Social Security Administration

I was contacted on January 30, 2012 by Everett M. Lo Regional Public Affairs Office of the Social Security Administration - New York Region.  He sent me some very informative articles that will be great to put online for our members.  I have created a page dedicated to this SSA information.  Check back every month to see new articles added - Updated 12/06/2017

When should you start receiving your SS Benefits.......www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf


THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE APPLYING FOR DISABILITY BENEFITS  - 12/06/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region



Social Security is with you throughout life's journey. We’re here for you if the unexpected happens. We are there for you when you finally stop working as well. We provide vital financial support to tens of millions of American workers, primarily through retirement benefits. But we’re also there for you if the unexpected happens and a serious medical condition stops you from working and being able to support yourself and your family.

In such cases, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits, which replace a portion of lost income when a worker becomes seriously disabled. Here are three of the key factors we use to determine if you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits:

o You must have a lasting medical condition so severe that it prevents you from doing the work that you did in the past or adjusting to other types of work;
o Your physical or mental impairment(s) must have lasted or be expected to last at least a year or result in death; and
o You must have worked long enough — and recently enough — in jobs covered by Social Security.

To learn more about disability benefits, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

You become eligible for Social Security benefits by working and paying FICA taxes, which translate into Social Security “credits.” How many credits you need to receive disability benefits depends on how old you are when you become disabled.

For example, if you become disabled at age 31 or older, you generally must have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled. Twenty credits are equal to five years of substantial earnings. Younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.

To see how many credits you have earned and to estimate future benefits, please log in to or create your my Social Security online account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Those who have not worked enough to qualify for Social Security benefits may be eligible for help through our Supplemental Security Income program, or “SSI.” SSI provides financial assistance to disabled children and adults, as well as the aged and blind people, who have little or no income or resources. Learn more about SSI at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.

Social Security helps you and millions of other Americans secure today and tomorrow by providing important financial benefits, information, and planning tools. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.


SOCIAL SECURITY’S GIFT TO CHILDREN IS SECURITY  - 12/06/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

During the holiday season, most of us, regardless of religion or beliefs, focus on the children we love. Caring for children is one of the best ways to safeguard the future. And we at Social Security know a thing or two about helping children.

The application for a Social Security number and card is sometimes overlooked in the paperwork that parents fill out in preparation for a child’s birth. Typically, the hospital will ask new mothers if they want to apply for a Social Security number for their newborn as part of the birth registration process. This is the easiest and fastest way to apply. The Social Security card typically arrives about a week to ten days after that little bundle of joy! You can learn about Social Security numbers for children by reading our publication, Social Security Numbers for Children, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

A child needs a Social Security number if he or she is going to have a bank account, if a relative is buying savings bonds for the child, if the child will have medical coverage, or if the child will receive government services. You’ll also need a Social Security number for a child to claim him or her on your tax returns.

If you wait to apply, you will have to visit a Social Security office and you’ll need to:

o Complete an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5);
o Show us original documents proving your child’s U.S. citizenship, age, and identity; and
o Show us documents proving your identity.

A child age 12 or older requesting an original Social Security number must appear in person for the interview, even though a parent or guardian will sign the application on the child’s behalf.

Children with disabilities are among our most vulnerable citizens. Social Security is dedicated to helping those with qualifying disabilities and their families through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. To qualify for SSI:
o The child must have a physical or mental condition, or a combination of conditions, resulting in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This means that the condition(s) must severely limit your child’s activities;
o The child’s condition(s) must be severe, last for at least 12 months, or be expected to result in death; and
o The child must not be working and earning more than the Substantial Gainful Activity limit ($1,180 a month in 2018).

If your child’s condition(s) does not result in “marked and severe limitations,” or does not result in those limitations lasting for at least 12 months, your child will not qualify for SSI.

Family resources are also considered. 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.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10026.pdf.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/people/kids to learn more about all we do to care for children. Social Security is with you and your children through your life’s journey, securing today and tomorrow.


