Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
Milwaukee, WI
JULY 2013

Independence Day is a good time to declare your independence from heavy traffic, long lines, and visits to crowded offices by
taking important matters into your own hands. When it comes to doing business with Social Security, you can!

Anytime, anywhere Social Security’s website is waiting to let you take care of important matters yourself, independently, without
the need to visit or call an office.

All you need to do is visit  to set up a my Social Security account so you can do business with
Social Security the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way.

We’re only halfway through 2013 and, already, more than six million people are registered for a my Social Security account. They
use it to easily get information and service — without needing to visit an office or make a phone call. That’s a great reason to set
off some fireworks!

The things you can do using your account are as varied as the menu at a Fourth of July picnic! For example, you can use my
Social Security to obtain a copy of your Social Security Statement to check your earnings record and see estimates of the
retirement, disability, and survivor benefits you and your family may be able to receive.

If you are already receiving benefits, you can join the parade. We recently expanded my Social Security for those receiving
benefits; now you can use your account to view, save, and print a benefit verification letter, check your benefit payment
information, and even change your address and your phone number in our records. You also can start or change your direct
deposit information. You can do this all from the comfort of your home.

Whether you are currently getting Social Security benefits, or you are planning for that day in the future when you do, you can
easily access all your important Social Security information by creating a my Social Security account. Just visit www.
Before you go to your Independence Day picnic and fireworks, declare your independence from traffic and lines by saving a trip
to the office and going online to And happy Independence Day!

# # #


Hard to believe, but it’s been five years since Social Security’s Retirement Estimator debuted. Within months of first becoming
available, the online Estimator was praised as one of the best services on the Internet, and it has consistently retained its
excellent rating every year.

Results from the American Customer Satisfaction Index show Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator is consistently one
of the highest-rated services on the web — even higher than the websites of many other public or private sector agencies and
companies, including Netflix and Amazon.

Every year millions of people use the Retirement Estimator. You can too at Prefer to do your
business in Spanish? You can find it at, too.

The Retirement Estimator is a convenient, secure, and quick financial planning tool that lets workers calculate how much they
might expect to receive in Social Security benefits when they retire. The attractive feature of this calculator is that it uses your
earnings information on file at Social Security without displaying your personal information. So you get an instant, personalized
estimate of your future retirement benefits. And, it’s so easy to use.

The Estimator even gives you the opportunity to run different scenarios and “what if” situations. For example, you can change the
date you expect to retire or change expected future earnings to create and compare different retirement options. This can help
you as you plan ahead.

To use the Retirement Estimator, you must have enough Social Security credits to qualify for benefits and you cannot currently
be receiving benefits.

Join the celebration! Experience the popular online service now by visiting Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www. Then, once you’ve sketched out your retirement plans, you’ll know where to go when the time
comes to apply for benefits: online at

Happy fifth anniversary, Retirement Estimator!

# # #


Now, in the heart of summertime, is time to think about spending some fun time with family and friends. So it is fitting that July is
both National Vacation Month and National Park and Recreation Month.

Going on vacation — whether to visit some of the nation’s great national and state parks or traveling to other fun destinations —
doesn’t mean you need to disconnect completely. In fact, our new mobile website makes it easy for you to get the Social Security
information you need when you’re on the go. As long as you have an Internet connection, you’re connected to Social Security.

You might not take your laptop with you to a national park, but you’ll probably have your phone. You may be wondering: just how
much Social Security business can I do on a smartphone? You may be surprised.

We recently released Social Security Mobile to allow for a smoother and more enjoyable online experience for people who want
to access using a smartphone. Most people who want to access Social Security by smartphone are
interested in getting the information they need quickly and efficiently. To accommodate this “grab it on the go” frame of mind, we’
ve designed a mobile site that is as easy on the eye as it is to navigate.

Social Security Mobile features 10 items of interest, easily accessible by touching the tiles on your smartphone’s screen. These
items include popular topics from our standard website, such as frequently asked questions, Social Security card and number,
and publications. For example, you can either read or listen to our entire library of publications on your smartphone. The quick
summaries will make it easy to make sure you access the publication you want. As you relax beneath a tree, you may want to
use the mobile site’s “decision tree” to help identify documents you need for a new or replacement Social Security card.

