Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
Milwaukee, WI
June-July 2012


If you would like to get a Social Security Statement, which provides estimates of your future benefits, it is now available online
“Our new online Social Security Statement is simple, easy-to-use and provides people with estimates they can use to plan for
their retirement,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “The online Statement also provides estimates for
disability and survivors benefits, making the Statement an important financial planning tool. People should get in the habit of
checking their online Statement each year, around their birthday, for example.”
In addition to helping with financial planning, the online Statement also provides workers a convenient way to determine
whether their earnings are accurately posted to their Social Security records. This feature is important because Social Security
benefits are based on average earnings over a person’s lifetime. If the information is incorrect, the person may not receive
proper benefits.
The online Statement provides you the opportunity to save or print the document for future reference, or to have handy for
discussions with family members or a financial planner.
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, users are giving the online Statement a score of 89, making it
competitive with our other top-rated, best-in-government online services, such as the Retirement Estimator and online
retirement application.

To get a personalized online Statement, you must be age 18 or older and must be able to provide information about yourself
that matches information already on file with Social Security. In addition, Social Security uses Experian, an external
authentication service provider, for further verification. You must provide identifying information and answer security questions
in order to pass this verification. Social Security will not share your Social Security number with Experian, but the identity check
is an important part of this new, thorough verification process.
When your identity is verified, you can create a “My Social Security” account with a unique user name and password to access
your online Statement. In addition, your online Statement includes links to information about other online Social Security
services, such as applications for retirement, disability, and Medicare.
For more information about the new online Statement, please visit

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Do your parents spend much time online?   
Sometimes older parents can be apprehensive about using the Internet and conducting business online. There is no reason
they should be when it comes to Social Security’s online services at, which are consistently rated not
only the best and easiest to use in government, but in the private sector as well.
What are some of the reasons your parents may want to visit  Allow us to show you around so you
can give Mom and Dad the proper tour.
Front and center, there is always a series of illustrated panels. This is where we share new messages, initiatives, and items
of interest, such as breaking news and tips on new or improved online services.
To the right, you’ll find a big question mark: that is where you can find our most frequently asked questions — and the answers
to them. If your parents have a question about Social Security, chances are someone else had the same question. We have
collected them on our website, and it is easy to search for questions on a variety of Social Security topics.
Smack dab in the middle of the page is where you can find press releases and the latest news about Social Security.
To the left of the page you will find our top services. Virtually anything you want to do online can be found here: apply online for
retirement, disability or Medicare benefits; get an instant, personalized estimate of future benefits with our online Retirement
Estimator; and obtain information about how to get or replace a Social Security card.
One of the hottest new services is getting your Social Security Statement online. Just complete the authentication process,
much like the sort you would go through when requesting a credit report online, and you’ll be able to set up your online Social
Security account. Once you do, you will have online access to your Statement, which includes detailed estimates of future
benefits, and a summary of your work history through the years. This is especially helpful for parents who may be planning for
Our website offers many other services as well, such as online forms and publications, an easy application to apply for Extra
Help with Medicare prescription drug costs, icons to our Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages, and information categorized
by subject matter or by audience.
Take your parents for a visit to  It is one small way you can give back to those who have given so much
for you.

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This time of year, we see a lot of weddings, and in many cases that means name changes. If you need to change your name
due to marriage, divorce, or any other reason, you will want to report the change to Social Security.
There are several reasons to report the change. First, IRS and Social Security match computer records. If the name and Social
Security number you report on your tax return do not match the name and Social Security number in our records, it could delay
the processing of your return as well as any tax refund you might be due.
The second reason it is important to make sure your Social Security records are up-to-date is because your potential Social
Security benefits are based almost entirely on the earnings record we maintain for you. If your employer reports earnings to the
government under your new name, and your Social Security record still shows your old name, those earnings may not get
credited to your Social Security earnings record.  Missing earnings can lead to lower future Social Security benefits.
To change your name in Social Security’s records, you must apply for a new Social Security card. To make the application
process faster and easier, just go to and print out the form for a Social Security card,
“Application Form SS-5.” That’s also the form you need if you simply want to apply for a replacement card. The application form
also tells you what evidence you will need to submit.
Complete the one-page form and bring or mail it to your local Social Security office with proper documentation. All documents
must be originals or certified copies and must have information that clearly identifies you, like your date and place of birth. The
application includes information on what types of identity and documentation are needed for specific cases, and what sorts of
documents we can accept.
The application process is easy, and described well (along with other things you may want to know about your Social Security
card and number) at

