Social Security Column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Milwaukee, WI
DON’T BE AN APRIL FOOL WHEN IT COMES TO
YOUR ECONOMIC RECOVERY PAYMENT
No one likes being the target of an April fool’s prank.
If you’re receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, don’t let anyone fool you regarding your special one-
time recovery payment of $250 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
To make sure no one does, we’ll state this as clearly as possible:
• All Social Security and SSI beneficiaries who are eligible for the special one-time recovery payment will have their payment issued
• The payment is automatic; no action is required on your part; and
• There are no requests to make, no applications to complete and no fees to pay.
If you receive a visit, call or email from anyone claiming to want to help you obtain your payment, be skeptical. Do not pay anyone to
help you receive your payment. And do not reveal any of your personal information to them, such as your full name, date of birth, or Social
Security number. If someone requests this information for this purpose, it’s more likely they’re “out to get you” than out to get your
payment for you.
I n addition to people who receive Social Security and SSI benefits, people who receive benefits from Veterans Affairs and the Railroad
Retirement Board will receive one-time payments of $250. Note, however, that only one payment of $250 will be made per person,
regardless of any combination of benefits that may be received.
How will your recovery payment be made? The same way that your 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 new Direct Express debit card will receive their one-time payments through the card. We will send your one-
time payment separately from your Social Security or SSI benefit.
To assist in processing the payments as efficiently as possible, please do not contact Social Security — unless you have not received
your payment by June 4. More information is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/payment and will be updated as needed.
Rest assured that your special one-time recovery payment will be sent to you automatically. And if it’s not received by June 4, there’s
only one place you need to contact: Social Security, at your local office, or 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
To learn more about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, visit www.recovery.gov.
To learn more about Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
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SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS EVERYONE
Social Security reaches almost every family, and at some point touches the lives of nearly all Americans. It has an impact on the very
fabric of the American economy.
Social Security helps not only older Americans, but also workers who become disabled and families in which a spouse or parent dies.
Today, about 162 million people work and pay Social Security taxes and more than 51 million people receive monthly Social Security
benefits. In 2008 alone, those benefits came to about $614 billion.
In one way or another, Social Security benefits everyone. The payments made to beneficiaries help individuals and families to stay
afloat. But Social Security goes beyond that. In many areas across the nation, Social Security is essential to keeping the economy going.
Take, for example, Siskiyou County in Northern California. Nearly 20 percent of the entire economy comes from Social Security. About 30
percent of the population receives Social Security or SSI benefits.
In Siskiyou County and other counties around the nation, the benefits paid don’t stop at helping the beneficiaries who depend on them.
These people spend their benefit payments at the local grocery store, the local clothing stores, department stores, and mom-and-pop
shops. Benefits are used to pay for goods and services that sustain the local economy.
It’s no coincidence that Social Security finds its origins in another financial crisis: the Great Depression. The program played a part in
that recovery. There’s no denying that it’s playing a part in helping the current economy as well.
It’s clear that in one way or another, Social Security benefits everyone.
To learn more about Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
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SOCIAL SECURITY’S ONLINE SERVICES BEST IN GOVERNMENT
It’s always nice to be considered the best in the business — and even better when the judges are members of the public we serve.
Social Security is proud that the American public has put our online services at the top of the list again.
In the most recent survey of e-Government services by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Social Security’s online services
earned the highest overall score of 79 percent satisfaction. (The average score for the Federal government was 75.)
In particular, our Retirement Estimator scored 89, the top score in the federal government. The Retirement Estimator provides
immediate retirement benefit estimates based on your own earnings record to help you plan for your retirement. The online Retirement
Estimator is a convenient financial planning tool, since it eliminates the need to manually key in years of earnings information. The
estimator also will let you create “what if” scenarios. For example, change your “stop work” dates or expected future earnings to create
and compare different retirement options. Check it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Also earning high marks from the public were our online Retirement Application and Medicare Extra Help Application, with each scoring
In a separate survey, Nextgov, a website devoted to technology and the federal government, listed www.socialsecurity.gov as one of the
top five federal websites in its review of best online practices.
It is important to note that the usefulness of our website is enhanced because much of the online information is available in Spanish,
as well as 14 other languages. Many documents are also accessible to people who use screen readers, screen magnifiers and voice
To learn more, see the recent press release about Social Security and the American Customer Satisfaction Index at www.
Try out the best online services in government for yourself at Social Security’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov.
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NEW TECHNOLOGIES IMPROVE DISABILITY PROCESS
In March, Social Security became the first government agency to use the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). This initiative
will cut the time it takes Social Security to get medical records — from weeks or months to only minutes — for people who apply for
disability benefits. Initially this will affect a small number of the people applying for disability benefits, but it will gradually expand.
This year, Social Security will handle almost three million disability claims a year and make over 15 million requests for medical
records from over 900,000 medical providers. Providers have a number of options to respond to these requests, but all require manual
intervention before evidence can be entered into Social Security’s electronic disability folder.
Using the NHIN, when an applicant lists certain medical facilities as treating sources, Social Security’s system automatically sends an
electronic message to the hospital’s system requesting the medical record and providing the patient’s authorization. The hospital’s
system automatically responds. Within minutes, the medical evidence is available for evaluation.
In addition, we’ve identified medical codes that match portions of 43 conditions in our medical listings. The agency’s computer system
analyzes the data for these codes after receiving hospital records and alerts the disability decision maker so the case can be processed
We at Social Security are doing our part to make the disability determination process more efficient for those who depend on it. You
can do your part, too. If you need to apply for disability benefits, do it online. You can learn about Social Security disability benefits, take
advantage of our online disability planner and even apply for benefits online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability. You don’t have to
complete the application all in one sitting; you can take a break and log back on to complete it later without starting over. Also, you’re able
to check the status of your pending application online after you’ve submitted it.
With innovative new technologies like the NHIN, medical codes, and the online application, Social Security is working to reverse the
growing disability backlog and reduce the time it takes to make a decision. To learn more about disability benefits, visit www.
socialsecurity.gov and select the “Disability” button along the top banner.