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

These days, almost everyone gets their benefit payment by direct deposit. Whether you receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
you can depend on your payment arriving in your account on time, every time. If you don’t already have direct deposit, there are good reasons to sign
up. For one, less money and time spent driving to the bank to cash your check helps you save.  Second, fewer paper checks, envelopes, and stamps,
and less fuel to deliver the checks means less waste and pollution for the environment.

Hurricane season is here for some areas. Other areas bear the brunt of flooding. Some areas of the nation are plagued by tornadoes, and still others
must deal with wildfires, severe thunderstorms, or even earthquakes. If you are unfortunate enough to be in the line of a natural disaster, the last thing
you want is for your income to be interrupted because of an evacuation or a missing mailbox. With direct deposit, you know your payment will be in
your account on time no matter what.

When on vacation, direct deposit ensures payments will be deposited into your account on time, so there’s no reason to worry about the safety of your
benefit or to ask a neighbor to look out for your check when you are away.
As an added bonus, many banks offer free checking accounts for people who use direct deposit because it saves the bank the cost of processing
paper payments. Plus, the payment probably will show up in your bank account sooner than a paper check will appear in the mailbox … and there’s no
need to cash it. It’s already in the bank.
Skip the line at the bank, save money, get your payment faster, and know you can depend on your payment being in the bank no matter what. You can
do all of this with direct deposit. Learn more about it at
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You’ve probably heard that it’s the 75th anniversary of Social Security. However, there is another important birthday going on.
Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator is now celebrating its second anniversary.  The Retirement Estimator stands as the most popular online
service in both the public and private sector — a position it shares with another popular service, Social Security’s Benefit Application.  That’s
according to the most recent annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which came out earlier this year. In an index ranking online
services, Social Security’s Retirement Estimator and Benefit Application take the top spots, each with a score of 90. What’s the highest ranking
service in the private sector? It’s Netflix, with a score of 87, tying with Social Security’s Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs application.
The online Retirement Estimator is a convenient, secure, and quick financial planning tool that lets you calculate how much you might expect to
receive in Social Security benefits when retirement rolls around. The tool uses your actual earnings information on file at Social Security, without
displaying your personal information. So you get an instant estimate of your future retirement benefits.

The Retirement Estimator even lets you run personalized 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.

And, it’s so easy to use.
To use the Retirement Estimator, you must have enough Social Security credits to qualify for benefits and you must not already be receiving monthly
We may take a few moments to celebrate this birthday, but we’re not resting on our laurels just yet. Later this year Social Security plans to introduce a
Spanish-language version of the Retirement Estimator.
High customer service scores are a great birthday present for the two-year-old Retirement Estimator.  Come join the celebration and get an instant,
personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits. Visit

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These days, everyone needs to be cautious of scams -- Internet, mail, and even phone scams – which can damage your credit score and pocketbook.  
Any time someone asks for your personal information, you should be wary. Particularly cruel are swindles that target Social Security beneficiaries.
Recently, Social Security became aware of a scam targeting beneficiaries in the Southern California area. Scammers telephoned beneficiaries to tell
them they were due a “stimulus payment.” The scammer offered to deposit the payment to each beneficiary’s account once the personal and bank
account information was provided. The scammer then contacted Social Security by telephone to request the benefits be deposited into a new account—
the scammer’s account, to steal the payments. In a similar version of this criminal ploy, the scammer calls the beneficiary to “confirm” the beneficiary’
s personal and financial information.
As a rule of thumb, Social Security will not call you for your personal information such as your Social Security number or banking information. If
someone contacts you and asks for this kind of information, do not give it.
You should never provide your Social Security number or other personal information over the telephone unless you initiated the contact, or are
confident of the person to whom you are speaking. If in doubt, do not release information without first verifying the validity of the call by contacting the
local Social Security office or Social Security’s toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Another way to protect yourself is to keep your Social Security card and other important documents locked away in a safe place. Do not give personal
information to just anyone.  Also, check your Social Security earnings record. You can request a Social Security Statement online at www. When you receive your Statement in the mail, you can verify the accuracy of the reported earnings and request correction
if necessary.
If you’ve fallen victim to fraud or identity theft, be sure to file a report with the local police or the police department where the identity theft took place,
and keep a copy of the police report as proof of the crime.  Information on how to prevent scams and protect yourself can be found at www.ftc.
gov/idtheft.  You can also read Social Security’s publication, Identify Theft And Your Social Security Number, available online at www.socialsecurity.
gov/pubs/10064.html and Your Social Security Number and Card, available at
Be alert when dealing with people who want your personal information, such as your bank account number, date of birth, and Social Security number.
By using a little caution, you can protect yourself from scams.
Learn more about Social Security at