IS IT MEDICARE OR MEDICAID?  - 12/06/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

A lot of people have a difficult time understanding the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. Both programs begin with the letter “M.” They’re both health insurance programs run by the government. People often ask questions about what Medicare and Medicaid are, what services they cover, and who administers the programs.

Let’s start with Medicare. Medicare is the national healthcare program for those aged 65 or older and the disabled. You pay for some Medicare expenses by paying the Medicare tax while you work. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is the agency in charge of both Medicare and Medicaid, but you sign up for Medicare A (Hospital) and Medicare B (Medical) through Social Security.

You can apply for Medicare online from the convenience of your home at the link on our website: www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare. If you’re already receiving Social Security retirement benefits when you reach age 65 or are in the 25th month of receiving disability checks, we will enroll you automatically.

Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D (Prescription Drug) plans are available for purchase in the insurance marketplace. Social Security administers a program called Extra Help to help people with low income and low resources pay for premiums, co-pays, and co-insurance costs for Part D plans. You can find out more about Extra Help and file for it at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare/prescriptionhelp. Each year, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services publishes Medicare and You available online at their website at www.medicare.gov/medicare-and-you/medicare-and-you.html. This publication is a user’s manual for Medicare.

Each state runs their own Medicaid program under guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicaid offers care for the most vulnerable among us. While it does not require paying taxes while working, it does have guidelines about how much income and resources you can have to qualify. Medicaid provides coverage for older people, people with disabilities, and some families with children. Each state has its own eligibility rules and decides which services to cover. The names of the Medicaid program may vary from state to state. You can read about each state’s Medicaid program at www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/by-state/by-state.html. You can find each state’s Medicaid contact information at www.medicaid.gov/about-us/contact-us/contact-state-page.html.

Medicare and Medicaid are two of the major insurance programs that provide healthcare to the American public. Understanding each program, as well as how the two programs differ, can help you and those you care about find the right healthcare program.


5 WAYS SOCIAL SECURITY PROTECTS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY  - 12/06/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Next payday, when you see a portion of your wages go toward FICA taxes, rest easier knowing that your investment in Social Security brings a lifetime of protections for you and your family.

From your first job and throughout your career, we track your earnings and give you credits for the contributions you’ve made through payroll taxes. Those credits can translate into important future benefits. As you prepare for a financially secure future, you should know about these five benefits that you, your spouse, and your children may become eligible for through Social Security:

Retirement benefits provide you with a continuous source of income later in life. If you’ve earned enough credits, you can start receiving your full retirement benefits at age 66 or 67 — depending on when you were born. You may choose to claim these benefits as early as age 62 at a permanently reduced rate, but waiting until after your full retirement age increases your benefit amount by up to 8 percent per year to age 70. Plan for your retirement at: www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire.

Disability benefits offer a financial lifeline if you’re struck by a serious medical condition that makes it impossible for you to work and provide for yourself and your family and is expected to last at least one year or to result in death. Learn more at: www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

Child benefits support your minor children while you’re receiving Social Security retirement benefits or disability benefits. This financial support also is available to adult children who become disabled before age 22. Grandchildren and stepchildren may qualify in certain situations. Please see: wwww.socialsecurity.gov/people/kids.

Spousal benefits supplement a couple’s income if one of the two never worked or had low lifetime earnings. In some cases, this benefit is also available to divorced spouses. Please see: www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/applying6.html.

Survivor benefits ease the financial burden on your loved ones after you die by providing monthly payments to eligible widows, widowers, children, and dependent parents. It’s likely the survivor benefits you have under Social Security carry greater value than your individual life-insurance policy. Read more about survivor benefits at: www.socialsecurity.gov/survivors.

You must meet specific eligibility requirements to receive any type of Social Security benefits.

Currently, Social Security provides benefits to more than 61 million American workers and their families. And we’ll be there for you and your family through life’s journey.
Learn more about all of our programs at www.socialsecurity.gov.


13 FEARLESS THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER  - 10/24/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

While many of us look forward to Friday, with its end-of-the-workweek designation and our weekend plans, certain cultures consider it an unlucky day. Some people, suffering from triskaidekaphobia, are truly terrified of the number 13. Combine the two factors and it’s not surprising that many believe that Friday the 13th is a frightening day.

