May 5, 2010

Your Social Security – Social Security Releases Open Government Plan


By Christina Vital
Rock Island Social Security office

Social Security Releases Open Government Plan

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced that the agency has released its Open Government plan. The plan, available at, reflects the agency’s commitment to increase transparency, expand opportunities for citizen participation and collaboration, and make open government sustainable at Social Security. Three flagship initiatives are highlighted in the plan — the Spanish-Language Retirement Estimator, Online Service Enhancement, and an Online Life-Expectancy Calculator. These initiatives support the agency’s mission, goals, and objectives, as well as showcase the value of open government principles.

“I applaud President Obama’s commitment to opening the federal government to the people it serves and I am especially proud of the three flagship initiatives we have chosen to implement by the end of this year,” said Commissioner Astrue. “These initiatives signify Social Security’s ongoing commitment to transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration as we improve the services we provide to the public.”

Social Security’s Spanish-language Retirement Estimator will be the agency’s and the federal government’s first-ever non-English interactive Internet application — a tool that furthers transparency by offering the Spanish-speaking public an opportunity to get instant, personalized estimates of future retirement benefits. Last year, over three million people used the English-language version of this popular online service
available at

As part of its Online Service Enhancement initiative, Social Security will unveil a new service-channeling tool that will help people more easily find the information and services they seek on the agency’s
website A key feature will be the opportunity to go online to schedule an in-office appointment for those who are unable to use our online services to conduct all of their business. This idea was submitted by Christie Dickson, an employee of Social Security, and was one of the finalists for the President’s SAVE award. In developing this tool, the agency will collaborate with members of the public as well as with industry experts.

The agency also is developing an Online Life-Expectancy Calculator — a simple, but important tool to assist the public with retirement planning. Many people substantially underestimate life expectancy, and this new online service will add a measure of accuracy to retirement planning by providing average life expectancies at different ages based on the person’s gender and date of birth, and drawing on assumptions provided in the annual Social Security Trustees’ report.

“I look forward to continuing to translate the values of open government into lasting improvements in the way the agency makes decisions, solves problems, and addresses its challenges,” said Commissioner Astrue. “Social Security’s flagship initiatives will improve our services and further break down barriers between the American people and their government.”

Social Security encourages feedback on its Open Government plan. To view the plan and share your comments and ideas, please visit


Social Security has been practicing environmental stewardship long before “going green” was a fashionable catch-phrase. Here’s just one example.

When it became necessary to renovate one of the largest buildings at the Social Security headquarters complex, we used sustainable design practices. The result was an environmentally sensitive facility where more than 75 percent of the construction materials were salvaged, and energy use was reduced by 13 percent.

This is just one of several buildings that Social Security has given the green makeover. Other environment-friendly buildings are located in Chicago, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Richmond, Calif., and Jamaica, N.Y.

There are things you can do to go green too. For example, you could plant a tree, and recycle your plastic, glass, and paper. But what’s even better than recycling your paper is not having any paper to begin with.

Going green is yet another of the many reasons to complete your business transactions with Social Security online. You can complete all of your “paperwork” without using any paper!

Whether you want to get an estimate of your future retirement benefits, apply for retirement benefits, apply for Medicare, request a replacement Medicare card, report a change of address or direct deposit if you are currently receiving benefits, or take charge of your retirement planning, you can do it on our website.

There’s no need to drive to your local Social Security office. Don’t wait in traffic when you can do Social Security business from the comfort of your home or office. Save a trip (and the gas and carbon emissions that go along with it) and go to to get started.

Doing business with Social Security online is fast, easy, and secure. It’s also environmentally the cleanest, greenest way to do your Social Security business. Many of our online services are available as
automated phone services as well. Just call 1-800-772-1213 to take advantage of them.

Not everyone can give their home or office an environmental makeover. But anyone can use our online services or automated phone services. For more information, visit or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


Telephones certainly have made our lives easier. Have you ever thought about what your life would be like without your cell phone? Now imagine life without telephones at all.

Social Security’s nationwide, toll-free phone service makes conducting business with the agency more convenient. Did you know you can call Social Security day or night at 1-800-772-1213?

You can talk with a Social Security representative from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday. But today, telephones are used for so much more than talking. You can access recorded information and many automated services 24 hours a day — including weekends and holidays.

For those currently receiving benefits, you can use these automated services to report a change of address or telephone number, start or change direct deposit of benefits, and request a proof of income letter or a replacement Medicare card. In addition, everyone can use the automated services to request important Social Security forms such as an application for a replacement Social Security card or a Social Security Statement, and order some of our most popular public information pamphlets.

It’s hard to imagine life without phones — or Social Security without a nationwide toll-free phone number. Social Security is never more than a phone call away: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


I applied for a replacement Social Security card last week but have not received it. When should I expect to receive my new card?

It takes approximately 10 to 14 days to receive your replacement Social Security card. We’re working harder than ever to protect you, prevent identity theft, and ensure the integrity of your Social Security number. To do that, we have to verify documents you present as proof of identity. In such cases, we must verify the documents before we can issue the card. For more information about your Social Security card and number, visit

What can I do if I think someone has stolen my identity?

You should do several things, including:
• 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;
• Notify the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-ID-THEFT or 1-877-438-4338);
• File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at; and contact the fraud units of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax (800-525-6285); Trans Union: (800-680-7289); and Experian: (888-397-3742).

If your Social Security card has been stolen, you can apply for a replacement card. But you usually don’t need a new card as long as you know your number.

To protect yourself in the future, treat your Social Security number as confidential and avoid giving it out. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. Learn more by reading our publication, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, at

How should I decide when to start receiving my Social Security retirement benefits?

The decision regarding when to start receiving retirement benefits is highly personal and depends on a number of factors, such as your current cash needs, your health and family longevity, whether you plan to work in retirement, and the amount of your future Social Security benefit. You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62. However, if you start benefits early — before your “full retirement age” — your benefits are reduced for each month before your full retirement age. For help in making your decision, as well as all the factors to consider, read our publication When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits at