Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
SOCIAL SECURITY GOES FOR THE GOLD
Millions of Americans are following the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London.
The last time swimmer Michael Phelps competed, he brought home more gold medals at one time than anyone in the history
of the Olympics. Will he do it again?
If there was an Olympics for customer services available online, the services at www.socialsecurity.gov would be the Michael
Phelps of that competition. Over the years, Social Security’s online services have been rated the best in government and the
best in all industries.
When it comes to independent customer satisfaction scores, Social Security’s online services consistently bring home the
gold, silver, and bronze. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) tracks customer satisfaction and rates websites for
Out of all online services provided by 101 federal agencies in the running, Social Security took all of the top three spots again
in the latest survey.
In third place, the application for Extra Help with Medicare Part D prescription drug costs is rated 89. Bringing home the silver,
in second place, the Retirement Estimator scored a 91. And the top-rated online service in government is the online
application for Social Security benefits, with a satisfaction score of 92!
It’s worth noting that even our newest online service is already scoring high praise. Since being launched in May, the online
Social Security Statement is rated 88, giving this new service one of the highest ratings in government.
Whether you want to plan for or apply for your retirement, look into other benefits available, or learn about the history of the
program, you can do it all at Social Security’s website. When you’re taking a break from the Summer Olympics, visit the
Olympian of online services at www.socialsecurity.gov.
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WHAT ARE AMERICA’S MOST POPULAR BABY NAMES?
Each year, Social Security announces the top baby names for boys and girls, based on Social Security card applications for
babies born in the previous year. If you have children or you’re friends or relatives with those who do, chances are you might
know a few babies with the “in” names.
This year, the most popular babies in the playpen are Jacob and Sophia, followed by Mason and Isabella. You can visit them in
their online “crib” at www.socialsecurity.gov/babynames.
At the website, you also can see other lists of popular baby names. For example, you can search for the 1,000 most popular
names of a decade, the five most popular names of the past century, or search for the most popular names in your state. You
can even get popular baby names for twins. Plug in any name — including your own — to see where it comes in on the list.
But Jacob and Sophia’s page isn’t just about baby names. Find out about getting a Social Security number for your baby and
what every parent should know about Social Security. Learn about benefits for children and grandchildren, and plan your family’
s financial future.
You also can link to information about having a healthy pregnancy, taking care of your newborn, and childproofing your home.
Need to read up on childhood immunizations, food stamps, or other nutrition assistance programs for families with children?
The links are there, along with more information than there are gifts at a baby shower.
When people think about Social Security, they often think of the retirement years. But Social Security is there throughout your
life — from the day a child is named. Social Security’s popular Baby Names page has a lot to offer. See for yourself at www.
SOCIAL SECURITY AND WOMEN
August 26 is known as Women’s Equality Day. On that date in 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed,
giving women the right to vote.
Social Security treats men and women equally. Men and women with identical earnings histories are treated exactly the same.
However, there are things women in particular should know about Social Security. Although treated equally by Social Security,
there are trends and differences in lifestyle that can affect benefits.
For example, women tend to care for many people: spouses, children, and parents. Taking time away from the workplace to
care for a newborn child or aging parent can have an impact on your future Social Security benefits.
Also, despite significant strides through the years, women are more likely to earn less over a lifetime than men. Women are
less often covered by private retirement plans, and they are more dependent on Social Security in their retirement years.
And, women tend to live about five years longer than men, which means more years depending on Social Security and other
retirement income or savings.
If a woman is married to a man who earns significantly more than she does, it is likely she will qualify for a larger benefit
amount on his record than on her own.
Want to learn more? Visit our Women’s page at www.socialsecurity.gov/women. Follow the link on that page to our publication,
What Every Woman Should Know. You can read it online, print a copy, or listen to it on audio. We provide alternate media as
well to reach as many women as possible and to provide the information the way you’d like to receive it.
Learning about your future Social Security benefits and how men and women are treated just the same in the eyes of Social
Security: what better way to celebrate Women’s Equality Day?
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MAKE SOCIAL SECURITY ONLINE SERVICES ‘PAR FOR THE COURSE’
For many retirees (and near retirees), there is nothing that they look forward to as much as a day on the golf course. The game
recently has been made more pleasurable by the use of computers and GPS technology. A hand-held electronic unit acts just
like a personal caddie, providing quick and accurate yardage information — and much more. It saves time … as well as
mental and physical effort.
So golfers should be among those retirees (and near retirees) to recognize the value of technology in other aspects of life,
such as Social Security’s online services. Just by logging onto your computer at www.socialsecurity.gov, you can handle such
important Social Security business as:
• Applying online for retirement, disability, or Medicare benefits;
• Getting a personalized estimate of future benefits with our Retirement Estimator;
• Accessing your Social Security Statement online;
• Changing your address or phone number in Social Security records once you start receiving benefits;
• Signing up for or changing direct deposit; and
• Much, much more.