Will everything on our website be included in the mobile website? No. Instead, our mobile site is designed to bring you the
content you’re most likely to want on the go.

Keep in mind that this is not an app you have to download. The website is conveniently designed to run on your smartphone’s
browser. You don’t have to download anything from an app store; just visit on your smartphone and you
will automatically visit the mobile website. And if you decide you need to browse the full website, you can do that easily.

Remember, Social Security is happy to help you even when you’re enjoying a day at the park. We are always working for you,
even when you are relaxing. Visit our mobile website at from your smartphone today.

# # #


Have you been thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits, but you are unable to visit a Social Security office to
complete the interview? Or perhaps your disabling condition makes it difficult to visit a Social Security office. We have good
news: you can complete your application for Social Security disability benefits from the convenience of your home. Get started at

The application process involves determining 1) whether you have sufficient work to be eligible for Social Security; 2) the severity
of your medical condition; and 3) your ability to work. Because we carefully review so many cases — more than three million
each year — it can take us three to five months to determine whether you are eligible to receive benefits.

The amount of time it takes to make a decision on your application can vary depending on a number of factors, such as:
•        the nature of your disability;
•        how quickly we obtain medical evidence from you, your doctors, hospitals, or other medical sources; and
•        whether we need to send you for a medical examination to obtain evidence to support your claim.

We have several important initiatives to speed up the process. For example, our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us
to fast-track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities. Two hundred different types of disabilities qualify for this
expedited decision, and the list continues to expand. Since Compassionate Allowances began in 2008, the agency has fast-
tracked more than 250,000 disability applications, getting benefits to people in a matter of days instead of months. Learn more
about Compassionate Allowances at

Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify
applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about
Quick Disability Determinations at

There are things you can do to help speed up the decision process too. The more information you provide up front, the less time
it will take us to obtain the evidence we need — and the faster we can make a decision on your application. The types of
information we need include:
•        medical records or documentation you have; we can make copies of your records and return your originals;
•        the names, addresses, and phone numbers for any doctors, hospitals, medical facilities, treatment centers, or providers
that may have information related to your disabling condition;
•        the names, addresses, and phone numbers for recent employers and the dates you worked for each employer; and
•        your federal tax return for the past year.
If you’re not able to work due to a disability and getting to an office is troublesome, don’t worry. You can apply online for Social
Security disability benefits at

# # #


Welcome to the workforce, new workers! Whether you’re beginning the career of a lifetime or just earning some extra money for
the school year to come, there is one question that is likely to hit you when you see your first pay stub: “What is the FICA, and
why is my paycheck less because of it?”

Generally, employers are required to withhold Social Security and Medicare tax from a worker’s paycheck. Your employer
matches the amounts you pay in Social Security and Medicare taxes. Usually the money we withhold is referred to as “Social
Security taxes” on the employee’s payroll statement. Sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA taxes,” which stands for
Federal Insurance Contributions Act, and sometimes OASDI, or Old Age Survivor and Disability Insurance. Name aside, what’s
important is how that money is being used, and what’s in it for you down the road.

The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection, when you eventually retire or if you become disabled. If you die, your
dependent children and spouse may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work. Today you probably have family
members — grandparents, for example — who already enjoy Social Security benefits that your Social Security taxes help provide.

You may be a long way from retirement now, so you may find it hard to appreciate the value of benefits that could be 40 or 50
years away. But consider that your Social Security taxes could pay off sooner than you think. Social Security provides valuable
disability benefits — and studies show that a 20-year-old has about a three in 10 chance of becoming disabled sometime
before reaching retirement age.

Don’t be tempted if you’re offered a job “under the table” or “off the books.” If you work for any employer who pays you cash, you’
re likely not getting Social Security credit for the work you’re doing and potentially missing out on future benefits.

