August 3, 2009

Your Social Security

ssaBy Christina Vital
Rock Island Social Security Office


This month we celebrate Independence Day … and you declare your freedom from waiting in line by taking advantage of Social Security’s online application process. You can apply for benefits from the convenience and comfort of your own home. If you don’t have Internet access, then have a friend or relative help, or just visit your local library. Our website is very user friendly.

Here’s how to apply online for Social Security benefits.

First, go to our website at Here, you can apply online not only for your own retirement benefits, but also disability or spousal benefits. The online application process really streamlines the process for disability claims.

The online application will be signed electronically. Now, you may think, “I don’t know how to do that.” But it’s easy. Signing electronically just means that you accept responsibility for the accuracy of the information you submitted by selecting the “SIGN NOW” button at the end of the application. This electronic signature also authorizes the Social Security Administration to complete the processing of your application for benefits.

If you are nearing retirement age but are uncertain whether you are ready to retire you will find another Social Security online service to be very helpful — Retirement Planners. These planners allow you to estimate future Social Security retirement benefits and also provide links to outside websites that discuss other sources of retirement income and postretirement concerns, such as housing and medical care. Our website is a great financial planning tool.

For more information about these and other Social Security topics, visit our website at Spend time online, not in line!


Summertime is here, and that means many people are busy planning their summer vacations. Some of those vacations will involve globetrotting around the world.

If you receive Social Security benefits and you’re planning to travel abroad this summer, there are some things you should know to make your trip — and the delivery of your Social Security payments — go smoothly.

First, if you haven’t already done so, you should sign up for direct deposit. It’s the easiest and most secure way to receive your benefit payments, whether you’re at home or halfway around the world. With direct deposit, you never have to worry about your check being lost or stolen. And direct deposit makes funds instantly available to you even when you are not at home to receive and cash your checks.

You should also be familiar with how your Medicare coverage works outside the United States. Be aware that Medicare, in most cases, does NOT pay for hospital or medical services outside the United States, except for some emergency services in Mexico and Canada borders. That is the case even if you get sick or hurt while traveling.

The length of your journey may also make a difference. Keep in mind that if you plan to stay outside the country more than 30 days, other provisions of law may apply. For example, in some countries, you cannot continue to receive benefits if you reside there for more than a month. You can find out about this and more by visiting our online publications at Look for the publication Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States. Or you can call us at 1-800-772- 1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to ask for a copy to be mailed to you.


Social Security reaches almost every family, and at some point touches the lives of nearly all Americans. It has an impact on the very fabric of the American economy.

Social Security helps not only older Americans, but also workers who become disabled and families in which a spouse or parent dies. Today, about 162 million people work and pay Social Security taxes and more than 51 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits. In 2008 alone, those benefits came to about $614 billion.

In one way or another, Social Security benefits everyone. The payments made to beneficiaries help individuals and families to stay afloat. But Social Security goes beyond that. In many areas across the nation, Social Security is essential to keeping the economy going. Take, for example, Siskiyou County in Northern California. Nearly 20 percent of that entire economy comes from Social Security. About 30 percent of the population receives Social Security or SSI benefits!

In Siskiyou County and other counties around the nation, the benefits paid don’t stop at helping the beneficiaries who depend on them. These people spend their benefit payments at the local grocery store, the local clothing stores, department stores, and mom-and-pop shops. Benefits are used to pay for goods and services that sustain the local economy. It’s no coincidence that Social Security finds its origins in another financial crisis: the Great Depression. The program played a part in that recovery. There’s no denying that it’s playing a part in helping the current economy as well.

It’s clear that in one way or another, Social Security benefits everyone. To learn more about Social Security, visit

So whether you’re visiting relatives in Europe or simply traveling across the U.S., visit us at before you leave.

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