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


     If a loved one, friend or neighbor receives Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits but is no longer physically or
mentally able to take care of his or her financial affairs, you may want to consider becoming a representative payee.  Then, you’ll be able to
help them with managing their money.  
     Keep in mind that being a representative payee is not the same as having power of attorney.  Even if you do have power of attorney, you
will need to apply to be a representative payee in order to have the benefit payments made to you on the beneficiary’s behalf.
     When we learn that a person is no longer able to handle his or her own Social Security or SSI benefits, we conduct a careful
investigation and appoint a relative, friend or other interested party to serve as the representative payee.  This means that if you agree to be
a representative payee and we appoint you, we pay you the person’s benefits to use on his or her behalf.
     As a representative payee, you would be responsible for using the benefit payments to help meet the basic needs of the beneficiary.  
Primarily, the funds should be used to provide food, clothing, shelter, utilities and other essential needs for the person eligible for benefits.
As a representative payee, you need to be aware of the beneficiary’s needs so you can decide how benefits can best be used for his or her
personal care and well-being.
     Each year, Social Security will mail you a form to account for the benefits you have received. The quickest and easiest way to complete
the form is online, at  You can also complete the paper form and return it to Social Security.
     As a representative payee, you will also need to tell Social Security about changes that may affect the beneficiary’s eligibility.  This
includes things like changes in living arrangements, other income, and resources.
     If you decide you want to help someone by becoming their representative payee, you’re in good company.  More than seven million
people who get monthly Social Security or SSI payments each month have a representative payee because they need help managing their
     By agreeing to serve as a representative payee, you have taken on an important responsibility — one that can make a positive difference
in both the beneficiary’s life and your own.
     Learn more by reading our online booklet, A Guide For Representative Payees, available on our website at
     Learn more about Social Security by visiting

# # #


     There’s a new leading lady topping the A-list.  Her name is Emma.
     Among all girls born in the United States last year, Emma was the most popular name.  Isabella was second.  Emily, which had been
the most popular girl’s name for 12 years, was third.
     The top boy’s name is Jacob for the 10th year in a row.  He is followed by Michael and Ethan.  
     America’s most popular baby names are based on Social Security card applications for newborn babies.  Each year, Social Security
publishes the top 1,000 baby names.  Lists of popular baby names going all the way back to 1880 are available online at www.
     The top ten names for girls born in 2008 are:  Emma, Isabella, Emily, Madison, Ava, Olivia, Sophia, Abigail, Elizabeth and Chloe.
     The top ten names for boys born in 2008 are:  Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher and
     To learn more about the relationship between pop culture and popular baby names, read our press release online at
     To see where your own name ranks on the list, visit  Also featured are links to information about
Social Security numbers for children, benefits for children, and what every parent should know about Social Security.  

# # #


     You probably already know that when it comes time to apply for retirement, you can do it online at  
But did you know that spouses can apply online, too?
     That’s right.  If you are a spouse applying for benefits based on your husband’s or wife’s record, you can do it online from the
convenience of your own home.  It’s so easy!
     Wonder whether you may qualify to apply for spouse’s benefits?  If you are a spouse who has not worked or who has worked for very
low wages, you could be entitled to a benefit equal to as much as one-half of your retired spouse's full benefit.  Even if you are divorced, you
may be eligible for benefits based on the employment record of your former spouse.  
     To get benefits on your spouse’s record, you must be at least age 62 or have a qualifying child in your care — a child who is under age
16 or who receives Social Security disability benefits.
     The amount of your spousal benefit depends on your age at retirement.  If you begin receiving benefits before full retirement age, your
benefits will be permanently reduced in most cases.
     You also may be eligible for a retirement benefit based on your own earnings.  If that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, Social
Security would pay you the higher benefit.  We compare which of the two benefits would be more beneficial to you, and discuss the options
you have.
     If you have reached your full retirement age and are eligible for a spouse's benefit as well as your own retirement benefit, you may
choose to receive the spouse's benefits only in order to continue accruing delayed retirement credits on your own Social Security record.  
You may then file for benefits at a later date and receive a higher monthly benefit based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.
     Remember that if you are a spouse who is taking care of a minor child (16 or under) or a child who is disabled and gets Social Security
benefits on your or your spouse’s record, you can receive a benefit, regardless of your retirement age.
     Read more about Social Security Retirement Benefits at
     Ready to apply for benefits right now?  You can do it online at

# # #


     Today, most adults in America carry a cell phone.  If they don’t, they probably have a landline phone at home.  Although millions of
people go online each year and take advantage of our convenient services at, we still offer a full range of services
over the telephone too.   
     That’s an important thing to remember when you need to do business with Social Security.  You can conduct many business
transactions with our automated telephone services 24/7.  Simply dial 1-800-772-1213.  And by calling that same number, you can talk with
a Social Security representative from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.    
     Our toll-free 800 number service, which marked its 20th anniversary late last year, has now answered over a billion phone calls.  Yes,
that’s billion with a ‘b!’  And this year alone Social Security will handle more than 60 million calls.  
Our phones are busiest early in the week and early in the month, so if your business can wait, it's best to call at other times. Also, whenever
you call, have your Social Security number handy.
     Bilingual representatives are available to assist our non-English speaking members of the public.
     Do you have a Social Security question or problem and cannot call during normal business hours?  Recorded information and many
automated services are available 24 hours a day — including weekends and holidays.  Callers can use these automated services to report
a change of address or telephone number, start or change direct deposit of benefits, request a proof of income letter or a replacement
Medicare card, and order some of our most popular public information pamphlets.
     Of course, if you have a computer, you may find that the information and services offered online are even more convenient at www.  While you’re online, you can read more about our toll free phone service at
But if you don’t have a computer or prefer to do business over the phone, we invite you to call us.  Social Security is never more than a
phone all away: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

# # #


     Do you have a son or daughter who is turning 18 soon, collecting monthly Social Security benefits, and returning to high school this
fall?  If so, then we have a bit of homework for you.
     To make sure Social Security benefits continue beyond age 18, eligible students must submit the necessary form to school officials.  
The school will use these documents to certify your child is still enrolled in school.  Otherwise, monthly Social Security payments
automatically stop when a student turns 18.  
     This is the case regardless of the type of Social Security benefit received.  Some students get Social Security survivors benefits because
a parent is deceased.  Others may receive dependent benefits because their parent receives Social Security retirement or disability
benefits.  Benefits for minor children generally continue until age 18 (or 19 if they’re still in high school) unless they are disabled and
eligible for childhood disability benefits.  In that case, a separate application for benefits is required.  
     For more information about Social Security student benefits, visit  The website outlines how the
process works and explains what the student and school official must do to ensure benefits continue past the student’s 18th birthday.  With
the appropriate certification from the school, Social Security generally does not stop benefits until the month before the month the student
turns 19, or the first month in which he or she is not a full-time student, whichever is earlier.
     The website also includes:
•        a downloadable version of the required SSA-1372 form — Students’ Statement  Regarding School Attendance — that must be
completed by the student, certified by the school and returned to Social Security;
•        answers to Frequently Asked Questions for school officials and students; and
•        a field office locator to find the address of a local Social Security office
     If you do not have access to the Internet, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).  Otherwise, visit www. to learn more about Social Security.