Want to learn more about Social Security and what it means to young workers? If so, we invite you to enjoy an online video:
Social Security 101: What’s In It For Me? The webcast will fill you in on the details you should know to get the most out of Social
Security. Check it out at

Here’s another tip: open a my Social Security account so that you can access your Social Security Statement. That will allow you
to make sure your earnings are recorded properly each year — and you can get estimates of what your future benefits may be.
You can easily open a my Social Security account at

If you have questions about Social Security, the best place to go is

# # #



I need proof of my Social Security income. Can I get verification online?
Yes! And the best way to get a benefit verification letter is by using a my Social Security account. Your personal my Social
Security account is a convenient and secure way for you to check your benefit and payment information, change your address,
phone number, and direct deposit information, and to get your benefit verification letter. You can use your benefit verification
letter to verify your income, retirement or disability status, Medicare eligibility, and age. When you use my Social Security to get it,
you can request which information you would like included in the letter. Learn more, use my Social Security, and get your benefit
verification letter now at

I heard there is a Social Security video available in American Sign Language. Where can I find it?
Yes, it’s true, and you can find the video on our website. The video is called “Social Security, SSI and Medicare: What You Need
to Know About These Vital Programs.” The video is available in American Sign Language and it presents important information
about our programs. You can watch the video now at The video is a part of our
larger collection of on-demand videos and webinars available at


Can I apply for retirement benefits online?
Yes, you can and it is quick, convenient, and easy. You’ll find the application information at
You also can calculate your estimated benefits by using our Retirement Estimator at Apply
online and save a trip to the office and a wait in line. For more information, visit our website at

I worked the first half of the year, but plan to retire this month. Will Social Security count the amount I earn for this year when I
Yes. If you retire mid-year, we count your earnings for the entire year. We have a special “earnings test” rule we apply to annual
earnings, usually in the first year of retirement. Under this rule, you get a full payment for any whole month we consider you
retired regardless of your yearly earnings. We consider you retired during any month your earnings are $1,260 or less, or if you
have not performed substantial services in self-employment. We do not consider income earned, beginning with the month you
reach full retirement age. Learn more about the earnings test rule at


Will my Social Security disability benefit increase if my condition gets worse or I develop additional health problems?
No. We do not base your Social Security benefit amount on the severity of your disability. The amount you are paid is based on
your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. If you go back to work after getting disability benefits, you may be
able to get a higher benefit based on those earnings. In addition, we have incentives that allow you to work temporarily without
losing your disability benefits. For more information about disability benefits, read our publications Disability Benefits and
Working While Disabled—How We Can Help. Both are available online at

I miss working. If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my Social Security disability benefits?
No. Social Security has several work incentives to help you ease back into the workforce. You may be able to continue receiving
benefits during a “trial work period,” and in most cases your medical coverage will continue after you begin working. We may be
able to help you return to work without losing your benefits. These work incentives are like a safety net for people who want to go
to work but aren’t sure they can. For information about Social Security's work incentives, visit our website, the Work Site, at www. or read the online Red Book on Work Incentives at For additional
information, visit our website at or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

If I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, what is the effect on my benefits when I take seasonal work?
Even a small amount of earned wages can cause a deduction in your SSI payment. However, it takes substantial work to make
your benefits stop. In 2013, a person who receives SSI can earn up to $1,505 a month and still continue receiving some SSI
payments. In many cases, we will deduct approved work expenses to determine your SSI payment amount. In most cases, you
can continue to receive your medical coverage for up to two years after you begin working. We have several publications on SSI,
including Reporting Your Wages When You Receive Supplemental Security Income, available at
For more information, call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit our website at

I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Can my children receive benefits because I receive SSI?
No. SSI benefits are based on the needs of the individual and are only paid to the qualifying person. There are no benefits
payable to spouses, children or survivors as there are with Social Security benefits. For more information, see our publication,
Supplemental Security Income, at For even more information, visit our website at
www. or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


I pay my monthly premium directly to my Medicare prescription drug plan provider. Why can’t I also pay my income-related
monthly adjustment amount directly to my Medicare prescription drug plan provider?
By law, we must deduct your income-related monthly adjustment amount from your Social Security payments. If the amount you
owe is more than the amount of your payment, or you don't get monthly payments, you will get a separate bill from another
federal agency, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or the Railroad Retirement Board. Read our publication,
Medicare Premiums: Rules for Higher-Income Beneficiaries, for an idea of what you can expect to pay. You’ll find it at