July 30, 2009

Your Social Security

By Sharice L. Edwards
Social Security Acting District Manager, Davenport Iowa


Americans love their computers. In fact, a recent study shows that the number of Americans who use the Internet has more than doubled over the past 10 years, reaching nearly three quarters of the U.S. population. Nearly half of all Americans have a high-speed Internet connection at home, compared to only five percent at the start of the decade. The study indicates that Internet use is even beginning to outpace traditional media. Younger Americans spend more time online than in front of a television.

But as most people know, the Internet is a gateway to more than media and entertainment. It is a highly accepted way to do business. As Americans become increasingly comfortable with the security and convenience of doing things on the Internet, online business is becoming more and more popular.

There is so much you can do at Social Security’s website from the convenience of your home or office. Here are some of our best online services:

There’s even more you can do at www.socialsecurity.gov. So whether you’re interested in planning your retirement or applying for disability, learning about Social Security’s history or finding out about how the system works, our online office is the most convenient one to visit.

In survey after survey, Social Security’s online services top customer satisfaction lists. That’s because doing business with Social Security online is fast, convenient, and secure. And it’s so easy! Next time you’re online, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.


At home, you can lock your doors. When it comes to your car, you can activate the alarm system.

But what can you do to protect your identity?

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Someone illegally using your Social Security number and assuming your identity can be more trouble than a car thief or house burglar. Identity thieves can use your number and your good credit score to apply for more credit in your name. Then, they use the credit cards and do not pay the bills. You may not find out that someone is using your number until you are turned down for credit or you begin to get calls from creditors demanding payment for items you never bought.

What better time than National Safety Month to educate yourself in protecting your personal information? Here are some quick tips:

  • Keep your Social Security card at home in a safe place, wherever you keep your important paperwork;
  • Safeguard your number as well — don’t give it to just anyone; many places you do business with may ask for it as a means of identification even though they can use other identifying information; and
  • Shred before you toss — identity thieves can rummage through your trash or recycling material and find a goldmine of information, so be sure to destroy any identifying information before you throw it out.

While we’re talking about safety, here’s another great tip: if you receive a benefit from Social Security, get direct deposit. With direct deposit, your payments are electronically sent right to your account and there’s no risk of a payment being lost in the mail or stolen from your mailbox. At Social security, signing up is quick, easy, and secure. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/deposit to learn more.

Read our online fact sheet about identity theft at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html.

If you believe someone may be using your number or identity, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission at
www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft, or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877- 438-4338) (TTY 1-866-653-4261.)


Every American knows that July 4th is Independence Day — a day for celebrating our nation’s independence and the freedoms enjoyed by all Americans.

So on July 4th, and throughout the year, it makes sense that independent-minded Americans tend to be do-it-yourselfers. We revel in the freedom to make our own choices and to do things on our own schedule, in our own way.

When you’re done grilling those burgers and hotdogs and watching the neighborhood fireworks display, remember that “do-it-yourself” does not apply only to building bookshelves, rummaging underneath the sink, and changing your car’s oil. You can also exercise your right to do things yourself, when you want and how you want, by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov.

To apply for retirement benefits, you can complete your application online from the comfort of your own home or office. There are no paper forms to sign, and usually no additional documents are required.

In fact, what used to take an hour or more can be done online in as little as 15 minutes. In less time than it takes to read the instructions on a you-build-it picnic table, your Social Security retirement application can be completed and submitted for processing.

Not ready to retire? Regardless of your age or how far away retirement may seem, it’s never too early to begin planning. Take a look at your financial future by visiting our helpful Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The online tool uses your earnings record along with information that you key in to give you a quick estimate of your future benefits.

So this July, after you’ve enjoyed the picnic and fireworks, continue to celebrate your freedom to do it yourself by going online to www.socialsecurity.gov.



Question: My neighbor said my kids, ages 8 and 11, might be eligible for survivors’ benefits since their father died. Are they?

Answer: Maybe. For your family to be eligible for survivors benefits, their father must have earned the required number of Social Security credits. If he did, you and your children may be eligible for benefits. You’ll want to apply for survivors benefits promptly because benefits are generally retroactive only up to six months. You can apply by calling Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325- 0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday. For more information, read our publication Survivors Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10084.html or call us for a copy.


Question: How long does it take to apply online for retirement benefits?

Answer: How long it takes depends on your specific situation. However, many people find that they can complete their online retirement application in as little as 15 minutes! There are no paper forms to sign, and usually no additional documents are required. You can learn more about Social Security retirement benefits, get an estimate of your future benefit amount, and when you’re ready, apply for retirement benefits online, by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: I know my wife, who hasn’t worked outside the home, doesn’t qualify for Social Security or Medicare on her own record. Can she qualify on mine?

Answer: This answer applies to husbands as well as wives. A spouse who has never worked under Social Security can receive a benefit equal to one-half of your full retirement amount at his or her full retirement age. However, your spouse cannot receive benefits on your record until you begin receiving retirement benefits. We have a page at our online Retirement Planner dedicated to benefits for spouses. You can visit that page at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/yourspouse.htm.


Question: I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. I now have a second serious disability. Can my monthly benefit amount be increased?

Answer: No, your payment will remain the same regardless of how many disabilities you have or how severe they are. Your Social Security disability benefit is based on the amount of your lifetime earnings before your disability began and the fact that you have a disability, or combination of impairments, that makes you unable to work. Your actual payment amount is not based on the degree, type, or severity of your disability or how many disabling conditions you have. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan.

Question: Is there a time limit on how long I can continue receiving Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: No. Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. Your case will be reviewed at regular intervals to make sure you still have a disability that makes you unable to work. If you are still receiving disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, we will automatically convert them to retirement benefits. For all your disability questions, read our online publication, What You Need To Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10153.html.

Leave a reply

* means field is required.