, with a U.S. passport, you never need to bring the card at all.

Ultimately, you do not want to risk having your card lost or stolen. In the wrong hands, thieves will use this number to apply for credit cards, take out loans, or otherwise create a financial nightmare in your name. Then you’re left with the identity theft mess to mop up.

Instead, consider leaving it at a bank safety deposit box. Otherwise, keep it safe at home. If something does happen to your card, get a new one right away.

Also keep any documents displaying your SSN in a safe space at home. If someone breaks into your home, it’s best if they only leave with material items — not your whole identity. Likewise, you should take precautions with any electronic documents containing this info. Unencrypted PDFs of your tax return on the laptop is the same thing as walking around with the card itself.

The Bottom Line

When the first Social Security numbers were introduced with the program in 1936, the government never planned to use it so widely. The original plans never included tracking and identifying individuals.


Still, today it’s used for everything you can think of. It tracks your lifetime earnings and your eligible benefits. It lets you open a new checking account, and it helps you apply for loans.


As previously stated, many businesses request your SSN just because it’s the easiest way to identify a customer. But it’s too easy for criminals to gain access to this sensitive information for the purposes of identity theft. So you should not hand out your Social Security Number to just anyone; only give it out when it is truly necessary.