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Note: It may seem crazy, but there are 20 country song titles or lyrics in this column (including the one in this sentence). Can
you circle all of them?
You probably think of July 4 as Independence Day. Did you know that it is also National Country Music Day?
A new holiday? Not by any means. In fact, you might even say it’s been around forever and ever Amen. It was in the 1950s that
the Country Music Deejay Association decided to start the holiday. It’s been celebrated every year since.
Social Security’s been around nearly as long as country music — since the 1930s. Social Security was signed into law during
the same depression era that found Gene Autry singing “Take Me Back To My Boots and Saddle.” Since its dustbowl
beginnings, Social Security has helped many silver-haired daddies (and mammas who let their babies grow up to be
cowboys) get back in the saddle again.
By helping many older Americans stay out of poverty, Social Security is used to being told “I will always love you” and that “you
were always on my mind.” Not to mention, “If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time.”
These days, retirees live longer than ever. Today’s average 65-year old can expect to live another 20 years. About 55 million
Americans will receive $760 billion in Social Security benefits this year; the average monthly benefit for a retired worker in 2012
is $1,229.
But let’s give them something to talk about: Social Security is more than retirement. The agency could cry, “People who say
'Social Security Retirement’ never even called me by my name.” That’s because Social Security also pays disability and
survivors benefits, as well as Supplemental Security Income, or SSI.
Whether you’re at the start of your career, working 9 to 5, or well into mid-career, you should give some thought to planning
your future retirement.  To help you plan, visit our Retirement Estimator at It’ll help you
determine how much you need to save to harvest a comfortable retirement.
Are you at the end of a career? Ready to take this job and shove it? There’s no reason to walk the line to your local Social
Security office, even if you are king of the road. The easiest way to apply for retirement benefits is online, at www.socialsecurity.
gov. Being away from your friends at work may make you so lonesome you could cry, but at least you can count on a monthly
Social Security payment. They may even begin to sing about the day of the month “when our old-age pension check comes to
our door.” Or, in most cases, by direct deposit to your bank account.
Here’s a word of advice for Lucille and Ruby. You may have picked a fine time to take your love to town, but if you were married
for ten years or more, and are not remarried, you may qualify for Social Security benefits based on your ex’s work history —
whether your exes live in Texas or anywhere else.
Were you able to find all 20 song references? Here’s an easier challenge: find everything you need related to Social Security at

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Just as Social Security is an American cornerstone, baseball is America’s pastime.  
Baseball is an annual rite of summer and a game that is known for its numbers. Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Cal
Ripken’s record 2,632 consecutive games played, and Hank Aaron’s 755 career home runs all tell stories greater than the
numbers themselves. Mention any one of these numbers to a baseball fan and you’re sure to call to mind memories and
Social Security’s numbers tell stories too. The first lump sum Social Security payment of 17 cents was made to Ernest
Ackerman in 1937. The first monthly Social Security check of $22.54 went to Ida May Fuller in January of 1940.  This year, about
55 million Americans will receive $760 billion in Social Security benefits. The average monthly benefit for a retired worker in
2012 is $1,229.
An estimated 159 million workers are covered under Social Security — that’s 94 percent of the workforce. Fifty percent of
workers have no private pension coverage and 31 percent have no savings set aside specifically for retirement. These and
other numbers make it easy to appreciate the value of Social Security.
Ninety percent of Americans age 65 and older receive Social Security benefits. And among the unmarried, 41 percent rely on
Social Security benefits for 90 percent of their income.
Social Security is more than just retirement benefits. Disabled workers and their dependents account for 19 percent of the total
benefits paid, while survivor’s benefits account for 12 percent. Almost one in four of today’s 20-year olds will become disabled
before reaching age 67, and the majority of these workers have no long-term disability insurance besides their Social Security
coverage. About one in eight of today’s 20-year olds will die before reaching age 67.
Baseball and Social Security: America’s pastime and America’s retirement program. Both have long and storied histories and
associations with statistics.
Learn more about Social Security by visiting