While superstitions play an important part in the Friday the 13th jitters, we offer a different approach to this “unlucky” day with 13 fearless things to know about your Social Security number and card.
1. Your Social Security number is your link to Retirement or Disability benefits since we use it to record your wages and earnings.
2. There is no charge to obtain a Social Security number and card. This service is free.
3. We keep your records confidential and don’t disclose your number to anyone, except when the law requires, or when your information connects you with other government health or social services programs.
4. To prevent identity theft, keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers and be careful about sharing your number. If asked for your number, find out why your number is needed, how it will be used, and what happens if you refuse to provide it.
5. While you need a Social Security number to get a job or for other services, you often don’t need to show your Social Security card. Many organizations can verify your Social Security number directly with us.
6. If your Social Security card is lost, you can replace it up to three times a year with a lifetime limit of 10 replacement cards. Legal name changes and other exceptions will not count toward these limits.
7. You can request a replacement Social Security card with the ease and convenience of our online services if you have a my Social Security account and meet our qualifications. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount
8. If you suspect someone is using your number for work purposes, contact us to report the problem so we can review your earnings and verify that our records are correct. You also may view your annual earnings by accessing your Social Security Statement, one of the many services available with a my Social Security account.
9. If you suspect someone is misusing your number to create credit or other problems for you, report the identify theft with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.identitytheft.gov or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT. We also recommend that you contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if fraudulent tax refunds or reporting is involved, quickly file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at www.ic3.gov, and monitor your credit reports.
10. The nine-digit Social Security number was initiated in 1936 for tracking workers’ earnings over the course of their lifetimes for benefits, not with the intent of personal identification. Since 1936, we have issued over 30 different versions of the Social Security number card.
11. Until June 2011, the first three digits of a Social Security number were determined by the geographical region in which the person lived. Numbers were assigned beginning in the northeast and moving westward. Residents on the east coast often have lower numbers than those on the west coast. Any number beginning with 000 will never be a valid Social Security number.
12. Beginning in June 2011, we assigned Social Security numbers randomly, which protects the integrity of the Social Security number, eliminates the geographical significance of the first three digits of the Social Security number, and extends the longevity of the nine-digit Social Security number.
13. Since November 1936, we have issued 453.7 million different numbers and there are approximately 420 million numbers available for future assignments. We assign about 5.5 million new numbers a year.

Fear not, if you properly protect your Social Security number and card. Information about applying for a Social Security card, name changes, identity theft, and other answers to frequently asked questions is available at www.socialsecurity.gov, or by calling us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


A CALCULATED RETIREMENT  - 10/24/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Calculating when you should retire requires evaluating all sources of your retirement income. There are many factors to consider, including your personal retirement goals. With multiple factors affecting your decision, sometimes it’s difficult to see the big retirement picture.

Social Security secures your today and tomorrow by offering a webpage of calculators to help you plan your Social Security retirement benefits. You can access our online calculators at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.html to get started planning.

Visit our calculator page and fine-tune your benefit estimate by using the Retirement Estimator if you have the required 40 work credits. Changes in your personal circumstances may cause changes in the number of years you work before you retire. Suppose you had planned to work an additional ten years before retiring, but now you are considering moving that up to the end of this year. How can you determine how much the difference in dollars in the monthly benefits will be? You can create one estimate with your projected earnings through this year and another including the next ten years. These are estimates, but they will give you an approximation for each retirement age to help you make your decision.

You can also use our Online Calculator if you don’t have 40 work credits. You need to enter all of your earnings manually, but you can project future earnings through your potential retirement date. Again, this is an estimate based on your future estimated earnings, but it provides you with planning numbers.