One thing that golfers everywhere hate is slow play — waiting on the tee box, and then waiting again in the fairway. While we
can’t eliminate waits on the golf course, going online to www.socialsecurity.gov can eliminate the time you would spend sitting
in traffic or waiting in lines at an office.
If you happen to be a golfer (or any other person) who loves tradition and hates to try new things, here’s a thought. 2012 is the
100th anniversary of the birth of three of golf’s legends — Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, and Sam Snead. All of these golfing
greats were quick to adapt to the newest golfing innovations of their day — and you should, too. Just go online to www.
socialsecurity.gov and take a look at what we offer.
Once you do, you’ll think of every other way of handling Social Security business as a bogey.
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
How can I get a copy of my Social Security Statement?
If you are age 18 or older, you may get your Social Security Statement conveniently online at any time after creating an account
at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement. The Statement provides estimates for retirement, disability and survivors benefits, as
well as a way to determine whether your earnings are accurately posted to your Social Security record. Social Security sends
paper Social Security Statements in the mail only to people age 60 and older and, beginning July 2012, to workers the year
they turn 25. If this applies to you, you should receive your Statement about two to three months before your birthday. Also, you
can get an instant, personalized estimate of your future retirement benefit using our online Retirement Estimator at www.
My child, who gets Social Security, will be attending his last year of high school in the fall. He turns 19 in a few months. Do I
need to fill out a form for his benefits to continue?
Yes. You should receive a form, SSA-1372-BK, in the mail about three months before your son’s birthday. Your son needs to
complete the form and take it to his school’s office for certification. Then, you need to return page two and the certified page
three back to Social Security for processing. If you can’t find the form we mailed to you, you can find it online at the following
My neighbor, who is retired, told me that the income he receives from his part-time job at the local nursery gives him an
increase in his Social Security benefits. Is that right?
Retirees who return to work after they start receiving benefits may be able to receive a higher benefit based on those earnings.
This is because Social Security automatically re-computes the retirement benefit after crediting the additional earnings to the
individual’s earnings record. Learn more by reading the publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.
I plan to retire soon. When are Social Security benefits paid?
Social Security benefits are paid each month. Generally, new retirees receive their benefits on either the second, third, or
fourth Wednesday of each month, depending on the day in the month the retiree was born. If you receive benefits as a spouse,
your benefit payment date will be determined by your spouse’s birth date.
Here’s a chart showing how your monthly payment date is determined:
Day of the Month You Were Born Social Security Benefits Paid On
1st-10th Second Wednesday
11th-20th Third Wednesday
21st-31st Fourth Wednesday
For a calendar showing actual payment dates for 2012, see the Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments at www.
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME
What is the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability?
Social Security administers two major programs that provide benefits based on disability: Social Security Disability Insurance
(SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI benefits are based on prior work under Social Security, and are
financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers, and self-employed persons. To be eligible for an SSDI benefit,
the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be “insured” for Social Security purposes.
SSI payments are made on the basis of financial need and are financed through general tax revenues. Adults or children who
are disabled or blind, and have limited income and resources, may be eligible for SSI disability. The monthly payment varies
up to the maximum federal benefit rate, which may be supplemented by the state or decreased by income. Learn more by
reading our publications, Supplemental Security Income, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000.html, and Disability Benefits,
Can I get both Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security benefits based on my disability?
Many people eligible for Social Security disability benefits also may be eligible for SSI. The disability decision for one program
is the same for the other, but you must meet additional resource and income limits to qualify for SSI benefits. Learn all about
SSI and whether or not you may qualify by reading the publication, You May Be Able To Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Is there a time limit on collecting Social Security disability benefits?
Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition does not improve and you remain unable to work. We
will review your case at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled. If you are still receiving disability benefits when
you reach full retirement age, we will automatically convert them to retirement benefits. Learn more by reading our publication,
Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.
I get Social Security because of a disability. How often will my case be reviewed to determine if I’m still eligible?
How often we review your medical condition depends on how severe it is and the likelihood it will improve. Your award notice
tells you when you can expect your first review using the following terminology:
* Medical improvement expected—If your condition is expected to improve within a specific time, your first review will be six to
18 months after you started getting disability benefits.
* Medical improvement possible—If improvement in your medical condition is possible, your case will be reviewed about every
* Medical improvement not expected—If your medical condition is unlikely to improve, your case will be reviewed about once
every five to seven years.
Will my eligibility for the Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs be reviewed and, if so, how often?
If you get the Extra Help, Social Security may contact you to review your status. This reassessment will ensure you remain
eligible for Extra Help and you are receiving all the benefits you deserve. Annually, usually at the end of August, we may send
you a form to complete: “Social Security Administration Review of Your Eligibility for Extra Help.” You will have 30 days to
complete and return this form. Any necessary adjustments to the Extra Help will be effective in January of the following year.
For example, if we send you a review form in August 2012 and you return the form within 30 days, any necessary adjustment to
your Extra Help will be effective in January 2013.
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