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Requesting a review of a decision made on your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability application is now as easy as surfing
the web. To file an appeal online, simply visit the online services page at Then select the “Appeal a decision”
link and follow the simple instructions.  
Under the paper process, you need to complete a number of forms, and then mail or take them into the Social Security office for processing. The new
iAppeals application has simplified the process to two easy steps — with no paper forms required. In addition, we can begin to process your appeal
right away.
When Social Security receives your electronic request, we will take another look at our decision about whether you are disabled under Social Security
law. Social Security will send you the outcome in writing.
If for some reason you are not able to complete an appeal online, call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Tell a representative
you would like to appeal the decision on your case.
However you request your appeal, Social Security carefully considers all the information in your case before making a decision about your eligibility or
benefit amount.
To learn more about how Social Security appeals work, read our online publication, The Appeals Process, available at www.socialsecurity.
gov/pubs/10041.html.  To file your appeal online, go to

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I can’t find my Social Security card. How can I get a new one?

First, consider whether you really need a new card. You need to apply for a replacement Social Security card only if you don't know your Social
Security number or, if you need to show your card to a new employer. If you decide that you do need a card, you can replace it for free in three easy
Step 1: Complete an Application For a Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
Step 2: Show us documents proving your:
•        Identity; and
•        U.S. citizenship or immigration status.
Step 3: Take your completed application and original documents to your local Social Security office or your local Social Security Card Center.  You’ll
receive your replacement card in about 10 to 15 days.
You can find all the information you need, including what documents we will need to review, at


How can I calculate my own retirement benefit estimate?

We suggest you use our Retirement Estimator at Our Retirement Estimator produces estimates based on your
actual Social Security earnings record, so it's a personalized, instant picture of your future estimated benefit. Also, you can use it to test different
retirement scenarios based on what age you decide to start benefits. For example, you can find out your estimated monthly payments if you retire at age
62 or at age 70. You also can use our benefit calculators at and use the earnings shown on your
annual Social Security Statement to calculate estimates.

      How do I earn a Social Security credit?

      A "Social Security credit" (sometimes referred to as a "quarter of coverage") is the measure of a person's work under the Social Security program.
The amount needed for a credit increases automatically each year as average wages increase. For 2010, workers receive one credit for each $1,120
of earnings. For 2009, the amount of earnings for one credit was $1,090. A worker can receive a maximum of four credits for any year. Generally, you
need 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more at


What information do I need to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Here are some of the things we will ask for when you apply for SSI. Even if you do not have all of the things listed below, apply anyway. The people in
the Social Security office can help you get whatever you need. You will need:
•        Your Social Security number;
•        Your birth certificate or other proof of your age;
•        Information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord’s name;
•        Payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, burial fund records, and other information about your income and the things you own;
•        The names, addresses and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that you have been to, if you are applying for SSI because you
are disabled or blind; and
•        Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status.
If you have a bank or financial institution account, you should have the account number available so we can have your benefits deposited directly into
your account. Learn more about SSI by reading our online publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at

My application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) was recently denied. Can I appeal the decision?

If you disagree with a decision made on your claim, you can appeal it. The steps you can take are explained in our online publication, Your Right To
Question A Decision Made On Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Claim, available at Also, you have
the right to be represented by an attorney or other qualified person of your choice. Now, you can request your appeal online. Simply visit the online
services page at Then select the “Appeal a decision” link and follow the simple instructions.  If you would
like to learn more, read our online publication Your Right To Representation at


What is the difference between the disability application and the disability report? Do I have to complete both?

Yes, you will need to complete both when you apply for disability benefits. To receive Social Security disability benefits, you must file a disability
application. A disability report provides information about your current physical or mental condition and we need this to process your disability
application. You should complete a disability application, a disability report, and an authorization to release medical records to file a claim for disability
benefits. To learn more, and to apply online, visit

How do I know if I have enough work to get Social Security disability benefits?

To get benefits, you must have worked long enough — and recently enough — under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security
work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a
credit changes from year to year. In 2010, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,120 of wages or self-employment income. When you have
earned $4,480, you've earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age
when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which you earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled.
However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. To learn more, see our Disability Planner at


I am applying for Extra Help with prescription drug costs. Can state agencies help with my Medicare costs?

Beginning January 1, 2010, when you file your application for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs, you also can start your application
process for the Medicare Savings Programs — state programs that provide help with other Medicare costs. When you apply for Extra Help, Social
Security will send information to your state unless you tell us not to on the application. Your state will contact you to help you apply for a Medicare
Savings Program. Learn more about how Social Security can provide Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug costs by visiting