Social Security's online services are ready for business

Buchheit

During this time when our physical offices are closed to the public, you may wonder, “How can I get help from Social Security without visiting an office?”  You can find the answer at www.ssa.gov/onlineservices, which links you to some of our most popular online services.  You can apply for retirement and disability benefits, appeal a decision, and do much more. 

Our newest my Social Security feature, Advance Designation, enables you to identify up to three people, in priority order, who you would like to serve as your potential representative payee in the event you ever need help managing your benefits.  We have updated our Frequently Asked Questions at faq.ssa.gov/en-us/Topic/article/KA-10039 to answer questions you may have about Advance Designation.

You can also apply for Medicare online in less than 10 minutes with no forms to sign and often no required documentation.  We’ll process your application and contact you if we need more information.

Visit www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare to apply for Medicare and find other important information.  If you’re eligible for Medicare at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after that birthday.  

We’ve organized our Online Services webpage into four popular categories for easy navigation: 

Review Your Information.  You can access your secure, personal information and earnings history to make sure everything is correct.  You can even print statements with ease.

Apply for Benefits.  You can apply for retirement, disability, and Medicare benefits without having to visit a field office. 

Manage Your Account.  You can change your direct deposit information and your address online. 

Find Help and Answers.  We’ve answered your most frequently asked questions, and provided links to publications and other informational websites. 

Let your family and friends know they can do much of their business with us online at www.ssa.gov.  

Access my Social Security from your home

With so many services available online through my Social Security, signing up for a secure account will help you conduct Social Security business from home.  With your personal my Social Security account, you can:

Estimate your future benefits with our Retirement Calculator to compare different dates or ages to begin receiving benefits;

Check the status of your Social Security application;

Review your work history; and

Request a replacement Social Security card (in most States). 

If you already receive benefits, you can also:

Get a benefit verification or proof of income letter;

Set up or change your direct deposit;

Change your address; 

Request a replacement Medicarecard; and

Get a Social Security 1099 form (SSA-1099).

You can even use your personal my Social Security account to opt out of receiving certain notices by mail, such as the annual cost-of-living adjustments and the income-related monthly adjustment amount notice.  Instead, through the Message Center you can receive secure, sensitive communications.

Let your friends and family know that they can create a my Social Security account today at www.ssa.gov/myaccount

Social Security and protecting elders from scams 

June is World Elder Abuse Awareness Month.  Throughout the month, government agencies, businesses, and organizations sponsor events to unite communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, and the private sector to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people.    

Scammers often target older people.  They use fear to pressure people into providing personal information or money.  In times like the current pandemic when people are particularly vulnerable, scammers will pretend to be government employees, often from Social Security, to gain people’s trust to steal their money and personal information.  The most effective way to defeat scammers is by knowing how to identify scams then hanging up or ignoring the calls.

What you can do

If you get a Social Security scam phone call, hang up, report it to our law enforcement office at oig.ssa.gov, and tell your family and friends about it!  We’re telling as many people as we can that government agencies will never:

Tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended.

 Tell you about crimes committed in your name, or offer to resolve identity theft or a benefit problem in exchange for payment.

Request a specific means of debt repayment, like a retail gift card, prepaid debit card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash.

Insist on secrecy about a legal problem, or tell you to make up stories to tell family, friends, or store employees.

Scammers continue to develop new ways to mislead you.  They might use the names of Social Security officials and tell you to look them up on our public websites (where they learned the names themselves).  Or, they might email you official-looking documents with a letterhead that looks like it’s from Social Security or Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Don’t believe them!  Social Security will never email you attachments that have your personal information in them.

If you ever owe money to Social Security, the agency will mail you a letter, explaining your payment options and your appeal rights.  If you get a call about a Social Security problem, be very cautious.  If you do not have ongoing business with the agency, or if the caller mentions suspending your Social Security number or makes other threats, the call is likely a scam.  Ignore it, hang up, and report it to us at oig.ssa.gov.  We are working to stop the scams and educate people to avoid becoming victims.

Social Security benefits for children with disabilities

SSA’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program helps children with qualifying disabilities and their families.  For this program, a child must meet all of the following requirements to be considered disabled and medically eligible: 

The child must have a medical condition, or a combination of conditions, that result in “marked and severe functional limitations.”  This means that the condition(s) must very seriously limit the child’s activities. 

The child’s condition(s) must have been disabling, or be expected to be disabling, for at least 12 months; or the condition(s) must be expected to result in death.  

Compassionate Allowances are a way we quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet Social Security's standards for disability benefits.  Thousands of children receive benefits because they have one of the conditions on the list at www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm.

A child must also meet other eligibility requirements.  Since we only pay SSI to disabled people with low income and limited resources, a child, who is not blind, must not be working or earning more than $1,260 a month in 2020.  A child who is blind must not be working or earning more than $2,110. This earnings amount usually changes every year.  In addition, if the parents of the child or children have more resources than are allowed, then the child or children will not qualify for SSI.  You can read more about children’s benefits at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10026.pdf.

Visit www.ssa.gov/people/parents/ to learn more about all we do to care for children.  Please share these resources if you know a family or friend who needs our help. 

Qualifying for Supplemental Security Income with Social Security

We pay monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to people with disabilities who have low income and few resources, and people who are age 65 or older without disabilities who meet the financial limits. 

Income is money you receive, such as wages, Social Security benefits, and pensions.  Income also includes things like food and shelter.  The amount of income you can receive each month and still get SSI depends partly on where you live.  

