Social Security Column
June 2009
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Milwaukee, WI


Americans love their computers.  In fact, a recent study shows that the number of Americans who use the Internet has more than doubled
over the past 10 years, reaching nearly three quarters of the U.S. population.  Nearly half of all Americans have a high-speed Internet
connection at home, compared to only five percent at the start of the decade.  The study indicates that Internet use is even beginning to
outpace traditional media.  Younger Americans spend more time online than in front of a television.  

But as most people know, the Internet is a gateway to more than media and entertainment.  It is a highly accepted way to do business.  As
Americans become increasingly comfortable with the security and convenience of doing things on the Internet, online business is
becoming more and more popular.

There is so much you can do at Social Security’s website from the convenience of your home or office.  Here are some of our best online

•        Use our Retirement Estimator to get a quick and accurate estimate of your future Social Security retirement benefits.  www.
•        Prepare for your retirement by visiting our Benefits Planner where you can get all your ducks in a row.  You can also go here to use the
disability and survivors planners to find out how much you or your family might qualify for if the need arises.  www.socialsecurity.
•        Retire online!  You can complete and submit your retirement application in as little as 15 minutes.
•        Apply for disability benefits online.

There’s even more you can do at  So whether you’re interested in planning your retirement or applying for disability,
learning about Social Security’s history or finding out about how the system works, our online office is the most convenient one to visit.  

In survey after survey, Social Security’s online services top customer satisfaction lists.  That’s because doing business with Social Security
online is fast, convenient, and secure.  And it’s so easy!  Next time you’re online, visit

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Weddings are in season at this time of year.  If you’re planning to have one, or know someone who is, make sure you put Social Security on
the to-do list — because we may need to send you a card.  A new Social Security card, that is.
If you plan to exchange your maiden name for a married name — including hyphenated names such as Smith-Jones — be sure you let us

Telling us about your name change shortly after your marriage will help us accurately keep track of your earnings and will ensure that you
and your family get the Social Security retirement, disability or survivors benefits you’re entitled to.  Also, if the Internal Revenue Service and
Social Security records do not show the same name and Social Security number, your federal income tax refund could be delayed.
If you continue to use your maiden name consistently throughout your working years, you do not need to contact us.  But if you decide to
change your name at a later time, you should let us know so that we can update your Social Security record and send you a Social Security
card with your new name.
There’s no need to pay a third party to mail in the information for you.  Changing your name with Social Security is a quick, easy and free
service.  You’re welcome to visit your local Social Security office.  Or just go online to and click on “Print
an Application Form SS-5.”  You also can call us at 1-800-772-1213 to obtain the form.  
We will need the completed application along with either your marriage certificate showing your old and new names or two documents, one
showing each name.  If you were born outside the United States, you also need proof of your U.S. citizenship or proof that you are lawfully
living in the U.S.  You can bring or mail these documents to us.

So remember:  if you are getting married and changing your name, let us know.  You may already have a slew of cards congratulating you,
but we’d like to send you a new card of our own.

Learn more about your Social Security card and number at

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At home, you can lock your doors.  When it comes to your car, you can activate the alarm system.  

But what can you do to protect your identity?
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America.  Someone illegally using your Social Security number and assuming your
identity can be more trouble than a car thief or house burglar.  Identity thieves can use your number and your good credit score to apply for
more credit in your name.  Then, they use the credit cards and do not pay the bills.  You may not find out that someone is using your
number until you are turned down for credit or you begin to get calls from creditors demanding payment for items you never bought.
What better time than National Safety Month to educate yourself in protecting your personal information?  Here are some quick tips:
•        Keep your Social Security card at home in a safe place, wherever you keep your important paperwork;
•        Safeguard your number as well — don’t give it to just anyone; many places you do business with may ask for it as a means of
identification even though they can use other identifying information; and
•        Shred before you toss — identity thieves can rummage through your trash or recycling material and find a goldmine of information, so
be sure to destroy any identifying information before you throw it out.
While we’re talking about safety, here’s another great tip:  if you receive a benefit from Social Security, get direct deposit.  With direct
deposit, your payments are electronically sent right to your account and there’s no risk of a payment being lost in the mail or stolen from
your mailbox.  At Social security, signing up is quick, easy, and secure.  Visit to learn more.
Read our online fact sheet about identity theft at  
If you believe someone may be using your number or identity, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission at
gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft, or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338) (TTY 1-866-653-4261.)

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Every American knows that July 4th is Independence Day — a day for celebrating our nation’s independence and the freedoms enjoyed by
all Americans.

So on July 4th, and throughout the year, it makes sense that independent-minded Americans tend to be do-it-yourselfers.  We revel in the
freedom to make our own choices and to do things on our own schedule, in our own way.

When you’re done grilling those burgers and hotdogs and watching the neighborhood fireworks display, remember that “do-it-yourself”
does not apply only to building bookshelves, rummaging underneath the sink, and changing your car’s oil.  You can also exercise your right
to do things yourself, when you want and how you want, by visiting

To apply for retirement benefits, you can complete your application online from the comfort of your own home or office.  There are no paper
forms to sign, and usually no additional documents are required.

In fact, what used to take an hour or more can be done online in as little as 15 minutes.  In less time than it takes to read the instructions on
a you-build-it picnic table, your Social Security retirement application can be completed and submitted for processing.

Not ready to retire?  Regardless of your age or how far away retirement may seem, it’s never too early to begin planning.  Take a look at
your financial future by visiting our helpful Retirement Estimator at  The online tool uses your earnings
record along with information that you key in to give you a quick estimate of your future benefits.  

So this 4th of July, after you’ve enjoyed the picnic and fireworks, continue to celebrate your freedom to do it yourself by going online to

And happy Independence Day from Social Security.