December 6, 2010


By Karen Cole
Social Security District Manager
Davenport, Iowa


The holiday season is, for many people the busiest time of year with gift lists and to-do lists, feast planning and party preparation. The busy schedule, like the gift lists, often can get out of hand.

If you’re planning on retiring sometime early in the new year, we suggest you wrap up your retirement application now before wrapping any holiday gifts. It’s so easy and can take as little as 15 minutes. Just go to

Our website makes the retirement application process quick, easy, and secure. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed.

Before you start your application, you may want to spend a few minutes to get an estimate of your retirement benefit at The Retirement Estimator uses your personal employment history to estimate your retirement benefit.

Then, jump right into the retirement application. You can use the online application to apply for Social Security retirement or spouses benefits if you:

• Are at least 61 years and 9 months old;
• Want to start your benefits in the next four months; and
• Live in the United States.

Before filing online for retirement, we suggest you have the following information on hand:
• Your date and place of birth and Social Security number;
• Your bank or financial institution’s routing transit number and the account number, for direct deposit of your benefits;
• The amount of money earned last year and this year. If you are filing for benefits in the months of September through December, you also will need to estimate next year’s earnings;
• The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year;
• The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968;
• The name, Social Security number, and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You also should know the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if appropriate); and
• A copy of your Social Security Statement

Even if you don’t have all the information we need at your fingertips, you should go ahead and apply now.

Applying online means there is no need for you to go to a Social Security office or wait for a scheduled appointment with a Social Security representative. Besides, retiring online is so easy. You can apply in as little as 15 minutes. That translates to more time for holiday shopping and activities.

So beat the holiday rush and wrap up your retirement application today at


On November 11, we honored our Nation’s veterans for their service to America. What better time than now to tell you about the many benefits and the wealth of information Social Security has available for veterans and military personnel.

In September, the agency published final rules about the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act. The HEART Act changes the way we treat some cash payments to members of the uniformed services and veterans under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. As Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue noted at the time, “This law allows the men and women of our armed forces, veterans, and their families to keep more of their military-related payments while also maintaining eligibility for valuable cash and healthcare benefits.”

The HEART Act does the following:

• Treats most cash military compensation as earned income for SSI purposes, which generally provides a higher benefit to the service member as a result of the SSI program’s more favorable consideration of earned income.

• Excludes certain State annuity payments to disabled, blind or aged veterans from countable income and resources used to determine SSI eligibility.

• Excludes any cash or in-kind payments provided by AmeriCorps State and National and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps from countable income.

Social Security also makes it easy to get information about benefits for wounded warriors. The first place to go is our website designed specifically for our wounded veterans: There, you will find answers to a number of commonly asked questions, as well as other useful information about disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Please pay special attention to the fact sheets available on that website, Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors and Expediting Disability Applications for Wounded Warriors.

You will also find a “webinar” that explains the Social Security disability application process and expedited processing available to wounded warriors. This outreach program provides general information about Social Security disability benefits as well as topics unique to wounded warriors, and is a great way to orient yourself to disability benefits for veterans and active duty military.

It is important to note that benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application.

Military service members are covered for the same Social Security survivors, disability, and retirement benefits as everyone else. Military personnel have been covered under Social Security since 1957, and people who were in the service prior to that may be able to get special credit for some of their service.

To learn more about Social Security for current and former military service members, read Military Service and Social Security. You can find the publication online at