Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
Milwaukee, WI

Social Security’s homepage,, has a new look!
Our redesigned homepage now features a service channeling guide on the left side of the page, which lists the most sought-after services and
information on the site.  You’ll find the information or service you want quickly and easily, including links to:
•        applying online for benefits;
•        estimating your retirement benefits;
•        Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs;
•        services for people who already receive benefits; and
•        getting or replacing a Social Security card.
You can find great information categorized by general topic at the top of the home page, including Retirement, Disability, Survivors, Supplemental Security
Income, Medicare, and Business Services. At the center of the page you’ll find information targeted for specific groups, such as Congress, the press,
wounded warriors, government employees, as well as useful links ranging from emergency office closings to getting help with your situation. You’ll also
find information about our agency, such as careers with Social Security, and the history of Social Security.
A news section keeps readers up to date on important Social Security news, and a large question mark to the right of the page takes you to our frequently
asked questions.
Please visit our redesigned home page the next time you need a service or information from Social Security.  Find it now at

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There’s a lot to do during the holiday season.  Probably the last thing on your list is spending precious time at a Social Security office, waiting to conduct
business, especially if you don’t need to.
The busiest times for Social Security field offices and the agency’s toll free telephone number are early in the week and early in the month.  So if your
business can wait, it’s best to contact us at other times.  The same is true during the holiday season — especially the week between Christmas and New
Year’s.  If you must do business with Social Security during the holidays, you may experience more busy signals on the telephone and longer wait times in
local offices.
There’s an even better way to conduct your business: online at  There you’ll find a wealth of information and online services. For
example, you can apply online for Social Security benefits or for Medicare, and then you can check on the status of your pending application. If you’re
already a Social Security beneficiary, you can go online to change your address, phone number, or your direct deposit information, get a replacement
Medicare card, or request a proof of income letter.
Visit our website at and save yourself a call or a trip to our office. But if you do need to speak to a Social Security representative
one-on-one, we’ll be there for you.

It’s that time of year: out with the old and in with the new. You may be thinking about your list of New Year’s resolutions for 2011. There are many important
things to consider. May we suggest a few? Each of these will take only a matter of minutes.
1.        Get an estimate of your future Social Security benefit. In just a few minutes, you can have an instant, personalized estimate of your future Social
Security benefit.  Our online Retirement Estimator gives estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. This is valuable to know when
you’re making plans for your future. Check it out at
2.        Read your mail. Be especially careful about looking at mail that arrives from Social Security. About two to three months before your birthday, you
should receive your annual Social Security Statement. Your Statement is a concise, easy-to-read personal record of the earnings on which you have paid
Social Security taxes during your working years and a summary of the estimated benefits you and your family may receive in retirement, survivors or
disability benefits as a result of those earnings.
3.        Visit the ballpark. Not that one; the Ballpark Estimator. It will help you do a better job of saving for your future. It’s true that times have been tough
lately. But no matter how much you earn, it’s a good idea to try to save.  Check out the Ballpark Estimator for a projection of how much you should save
for a comfortable retirement. Go to the ballpark at
Deciding to diet, exercise, read more books, or watch less television are all good resolutions.  But the ones we suggest don’t require nearly as much
work and won’t nag you all year long. Take a few minutes now, and you could have this list of resolutions knocked out in less time than it takes to put
together a list of resolutions.
Happy New Year from Social Security. Feel free to visit us anytime at

Social Security is the nation’s most successful domestic program.  It’s easy to look back at what a difference it has made over the past 75 years.  And
2010, our diamond anniversary year, has been full of accomplishments.
We launched an important new service in 2010:  the online Medicare application.  It allows people reaching age 65 who opt to delay receiving retirement
benefits to apply for Medicare coverage from their computer in as little as 10 minutes.  Also exciting is that we reunited the original cast of The Patty Duke
Show to promote the new application. Reunite with the cast and go to the Medicare application at
Speaking of Medicare, a “twist” in the law makes it easier for more people to qualify for Extra Help with their Medicare prescription drug plan costs
because some things no longer count as income and resources.  Chubby Checker, who made “The Twist” popular, helped make the announcement with a
public service campaign. Learn more, and watch Chubby twist again, at
We took great strides this year to help speed up the disability process, helping people with the most severe disabilities get their benefits faster as well as
reducing the number of people waiting for a hearing on their appeal.  The agency continues to make the disability hearings backlog a top priority.  Learn
more at the Hearings and Appeals website:
At Social Security, customer service satisfaction remains high. The agency took the three top spots for customer service in the American Customer
Satisfaction Index. Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator and benefit application remain in the top spots, and the Help with Medicare Prescription
Drug Plan Costs application placed third. We even beat Netflix in customer service satisfaction.
Social Security employees are satisfied too. Employees rate Social Security as one of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government according to The
Partnership for Public Service and American University’s Institute for the Study of Public Policy Implementation. If you’re thinking of joining the team, visit
This year, Social Security has shown that transparency is as important to us as it is to President Obama. In January, the agency made new data available
to the general public, supporting the President’s Transparency and Open Government initiative. In February, the agency launched an Open Government
website at and in April Social Security used that website to showcase the agency’s Open Government Plan.
The 75th anniversary of Social Security has been an exciting year, and not only because we reflect back on a long history -- but because we have many
great things going on right now.