These three calculators will meet almost everyone’s pre-retirement planning needs. But, wait, there’s more. Use the Life Expectancy Calculator for a rough estimate of how long you might live. The Retirement Age Calculator determines your full retirement age and shows the differences when benefits are taken early. The Early or Late Retirement Calculator can show the differences in benefit amount if you file early or wait until later to start benefits. You can use the Benefits for Spouse Calculator to find out how your spouse’s benefit changes if taken early. You can access all of these at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/benefitcalculators.html

Another great planning tool is the Social Security Statement. Get yours today with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

With our calculators doing all the number crunching, we make the big picture easier to see. The road to retirement is in the viewfinder and you have your resources ready. Now that you know which calculator to use, you can start figuring your best retirement option for a calculated retirement.


ACCESS MY SOCIAL SECURITY ON THE GO!  - 10/24/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Smartphones have been in our lives for over a decade and have changed the way we interact with each other. Social Security is at the forefront of technological advancements, making your online business with us easier and more secure.

About a third of the visitors to SocialSecurity.gov use their smart phones to learn about our programs, find answers to their questions, and access our online services. Now you can access your personal my Social Security account on the go or from the comfort of your home. By visiting
www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, you can:
o Request a replacement Social Security card, if you meet certain requirements;
o Check the status of your application or appeal.
o Get your Social Security Statement to review estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits;
o Check your earnings every year to verify the amounts that we recorded are correct; and
o See the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

There are even more things you can do with my Social Security if you’re receiving benefits. You can get a letter that verifies your benefit amount, check your benefit and payment information and your earnings record, and change your address and phone number. You also can request a replacement Medicare card, confirm changes to your direct deposit information, and even get a replacement SSA-1099 for tax season.

We’re continuing to improve my Social Security all the time and make more services available online. Residents of the District Columbia and more than 20 states can now request a replacement Social Security card online using my Social Security. It’s an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online.

To request a replacement card online, you must:
o Have or create a my Social Security account;
o Have a valid driver’s license in a participating state or the District of Columbia (or a state-issued identification card in some states);
o Be age 18 or older and a United States citizen with a domestic U.S. mailing address (this includes APO, FPO, and DPO addresses); and
o Not be requesting a name change or any other changes to your card.

Securing today and tomorrow can start now. Putting you in control of your future is a priority for us. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount today to learn more and to sign up for your own account.


HOW DID THEY DO IT WITHOUT COMPUTERS?  - 10/24/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

More than 85 percent of American homes have some sort of computer. Millions of people rely on computers daily to access, formulate, and store information. People use computers for everything from sharing family pictures to shopping to banking and paying bills. But, we haven’t always been able to count on the convenience of the computer to make our lives easier.

How did Social Security, one of the world’s largest “bookkeeping operations”, manage to keep records of our nation’s workers before we had computers? How did we match workers with their earnings?

We used a process called the “Visible Index” that used tiny, bamboo strips wrapped in paper that were inserted into metal panels. The panels could be flipped back and forth to view the information on each side. Clerks had to look at each strip to find the exact Social Security number for a specific person. In 1959, when Social Security began converting information to microfilm, there were 163 million individual strips in the Visible Index.

The workers’ names were filed alphabetically by surname using a phonetic pronunciation code to ensure consistent filing. There were hundreds of thousands of people with the same surname. How did the staff meet the challenge? By knowing the system. Clerks familiar with the Index could locate a specific record within 60 seconds.

The Index took about 24,000 square feet of floor space and was extremely heavy. No building in the District of Columbia had floors sturdy enough to support the ever-increasing load. These weighty considerations led to Social Security getting its first large-scale computer, an IBM 705. Starting in 1956, the 705 was tasked with handling most of the accounting functions for the agency. It was still humming when it was replaced by a later generation of computers in 1961.

Back in 1937, there were only about 26 million American workers; but today, Social Security processes 260 million worker’s annual wage reports. We have changed over time to meet the challenges of recording worker’s earnings correctly. Today, you don’t need a clerk or a visit to a local Social Security office to check your own information. That’s right. You can check yours now by either using your existing my Social Security account or by setting one up at
www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

Changing to meet challenges is just one of the ways we secure your today and tomorrow. You can read more about the history of Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/history/index.html


RETIRING ABROAD? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GETTING BENEFITS OVERSEAS  - 10/24/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Retiring outside of the United States can be an exciting way to spend your golden years. Perhaps retirement in Poland or Peru is in your plans. In many cases, it’s possible to receive your Social Security retirement benefits while living abroad. Our website can help you navigate your benefit eligibility while living overseas.

