Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
ECONOMIC RECOVERY PAYMENTS COMING FOR PEOPLE WHO
RECEIVE SOCIAL SECURITY AND SSI BENEFITS
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which the President signed into law in February, provides for a one-time payment of
$250 to people receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.
The one-time recovery payments will go out in May 2009 and all payments should be received by the end of May. In April, Social Security will
send a letter with additional information to each person who is eligible for the one-time payment. The payments will be sent automatically,
meaning no action is required on the part of the person receiving benefits. The economic recovery payments will be made separately from
a person’s regular monthly payments.
All adults who receive Social Security benefits, including disabled adult children (but not minor children) are eligible for $250 payment. In
addition, all persons who receive SSI payments, including minor children, are eligible for the payment. Anyone who receives benefits or
who was eligible to receive benefits during any of the three months prior to enactment (November and December of 2008 and January
2009) will receive the one-time payment as long as the address of record is in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico,
Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, or the Northern Mariana Islands.
The payments will be made in the same way that regular monthly payments are made. People with direct deposit will receive their
payments electronically. Those who receive paper checks will receive their payments in the mail. People who receive regular payments
through the Direct Express debit card will receive their one-time payments through the card.
If someone receives both Social Security and SSI, only one payment of $250 will be made. The economic recovery legislation also
provides for a one-time payment to recipients of Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) benefits.
However, if you receive Social Security or SSI benefits and you also receive VA and/or RRB benefits, you will only receive one $250
payment. The Social Security Administration will send you this payment.
To assist in processing the payments as efficiently as possible, please do not contact Social Security unless do not receive a payment by
June 4, 2009. Information is available at www.socialsecurity.gov and will be updated regularly.
To learn more about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, visit www.recovery.gov.
WHAT YOUNG WORKERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY AND SAVING
Retirement is probably the last thing on your mind if you’re a young worker. But there are some basics you should know about Social
Security and savings to plan for your retirement.
Social Security is the foundation for a secure retirement, but was never intended to be your only source of income when you retire. While
Social Security replaces about 40 percent of the average worker’s pre-retirement earnings, most financial advisors say that you will need
70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably. Even with a pension, you will still need to save. If you will not have a
private pension, you will need to save more—and start saving sooner. Today’s young workers can expect to spend 20, 30 or even more
years in retirement, so saving is critical.
The sooner you start to save, the more time your savings will have to grow. Whether you’re able to save $5 or $500, it’s in your interest to
start saving now.
Want to start planning your future now? There are some easy ways to do so. Take a look at Your Social Security Statement, which you’ll
receive in the mail about two to three months before your birthday. Along with your annual Statement, workers between the ages of 25 and
35 will receive a helpful insert that provides information about Social Security, savings, and more items of interest to young workers. Want
something more interactive? Visit Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator which allows you to try
out different retirement scenarios based on your personal earnings record.
You can also go to www.mymoney.gov for information on getting credit, paying for education, buying a home, creating a budget, starting a
business as well as financial calculators and planning tools.
Don’t forget that Social Security coverage is not just for retirement, but also for disability and survivor benefits in the event that you are
unable to work, or you leave behind a family that depends on your income when you die. Read more about retirement, disability and
survivors benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov.
SOCIAL SECURITY OFFERS “IMPROVEMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY”
Social Security has just published a new online leaflet called Major Strategic Accomplishments — Fiscal Year 2008. The purpose of the
document is “to let the American people know how the agency is working to improve public service and to provide accountability for the tax
dollars that we spend,” said Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue.
In 2008, Social Security worked toward eliminating the disability hearings backlog and preventing its recurrence, processing about 575,000
hearings requests and 83,400 Appeals Council Reviews. Social Security improved the speed and quality of the disability process,
processing about 2.6 million disability claims and 560,000 reconsiderations. We also implemented two processes -- Quick Disability
Determinations and Compassionate Allowances -- to fast-track disability cases that have a high probability of allowance.
Social Security improved retiree and core services, processing about 4.24 million retirement and survivors applications and more than 18
million Social Security number requests. We also implemented the online Retirement Estimator to enable the public to get immediate and
personalized benefit estimates.
Social Security preserved the public’s trust by issuing the Agency Strategic Plan to lay out our vision for the future and by earning the
Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting for our Performance and Accountability Report.
This is just a brief sampling of Social Security’s accomplishments in 2008. Social Security and its workers are always working to serve the
American public in the best way possible. That ensures that Social Security is a sound investment even during these turbulent financial
For all Social Security accomplishes and offers to the American people, it’s reassuring to note that administrative costs are very low: only
about 0.9 percent of total expenditures.
Find out more reasons Social Security is a good investment in America by reading our new publication, Major Strategic Accomplishments
— Fiscal Year 2008, at www.socialsecurity.gov/newsletter/MajorStrategicAccomplishmentsFY2008.pdf
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SOME SOCIAL SECURITY TAX TIPS
Shakespeare wrote “Beware the Ides of March,” but that was before tax day found a resting place on April 15 of each year. Let us help you
“be aware” of some Social Security tax tips by answering some of the most common questions we receive about taxes and Social Security.
Are Social Security benefits taxable? Sometimes. About one third of beneficiaries pay taxes on their Social Security. If your total income,
including Social Security and all of your other taxable income, is $25,000 or more, you’ll need to pay federal taxes on your benefits. That
amount is $32,000 for married couples filing a joint return.
Will I get a tax form for my Social Security benefits? Yes, and you should have already received it. Social Security Benefit Statements (Form
SSA-1099) for tax year 2008 were mailed to beneficiaries and should have been received by January 31, 2009. If you receive Social Security
and haven’t received your 1099, you can request one online at https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/i1099/main.html.
We had a baby in 2008. Do we need a Social Security number for our taxes? Yes. Most parents apply for their baby’s Social Security
number while still in the hospital at the same time they apply for the birth certificate. But if you didn’t, you’ll need to apply for your child’s
Social Security number in order to claim the child as a dependent on your tax return. You’ll also need it if you ever apply for government
benefits on behalf of the child or your family.
I changed my name when I got married last year. Do I need to report it to Social Security? Yes. If you’ve legally changed your name due to
marriage, divorce, court order or for any other reason, make sure you change your name with Social Security. Make sure you change your
name with your employer as well. If you change with one source but not the other, it could cause your earnings to be improperly recorded.
You can learn more about Social Security numbers and how to change your name in Social Security’s records at www.socialsecurity.
Does Social Security have any advice to make tax filing and future benefit applications go smoothly? We strongly encourage you to carefully
check your name, Social Security number and all of the data on your W-2s and on your Social Security Statement is correct. A mismatch
could delay your tax refund and might cause problems with your Social Security benefits in the future. Such errors are easy to fix now. If you
do notice an error, you should contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or if the incorrect information is on the W-
2s, contact the personnel department of your employer.
Be aware of these Social Security tax tips, and you won’t be caught off-guard. For more information about Social Security, visit www.