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How do I change my citizenship status on Social Security’s records?
To change your citizenship status shown in Social Security records:
•        Complete an application for a Social Security card (Form SS-5), which you can find online at
gov/online/ss-5.html; and
•        Locate documents proving your:
•        New or revised citizenship status (Only certain documents can be accepted as proof of citizenship. These include your U.
S. passport, a Certificate of Naturalization, or a Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to
see your current immigration documents);
•        Age; and
•        Identity.
Then, take (or mail) your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office or card center.
All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized
copies of documents. For more information, visit

My husband and I are both entitled to our own Social Security benefits. Will our combined benefits be reduced because we are
No. When each member of a married couple works in employment covered under Social Security and both meet all other
eligibility requirements to receive retirement benefits, lifetime earnings are calculated independently to determine the benefit
amounts. Therefore, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. If one member of the
couple earned low wages or did not earn enough Social Security credits (40) to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she
may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse. To learn more about retirement, visit

I just got back from an overseas military deployment and I want to plan ahead for my retirement. How will my military retirement
affect my Social Security benefits?
Your military retirement won’t affect your Social Security benefits at all. You can get both. Generally, there is no offset of Social
Security benefits because of your military retirement. You will get full Social Security benefits based on your earnings. However
your Social Security benefit might be reduced is if you also receive a government pension based on a job in which you did not
pay Social Security taxes. You can find more information in the publication Military Service and Social Security at
www. Or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Can I receive Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits at the same time?
You may be able to receive SSI in addition to monthly Social Security benefits if your Social Security benefit is low enough for
you to qualify for SSI. Whether you can get SSI depends on your income and resources (the things you own). If you have low
income and few resources, you may be able to supplement your Social Security benefit with an SSI payment. You can find out
more about SSI by going to and selecting the “SSI” banner at the top of the page.

What are the limits on what I can own to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Can I have money in the bank, a
car, and a furnished house?
We count real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds toward the resource limits on what you can own. You may be
able to get SSI if your resources are worth no more than $2,000. A couple may be able to get SSI if they have resources worth
no more than $3,000.  Keep in mind that we usually don’t count the house you live in, personal items such as furniture and
clothing, or the car you drive towards that resource amount.  You can find out more about SSI by going to www.socialsecurity.
gov and selecting the “SSI” banner at the top of the page.

How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?
There are two ways that you can apply for disability benefits. You can:
1. Apply Online at; or
2. Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your
local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone.

If you are applying online, a Disability Starter Kit is available at The kit will help you get ready
for your disability claim interview. If you schedule an appointment, a Disability Starter Kit will be mailed to you.

My doctor said he thinks I’m disabled. Who decides if I meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits?
We first will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for Social Security disability benefits,
such as whether you worked enough years to qualify. Then we will send your application to the disability determination
services office in your state, often called the “DDS” or “state agency” to determine whether you meet the legal definition of
disabled.  Your state agency completes the disability decision for us. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask
your doctors for information about your condition. They consider all the facts in your case. They use the medical evidence from
your doctors and hospitals, clinics, or institutions where you have been treated and all other information.
The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is
not available from your current medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination. The preference
is to ask your own doctor, but sometimes the exam may have to be done by someone else. Social Security will pay for the
exam and for some of the related travel costs. Learn more about disability benefits at


Who can get Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug coverage?
Anyone who has Medicare can get Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is
voluntary, and you pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage. People with higher incomes might pay a higher

If you have limited income and resources, you may be eligible for Extra Help to pay for the costs—monthly premiums, annual
deductibles, and prescription co-payments—related to a Medicare prescription drug plan. To qualify for Extra Help, you must
reside in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Your resources must be limited to $13,070 for an individual or
$26,120 for a married couple living together. (Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. We do not
count your house and car as resources.) Your annual income must be limited to $16,755 for an individual or $22,695 for a
married couple living together.

Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help. Learn more at

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