If you’ve worked in both the United States and another country, it may be possible for your credits to combine for a larger benefit. Currently, there are 25 countries with such international agreements with the United States. To find out if you have qualifying work in a country with such an agreement, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/international

You can receive benefits in many countries. To find out whether you can receive your benefits in the country where you are retiring, you should use our Payments Abroad Screening Tool at www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments_outsideUS.html

There are easy ways to get in touch with us and report changes to Social Security when you live overseas. You can contact your local U.S. embassy, write to us by mail, or call us at 1-800-772-1213. You can find other information in regards to living overseas at www.socialsecurity.gov/foreign.

Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey, even if that journey takes you outside the United States. You can always access our wide range of safe and secure online resources at www.socialsecurity.gov


ADDING ADDITIONAL SECURITY TO PROTECT WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU - 06/05/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

If you’re 18 or older and work, open your my Social Security account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Make sure your earnings information is correct. If you’re receiving benefits already, manage your information online!
 
Social Security continues to evaluate and improve how we protect what’s important to you. We take this responsibility seriously, and we have a robust cybersecurity program in place to help protect the personal information you entrust to us. Adding additional security measures to safeguard your personal information — but making them easy to use — is a vital part of keeping you safe and secure.

Most people who do business with us online use our my Social Security portal, where, if you currently receive benefits you can:

o Request a replacement Social Security card if you meet certain requirements;
o Get your benefit verification letter;
o Check your benefit and payment information and your earnings record;
o Change your address and phone number;
o Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment;
o Request a replacement Medicare card; and
o Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

If you currently don’t receive benefits, you can request a replacement Social Security card if you meet certain requirements, check the status of your application or appeal, as well as access a number of other useful resources. Since my Social Security became available in May 2012, more than 30 million people have created and use my Social Security accounts.

As of June 10, 2017, we require a second method to check the identification of my Social Security account holders when they register or sign in. This is in addition to the first layer of security, a username and password. You will be able to choose either your cell phone or your email address as your second identification method. Using two ways to identify you when you log on will help better protect your account from unauthorized use and potential identity fraud. If you plan to select email as your second method, you can ensure that the one-time security code email does not go into your spam or junk folder by adding NO-REPLY@ssa.gov to your contact list.

We’re committed to using the best technologies and standards available to protect our customers’ data. This new security advancement is just one of the ways we’re ensuring the safety of the resources entrusted to us.

The my Social Security portal will also now automatically adjust to the size of the screen and kind of device you are using – such as a tablet, smart phone, or computer. No matter what type of device you choose, you will have full, easy-to-use access to your personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

Our new my Social Security design puts you in control — whether you’re using a computer, smart phone, or tablet.


SECURE YOUR FUTURE WITH NATIONAL SOCIAL SECURITY MONTH - 04/07/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

For more than 80 years, Social Security has helped secure today and tomorrow with information, tools, and resources to meet our customers’ changing needs and lifestyles.

In April, we celebrate National Social Security Month and encourage you to know your Social Security by exploring what you can do online at www.socialsecurity.gov  Social Security is collaborating with groups and organizations around the country to host numerous events and activities to raise awareness about our many valuable benefits, services, and programs.

What Social Security Offers

Easy accessibility: www.socialsecurity.gov is available 24/7 with detailed information, publications, Frequently Asked Questions, and other resources for almost any circumstance. Whether you want to estimate the amount of your future Social Security benefits, replace a lost Social Security card, or apply for retirement, disability, or survivors benefits, www.socialsecurity.gov is your reliable source for information to help you and your loved ones.

Convenient services: Our convenient and secure online services at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices put you in control. You can apply for Social Security benefits, check the status of your application or appeal, get an instant benefit verification letter, verify your lifetime earnings, block electronic access to your information, and so much more — all without having to visit a local office or calling to speak to a representative.