Social Security provides fast, convenient, and secure online services to the public.  In fact, surveys show that Social Security does it so well that our
online services take the top ratings in customer satisfaction surveys.  So this holiday season, “shop” online when it comes to your Social Security needs.
Here are just a few of Social Security’s services you can take advantage of from the convenience of your home or office computer:
•        apply for retirement, disability, or Medicare benefits;
•        find out what benefits you might be eligible to receive;
•        apply for Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug costs;
•        estimate your future benefits;
•        appeal an unfavorable decision;
•        change your address; and
•        report employee wages.
For a complete list of our online services, visit You also can find forms, publications, answers to frequently
asked questions, Social Security news, and much more at
We’re confident you’ll be satisfied with the service you get. Social Security online services rival commercial sites. In the American Customer Satisfaction
Index, we beat out the top sites in the public and private sector. Three of our services took the top three ratings in government and beat out the top
commercial sites.
You do your holiday shopping online, so shop for your Social Security needs. It’s fast, convenient, and secure.


I don’t have direct deposit yet so I still get a check in the mail. What do I do if I did not receive my Social Security check?
If you still are receiving checks by mail, please wait until three days after the date you normally receive your payment before calling.  If you still have not
received your payment by then, contact us at 1-800-772-1213. Please consider direct deposit for future payments because you will never have to worry
about late or missing payments.  Learn more at
How do I request proof of my benefit amount?
You can use your SSA-1099 form as proof of your income if you receive Social Security benefits, or you can use the annual cost-of-living adjustment
notice as verification of your current benefits.  You also can make an online request for a Proof of Income Letter at
gov/apps6z/BEVE/main.html, or you may call Social Security's toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call our toll-
free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

I began collecting Social Security retirement benefits at age 62, but also continued working.  Now I am full retirement age.  Do I need to report my earnings
to Social Security?
No. When you reach full retirement age, you no longer need to report your earnings to Social Security. You do, however, need to report earnings for those
months in the calendar year before the month you reach full retirement age. For example, if you reach it in May, you would need to report your earnings
total for the four earlier months. If you are under full retirement age when you start getting your Social Security payments, $1 in benefits will be deducted
for each $2 you earn above the annual limit. For 2010 and 2011, that limit is $14,160. In the calendar year you attain full retirement age, $1 in benefits will
be deducted for each $3 you earn above a higher annual limit up to the month of full retirement age attainment. For 2010 and 2011, that limit is $37,680.
Learn your full retirement age by consulting the chart at
I'm retired and I get a monthly withdrawal from an IRA. I plan to apply for Social Security benefits. Will the money from my IRA be considered earnings that
could reduce my monthly benefits?
No.  Non-work income such as pensions, annuities, investment income, interest, capital gains, and other government benefits are not counted and will not
affect your Social Security benefits. For more information, we suggest the following publications: Retirement Benefits (Publication No. 05-10035) and How
Work Affects Your Benefits (Publication No.05-10069). You can find both online at

Can my children receive dependent's benefits because I am on Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
No. SSI benefits are based on the needs of the individual and are paid only to the qualifying person. You can learn more about SSI by reading the online
publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at
Are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits taxable?
No. SSI payments are not taxable. You will not receive an annual form SSA-1099. You can learn more about SSI by reading the online publication,
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at

I need help. My husband was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. We need Social Security disability benefits. What should we do?
You should apply for disability benefits. You can complete an application for Social Security benefits online at
Then, fill out an Adult Disability Report, which you also can find online. The disability application is a claim for benefits, while the disability report provides
us with information about your husband’s current impairment. You should be able to complete these on your own, but you can call us toll free at 1-800-772-
1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to set up an appointment to help you complete the application in person or over the phone. Early-onset Alzheimer’s falls under
the purview of Compassionate Allowances. This means Social Security will be able to expedite the processing of your husband’s disability claim. Claims
involving Compassionate Allowances conditions can be processed in a matter of days rather than the months and years other disability decisions
sometimes can take. For a list of Compassionate Allowances conditions see
My neighbor is blind and receives Social Security benefits. Are there other ways for her to get letters from Social Security?
Yes. Social Security offers a number of services and products specifically designed for people who are blind or visually impaired. Below are a couple of

Special Notice Option: If you are blind or visually impaired, you can choose to receive notices and other information from Social Security in special ways
that may be more convenient for you. To find out more about this service, please go to our web page, If You Are Blind Or Visually Impaired—Your Choices
For Receiving Information from Social Security at In addition, if you have a question about a Social Security notice you
receive, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or call or visit your local Social Security office and
ask us to read it to you.
Public Information Materials: Many of our publications, such as brochures and fact sheets, are available in Braille, audio cassette tapes, compact discs,
or in enlarged print. Our publication, If You Are Blind Or Have Low Vision—How We Can Help, and other publications in alternative formats can be
obtained by calling toll free, 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our TTY number, 1-800-
For more information on obtaining public information materials for people who are blind or visually impaired, see our page, Public Information Materials in
Alternative Media at

If I call Social Security’s toll-free number can a Social Security representative take my application for Extra Help over the phone?
For the fastest service, apply online at However, if you call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and an
interviewer is available, he or she may be able to take your application over the phone. If an interviewer is not immediately available, we can schedule a
telephone appointment for you. Learn more about Social Security by visiting our website at or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-
800-325-0778). For more information about the Medicare prescription drug program, visit or call 1-800-ME