August 5, 2010


by Cyndi Hagen
Social Security Assistant District Manager, Davenport Iowa


The sun is out and there are a thousand and one things you could be doing outside. The last thing you want to do is sit in traffic on your way to the Social Security office, or to wait in line once you get there. From your doorstep to the local office and back again, you could spend a lot of extra time taking care of your Social Security business. Or, you could choose to visit our online office at and complete your Social Security business in a matter of minutes with no commute whatsoever.

There are so many things you can do at our online office. For example, you can apply online for retirement benefits. Our website makes it simple, allowing you to apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes. In most cases, once you fill out the application, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and no documents to submit. The direct link to applying for benefits online is

Not ready to retire yet, or not sure? We have online resources that can help you plan ahead or make your decision. Our Retirement Estimator will allow you to enter different scenarios to come up with the retirement plan best for you. You can find it at

Perhaps you need to file an application for disability benefits. A Disability Starter Kit explains the documentation and information you’ll be required to provide on the application, and includes checklists and worksheets to help take the mystery out of applying. You can find the Disability Starter Kit at on the left-hand side of the page.

You can apply online for Medicare, if you’re within four months of your 65th birthday. Most people, even those who don’t plan to start getting retirement benefits right away, need to apply for Medicare coverage at age 65. The application takes as little as 10 minutes, from start to finish. Learn more at

There are other things you can do online, such as apply for a replacement Medicare card, and request an SSA-1099 for tax purposes. You can learn about these and other online services at

So if you’d like to soak up some sun this summer, we suggest you take your Social Security business online. You may even be able to take your laptop outside and conduct your business in the great outdoors. See for yourself at


Social Security reaches almost every family in the United States, and at some point touches the lives of nearly all Americans. It not only helps older Americans, but also workers who become disabled and families in which a spouse or parent dies. Today, about 159 million people work and pay Social Security taxes. More than 53 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits. In 2009 alone, those benefits came to about $675 billion.

In addition to the national impact Social Security has on the U.S. economy, there’s no denying the difference it makes in communities all across America. In neighborhoods around the nation, the benefits paid help more than just individual beneficiaries. These people spend their benefit payments at the local grocery store, the local clothing store, department stores, and mom-and-pop shops. Benefits are used to pay for goods and services that sustain the local economy, keep local farmers farming, local retailers retailing, and local contractors contracting. In some counties, as much as 30 percent of the population receives benefits and those benefits make up as much as 20 percent of the local economy.

Both at the national and local level, Social Security makes a difference. The average payment for a retired individual is $1,169 a month, which represents 40 percent of income for an average retired person. The monthly payment for a disabled person averages $1,065. For the widow or widower of a working family member, the average payment is $1,104. These are real numbers that help many individuals make ends meet. The payments made to beneficiaries help individuals and families to stay afloat. But the byproduct is that these individuals are using their benefits to help keep the economy going. It’s clear that Social Security makes a difference on a national, local, and individual level.

To learn more about Social Security, visit


If you’re a farm worker, it’s likely that you’re busy right now. The spring planting season has ended, but the farm work has only begun. As you cultivate a bountiful harvest, we at Social Security want to remind all farmers to help cultivate future retirement and disability protection for any farm workers hired.

Most farm workers are covered by Social Security, but only if the employer reports the wages — which is a legal obligation. By reporting farm workers’ wages and paying Social Security taxes, you can help ensure they earn valuable Social Security retirement, disability, and survivors protection.

Farm owners also need to be aware that if they don’t report wages and pay the taxes due, they are breaking the law and could be subject to an IRS penalty. Some farmers try to rationalize that farm workers can be considered independent contractors, in which case the worker must pay self-employment tax and the employer has no tax obligation. But if people are working under a farm owner’s direction and control, they cannot be considered independent contractors. They are employees and their wages must be reported to Social Security.

Some farmers hire “crew leaders” to manage their farm workers and to handle their wage–reporting responsibilities. In these cases, the crew leader is often considered the “employer” of the farm worker and has the responsibility for submitting wage reports.

If you need more information about who is considered a farm worker’s employer, or if you have other questions regarding farm workers and Social Security, take a look at our helpful publication, A Guide to Social Security for Farmers, Growers, and Crew Leaders.

It’s available online at The booklet is available in English and Spanish. You can also request a printed copy by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

If you run a farm and hire agricultural workers, this booklet is a must-read. But the most important thing to remember is what you probably know better than anyone else: folks reap only what they sow. Farm workers won’t be able to reap the Social Security benefits they are due
unless their work and wages are reported to us.

Learn more about Social Security at


Have you ever considered a visit abroad? Or maybe you’re planning to live overseas for an extended period of time. Whether you’re outside the country for a week or a decade, you may be unaware of how to reach Social Security in the event that you need to conduct business with us while you’re away. Fortunately, in most corners of the world you can get help from a federal benefit officer or other trained personnel.

The Department of State embassies and American consulates abroad have personnel who are specially trained to provide a full range of Social Security services, including taking applications for all types of benefits, processing applications for new or replacement Social Security cards, and an array of other Social Security business.

Americans in American Samoa, British Virgin Islands, Canada, and Puerto Rico may obtainservices directly from Social Security field offices located there. In other territories or countries, contact your local embassy or consulate to find out which office to visit for your Social Security needs.

But before visiting or moving abroad, remember that the most convenient office may be in your own home. Social Security’s website is a valuable resource for information. There are a number of services and forms offered to people living outside the United States on our international operations site. You can find it at While you’re online, you can read more about our international services. Another helpful reference on moving out of the country is the online publication Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States, which is available at

You also may want to visit our International Programs website, where you can learn about International Agreements between Social Security systems, payments while you are outside the United States, and the Social Security systems of other nations. Just visit

If you don’t have a computer or prefer to do business over the phone, you’re always welcome to call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). If you are in a foreign country, you will need to pay for the call because we do not offer toll-free service for calls from outside the U.S. If you call, please do so during normal business hours for the U.S. Eastern Standard time.

Fortunately, in most corners of the world you can get help from a federal benefit officer or other specially trained personnel. If you’re leaving the United States for any period of time, don’t think you’ll have to leave Social Security behind too. Social Security will travel with you.


As the nation’s most successful domestic program, Social Security is something worth learning more about. That’s why the representatives at Social Security are available to share news and information about the programs and how they work. Whether you are representing a club or an employer’s human resources department, an advocacy organization or a community association — if you have a large meeting or event coming up and you’d like to have a representative speak, please submit your request to us online at

We can speak on an array of topics, such as:
• retirement, and how to prepare;
• pre-retirement, and how to get an estimate of future retirement benefits;
• disability, how it can help, who is eligible, and how to apply;
• wage reporting for small businesses and employers;
• work incentives for people with disabilities who want to work;
• how Social Security can provide extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs; and
• what Social Security means to every American.

At, you’ll find an easy-to-complete form that you can submit online. It will ask you about the type of talk you would like, and more information about the event.

So whether you would like a speaker to talk to your employees about preparing for retirement or teach your students what Social Security has to do with them, we can help. There is no fee for this service. To learn more about Social Security without the aid of a speaker, visit our vast wealth of information at