Secure interaction: One of our most important responsibilities is protecting your personal information and your financial contributions. We use state-of-the-art systems for this, conduct continuous reviews to help us ensure proper payments, and much more. And we work hard to educate everyone on best practices for protecting their Social Security number.

We’re committed to safeguarding the information and resources entrusted to us. Are you looking for secure access to your Social Security information? Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and create your personal my Social Security account.

Join our efforts to promote National Social Security Month. Share our message: “Get to know your Social Security and see what you can do online” by sharing our social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. Or you can create your own message expressing the success you’ve had with our many services and programs. We’re here for you, through life’s journey, at www.socialsecurity.gov


RECEIVING HOUSING BENEFITS? A TRIP TO SOCIAL SECURITY MAY NOT BE NECESSARY  - 03/06/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Social Security is constantly evolving to make your life easier. If you are currently receiving benefits from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and are reapplying for benefits, or are assisting someone with their application, a trip to the Social Security office is probably not necessary even if verification of Social Security benefits is needed.

Because of a data exchange established between Social Security and HUD, most people do not need to contact Social Security for a benefit verification letter. HUD administrators processing a Recertification Application for Housing Assistance can use their Enterprise Income Verification (EIV) System to verify Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Public housing agencies, private owners, and management agents administering HUD rental assistance programs may get registration information about EIV by logging onto the following websites: go.usa.gov/x97mH or go.usa.gov/x97m6

If you are a new applicant for housing assistance, you can provide your HUD administrator with your Social Security award letter, Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) notice, SSA-1099, or other SSA benefit document you should have received at the beginning of the calendar year or when you began receiving benefits, whichever is later.

We created these data exchange agreements to help you get the support you need at the first point of contact, even if that’s not with Social Security. If you do need to provide proof of Social Security benefits yourself, we have another way to save you a trip to Social Security. You can get an instant benefit verification letter with a personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount


WHEN IS A GOOD TIME TO START RECEIVING SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS?  - 03/06/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Enjoying a comfortable retirement is everyone’s dream. For over 80 years, Social Security has been helping people realize those dreams, assisting people through life’s journey with a variety of benefits. It’s up to you as to when you can start retirement benefits. You could start them a little earlier or wait until your “full retirement age.” There are benefits to either decision, pun intended.

Full retirement age refers to the age when a person can receive their Social Security benefits without any reduction, even if they are still working part or full time. In other words, you don’t actually need to stop working to get your full benefits.

For people who attain age 62 in 2017 (i.e., those born between January 2, 1955 and January 1, 1956), full retirement age is 66 and two months. Full retirement age was age 65 for many years. However, due to a law passed by Congress in 1983, it has been gradually increasing, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959. 
You can learn more about the full retirement age and find out how to look up your own at

www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html

You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or any time after that. The longer you wait, the higher your monthly benefit will be, although it stops increasing at age 70. Your monthly benefits will be reduced permanently if you start them any time before your full retirement age. For example, if you start receiving benefits in 2017 at age 62, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced permanently by about 26 percent.

On the other hand, if you wait to start receiving your benefits until after your full retirement age, then your monthly benefit will be higher. The amount of this increase is two-thirds of one percent for each month –– or eight percent for each year –– that you delay receiving them until you reach age 70. The choices you make may affect any benefit your spouse or children can receive on your record, too. If you receive benefits early, it may reduce their potential benefit, as well as yours.

You need to be as informed as possible when making any decision about receiving Social Security benefits. Read the publication When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf

If you decide to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should also understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits. Social Security may withhold or reduce your benefits if your annual earnings exceed a certain amount. However, for every month benefits are withheld, it increases your future benefits. That’s because at your full retirement age Social Security will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for the months in which benefits were reduced or withheld due to your excess earnings. In effect, it’s as if you hadn’t filed for those months. You can learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html

Social Security’s mission is to secure your today and tomorrow. Helping you make the right retirement decisions is vital. You can learn more by visiting our Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire


PLANNING WILL HELP YOU SEE GREEN IN RETIREMENT  - 03/06/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Social Security has been a cornerstone of financial security for over 80 years. As you might already know, a lifetime of measured discipline can ensure a comfortable retirement. Social Security can help you plan, save, and see plenty of green in your golden years.