Resources are things you own, including real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds, which we count in deciding if you qualify for SSI.  You may be able to get SSI if your resources are worth $2,000 or less.  A couple may be able to get SSI if they have resources worth $3,000 or less.  If you own property that you are trying to sell, you may be able to get SSI while trying to sell it.

We will not count economic impact payments, also known as coronavirus stimulus payments or CARES Act payments, as income for SSI.  These payments will also not count as resources for 12 months.  You can read more about qualifying for SSI at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-11000.pdf

If you’re an adult with a disability intending to file for both SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance, you can apply online for both benefits at the same time if you: 

Are between the ages of 18 and 65; 

Have never been married;

Aren’t blind, 

Are a U.S. citizen residing in one of the 50 states, District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands; and  

Haven’t applied for or received SSI benefits in the past. 

We’re here for you.  You can find more information at www.ssa.gov/benefits

General

How can I get proof of my benefits to apply for a loan?

Answer:

If you need proof you get Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Medicare, you can request a benefit verification letter online through your personal my Social Security  account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. This letter is sometimes called a “budget letter,” a “benefits letter,” a “proof of income letter,” or a “proof of award letter.” You even can select the information you want included in your online benefit verification letter.

Question: 

I got married and I need to change my name in Social Security’s records. What do I do?

Answer:

If you change your name due to marriage or for any other reason, you’ll need to report the change and get a corrected Social Security card with your new name. You will need to fill out Form SS-5. You can get a copy of this form by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/ss5doc or by calling our toll-free number 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You’ll also need to provide the original marriage certificate showing your new and old names. You can mail the documentation to your local Social Security office. In some cases, we may need other forms of documentation as well. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber

Retirement

Question:

I’m trying to figure out how much I need to save for my retirement. Does the government offer any help with financial education?

Answer:

Yes. For starters, you may want to find out what you can expect from Social Security with a visit to Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Financial Literacy and Education Commission has a website that can help you with the basics of financial education: www.mymoney.gov. Finally, you’ll want to check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which offers educational information on a number of financial matters, including mortgages, credit cards, retirement, and other big decisions. Visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at www.consumerfinance.gov.

Question: 

I have never worked but my spouse has. What will my benefits be?

Answer

Answer: 

You can be entitled to as much as one-half of your spouse's benefit amount when you reach full retirement age. If you decide to receive Social Security retirement benefits before you reach full retirement age, the amount of your benefit is reduced. The amount of reduction depends on when you will reach full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 66, you can get 35 percent of your spouse's unreduced benefit at age 62 (a permanent reduction); if your full retirement age is 67, you can get 32.5 percent of your spouse's unreduced benefit at age 62 (a permanent reduction). 

The amount of your benefit increases if your entitlement begins at a later age, up to the maximum of 50 percent at full retirement age. However, if you are taking care of a child who is under age 16 or who gets Social Security disability benefits on your spouse’s record, you get the full spouse’s benefits, regardless of your age. Learn more about retirement benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/retirement.

Disability

Question: 

How do I apply for disability benefits? How long does it take to get a decision after I apply for disability benefits?

Answer: 

You can apply for disability benefits online at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/. To get a decision on your disability application usually takes three-to-five months. The time frame can vary depending on:

The nature of your disability;

How quickly we can get your medical evidence from your doctor or other medical source; 

Whether it’s necessary to send you for a medical examination; and

Whether we review your application for quality purposes. 

Create or sign in to your personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to check your claim status.

Question:

If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my Social Security disability benefits? 

Answer:

No, Social Security has several work incentive programs to help people who want to work. You may be able to receive monthly benefits and continue your health care coverage during a trial work period. For information about Social Security’s work incentives and how they can help you return to work, you should: 

Visit our special work site at www.socialsecurity.gov/work

See the Red Book on work incentives at www.socialsecurity.gov/redbook; or

Check out our publications at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs and type “work” in the search box.

For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). 

Supplemental Security Income

Question:

If I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, what is the effect on my benefits when I work?

Answer:

Even a small amount of earned wages can cause a deduction in your SSI payment. However, it takes substantial work to make your benefits stop. In many cases, we will deduct approved work expenses to determine your SSI payment amount. In most cases, you can continue to receive your medical coverage for up to two years after you begin working. We have several publications on SSI, including Reporting Your Wages When You Receive Supplemental Security Income, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. For more information, call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/ssi/wage-reporting.html

Question:

I am receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Can my children receive dependent’s benefits based on my benefits?

Answer:

No. SSI benefits are based on the needs of one individual and are paid only to the qualifying person. Disabled children are potentially eligible for SSI, but there are no spouse’s, dependent children’s, or survivors benefits payable as there are with Social Security benefits. For more information, see our publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. Simply type the title of the publication in the publication search box at the top of the page. You also may want to read Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI), available at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/text-understanding-ssi.htm. For even more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov

Medicare

Question:

I lost my Medicare card. How can I get a replacement?

Answer:

The easiest and newest way to get a replacement Medicare card is by using your my Social Security account. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount for more information on how to create an account. You also can get a replacement Medicare card by calling us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Keep your card in a safe place. 

Question: 

How do I apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs?

Answer:

You have several options for applying. You can:

Apply online by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp

Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to apply over the phone or request an application; or

Contact your local Social Security office. Use our Social Security Office Locator: (https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp

Anyone who has Medicare can get Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Some people with limited resources and income are eligible for Extra Help to pay for the costs — monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments — related to a Medicare prescription drug plan. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare.

Betsy Buchheit is Social Security district manager in Alton.

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