December 29, 2009


by Cyndi Hagen
Social Security District Manager, Davenport Iowa


Improvements to one of the most popular online services in government – the Retirement Estimator, located at – allow more people than ever before to get a personalized and instant estimate of future Social Security retirement benefits. Since its launch last year, the Retirement Estimator has provided more than four million personalized estimates, and is one of the most highly rated online services in government.

The most recent customer satisfaction numbers are at an all-time high. The latest report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index for E-Government ranks the Retirement Estimator as the top service at 91 percent. It is followed closely by Social Security’s online retirement application, with a 90 percent customer satisfaction rating and the Medicare Extra Help application, with an 87 percent rating. These three Social Security services are the top three online services in government.

You may be wondering: if the Retirement Estimator is the most popular online service in government, what can be done to improve it? One major improvement is that more people will be able to use it. Previously, people who had not yet filed for monthly Social Security benefits but who were already enrolled in Medicare were not able to take advantage of the service. Now they can. So if you have Medicare coverage but have delayed filing for your Social Security benefits and you would like to get an estimate of your future benefits, just visit

Other improvements are coming soon. Next year, the Retirement Estimator will be the first online service available in Spanish.

Would you like to get an immediate and personalized estimate of your retirement benefits right now? Visit To get an estimate, you’ll need to enter your first and last name, date and place of birth, Social Security number, and mother’s maiden name. If the information matches Social Security’s records, the Retirement Estimator combines this information with the information that Social Security has on record, including your yearly earnings, to provide a quick and reliable online benefit estimate.

While you’re checking out the most popular online service in government, try out some of our other online services and information as well. You can find it all at


As you shop in stores and online, be sure you’re not giving a surprise gift to an identity thief. Because the surprise will be on you — and it won’t be a good one.

Sometimes when you do business, you may be asked for your Social Security number. In many cases, those asking don’t really need it. If anyone asks for your Social Security number or other identifying
information, ask them why they want it and whether they absolutely need it. They can refuse you service if you don’t provide it, but consider whether the service is worth the risk.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. Someone who steals your Social Security number can use it to get other personal information about you. Identity thieves can use your number to apply for more credit in your name. Then, they use the credit cards but leave the bills for you. Falling victim to identity theft can ruin your credit rating and make things difficult for months or years to come.
Identity thieves can obtain your Social Security number, credit card numbers, and personal information in a number of ways, including:

• Stealing wallets, purses, and mail;
• Intercepting personal information you provide on an unsecured website, from business or personnel records at work, and personal infor-mation in your home;
• Rummaging through your trash, and public trash dumps, for personal information;
• Posing as someone who needs your information, such as a government agency, employer, bank, or landlord; and
• Buying personal information from store clerks, employees, or other individuals who have the information.

There are things you can do to protect your identity. Don’t give out your Social Security number to just anyone. Don’t carry your card in your wallet or purse; keep your Social Security card locked away in a safe place with your other important papers. Check your credit reports once a year, which you can do for free at

Want to learn more? Read our online fact sheet, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, at

If you think someone is using your number or identity, contact the Federal Trade Commission at, or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338) (TTY 1-866-653-4261.)


Academy Award winner Patty Duke and the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, David Kessler, M.D., have teamed with Social Security to launch a flu prevention public service campaign. Ms. Duke and Dr. Kessler are featured in a new public service announcement letting people know some simple steps they can take to prevent the spread of the flu, as well as the fact that most business with Social Security can be done online by visiting

You’ve probably heard some of the health tips they have to offer:
• cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing and encourage those around you to do the same;
• wash your hands often with soap and water; and
• get a flu shot.

But Ms. Duke and Dr. Kessler have one health tip you may not have heard: go online to conduct your Social Security business.

If you need service from Social Security, you don’t have to visit an office. Many of our services are available online at and by phone at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

For example, you can visit to:
• Apply for benefits;
• Use the Retirement Estimator to get a personalized estimate of your retirement benefits;
• Get answers to frequently asked questions; and
• Get a replacement Medicare card.

So do your part to stop the spread of the flu. Go online to where you can view the new public service announcement yourself. While on the website, you also can check out the online services for yourself by visiting “What You Can Do Online” (on the left side of the page).
So take some precautions this flu season. Go online to It’s just what the doctor and Patty Duke ordered.


If you are one of the many Americans who may have to conduct
business with Social Security, it is good to know that you can use our online services without having to worry about opening or closing times.

Some of the services available online at include:

• Applying for retirement or disability benefits;
• Checking the status of your pending application;
• Getting an instant, personalized estimate of your future retirement
benefits using the Retirement Estimator; and
• Applying for extra help for Medicare prescription drug plan costs available to some beneficiaries.

If you are already a Social Security beneficiary, you can go online to change your address, phone number, or your direct deposit information, get a replacement Medicare card, or request a proof of income letter.

Social Security’s online services are available each work day from 5 a.m. until 1 a.m.; on Saturdays, from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.; and on Sundays from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. And the online services are available even on federal holidays — including Christmas and New Year’s Day — from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m. So if you have business to take care of on the holiday, our online services are here for you. All times are Eastern Standard Time and some online services have extended hours. You can find the individual operating hours for different online services at

In addition to these interactive services, there is a wealth of information available 24 hours a day on our website that can help answer your questions and get you the information you need, including frequently asked questions, publications and forms, information for specific groups, news and press releases, and even videos and public service announcements. You can find it all at To see a complete list of the online services available, visit