Social Security is part of the retirement plan of almost every American worker. If you’re among the 96 percent of workers in the United States covered under Social Security, it is helpful to know what benefits you are entitled to. Social Security bases your benefit payment on how much you earned during your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If there were some years you didn’t work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you worked steadily. How do you know what your retirement benefits might be so you can plan? Create a safe and secure my Social Security account to view estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and create your account today.

Social Security benefits help secure your today and tomorrow, but many people will need more retirement income. Saving for retirement is key. You might also have a pension or 401k. Combining as many savings resources will mean more income once you retire.

Your personal my Social Security account continues to benefit you once you file for benefits and beyond. Use your account to check the status of your application and, once you are receiving benefits, use your account to manage them. For example, you can start or change your direct deposit, change your address and phone number, get proof of benefits, and much more—online and at your convenience. Learn about all the great advantages of having your own my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

Social Security puts you in control. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov regularly to access the ever-evolving tools and information we provide.


YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS MAKE OUR NATION STRONGER - 03/06/2017
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

At first, seeing taxes taken out of your paycheck can be a little disappointing. However, you can take pride in knowing you’re making an important impact each week when you contribute to Social Security. Understanding how important your contribution is takes some of the sting away because your taxes are helping millions of Americans — and protecting you and your family for life — as well as wounded warriors, the chronically ill, and disabled.

By law, employers must withhold Social Security taxes from a worker’s paycheck. While usually referred to as “Social Security taxes” on an employee’s pay statement, sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a reference to the original Social Security Act. In some cases, you will see “OASDI” which stands for Old Age Survivors Disability Insurance.

The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection — for retirement in old age or in the event of disability. And when you die, your family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work as well.

Because you may be a long way from retirement, you might have a tough time seeing the value of benefit payments that could be many decades in the future. But keep in mind that the Social Security taxes you’re paying can provide valuable disability or survivors benefits now in the event the unexpected happens. Studies show that of today’s 20-year-olds, about one in four will become disabled, and about one in eight will die, before reaching retirement.

Be warned: if an employer offers to pay you “under the table,” you should refuse. It’s against the law. They may try to sell it as a benefit to you since you get a few extra dollars in your pay. But you’re really only allowing the employer to cheat you out of your Social Security credits.

If you’d like to learn a little more about Social Security and exactly what you’re building up for yourself by paying Social Security taxes, take a look at our online booklet, How You Earn Credits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html

If you have a friend who lost a parent when they were a child, they probably got Social Security survivors benefits. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die. In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent dies. And Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program. You can learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/survivors


SOCIAL SECURITY COVERS YOU WHEN YOU’RE ABROAD   - 11/7/2016
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Social Security has you covered, even outside our nation’s borders. We’re with you through life’s journey, even if you’re traveling outside the United States. Many people who travel or live outside the country receive some kind of Social Security benefit, including retired and disabled workers, as well as spouses, widows, widowers, and children.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the United States as long as you are eligible. When we say you are “outside the United States,” we mean you’re not in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa. Once you’ve been outside the United States for at least 30 days in a row, we consider you to be outside the country. Whether you’re off to Europe, or considering a stay in our newly reopened neighbor, Cuba, you may be able to receive your Social Security benefits even while you’re outside the United States. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you cannot receive benefits if you’re outside of the United States for a month or more.

If you’re traveling outside the U.S. for an extended amount of time, it’s important that you tell Social Security the date you plan to leave and the date you plan to come back, no matter how long you expect your travel to last.
You can use this online tool to find out if you can continue to receive your Social Security benefits if you are outside the United States or are planning to go outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments_outsideUS.html

This tool will help you find out if your retirement, disability, or survivor’s payments will continue as long as you are eligible, stop after six consecutive calendar months, or if certain country-specific restrictions apply.
When you live outside the United States, we send you a questionnaire periodically. Your answers will help us figure out if you still are eligible for benefits. Return the questionnaire to the office that sent it as soon as possible. If you don’t, your payments will stop. In addition to responding to the questionnaire, notify us promptly about changes that could affect your payments.

You can also read the publication titled Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States at

www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs

Securing today and tomorrow is our priority, no matter where you might be living.


DON’T BE SKEPTICAL, SOCIAL SECURITY IS HERE TO STAY  - 10/17/2016
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region



It’s healthy to be skeptical in a world of uncertainties. Major news networks sometimes broadcast conflicting facts that require a bit of research to verify. There’s even a day in October dedicated to skeptics. So, this is the perfect time to tell all the skeptics that there’s no reason to think Social Security won’t be here for you well into the future.

Recently, the Social Security Board of Trustees released its 76th annual report to Congress presenting the financial status of the Social Security trust funds for the short term and over the next 75 years. We’re pleased that legislation signed into law by President Obama last November averted a near-term shortfall in the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund that was detailed in a previous report.

With that small, temporary reallocation of the Social Security contribution rate, the DI fund will now be able to pay full benefits until 2023, and the retirement fund will be adequate into 2035. It is important that members of Congress act well before 2023 in order to strengthen the finances of the program. As a whole, Social Security is fully funded until 2034, and after that it is about three-quarters financed.

Many people wonder if Social Security will be there for them. Here’s a fact that will relieve any skepticism you might have: the increased cost of providing Social Security benefits for Baby Boomers is less than the nation’s increase in spending was for public education when the baby boomers were children.

Put your skepticism aside and rest assured that Social Security is with you today and will be with you tomorrow. You can read the entire report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2016


DISCOVER A WHOLE WORLD OF RETIREMENT POSSIBILITIES  - 10/17/2016
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Christopher Columbus might be one of the most famous explorers in America. He’s credited with discovering the New World, though Native Americans were here long before the Italian sailor.

Centuries later, there are new horizons to explore and you can do it from the comfort of your home or office. With Social Security, you can discover a new world of information and services at www.socialsecurity.gov

For example, you can apply online for Social Security retirement benefits. Not sure whether you’re ready for retirement? We can help you plot your course with our online benefit planners. Perhaps the most impressive of these planners is the online Retirement Estimator, which you can use to get quick and accurate estimates of your retirement benefits based on different scenarios. You also can apply online for disability benefits and even apply online for help to pay the costs of the Medicare prescription drug program at www.socialsecurity.gov

One of our most powerful tools is our website: my Social Security. Create your online account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and then you'll always have quick and easy access to see and update your information. You can use my Social Security to get estimates of your retirement, disability, and survivors benefits; view your earnings record; and get estimates of the Social Security and Medicare taxes you've paid.

If you already receive Social Security benefits, you can use your account to get an instant benefit verification letter, check your benefit and payment information, and to change your address, phone number, and direct deposit information. If you receive Medicare, you can get a replacement Medicare card using my Social Security. Whether you receive benefits or not, you may be able to apply for a replacement Social Security card in certain states, all online.

We’ve made exploring your bright future secure and easy at www.socialsecurity.gov Remember, we’re with you through life’s journey. Social Security online tools will help you decide when to weigh anchor, and venture into the seas of retirement.


FOCUS ON RETIREMENT PLANNING — IT’S YOUR FUTURE  - 9/1/2016
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

When most people begin their career, retirement is the farthest thing from their mind. Instead, they focus on trying to purchase a home, start a family, or perhaps save money for travel. Retirement seems so far away for many younger people that they delay putting aside money. However, it’s very important to save for the future — if you want to enjoy it.

An employer-sponsored retirement plan or 401(k) can be a useful way to set aside funds for retirement, especially if your employer offers matching funds on what you invest. If you don’t work for an employer that offers this type of plan, there are many other plans designed to help you save for retirement.

From solo 401(k)s to traditional and Roth IRAs, there are programs designed to fit a multitude of budgets. The earlier you start to save, the more funds you’ll have ready for retirement.

In addition to traditional programs, the U.S. Department of the Treasury now offers a retirement savings option called myRA. There’s no minimum to open the account, you can contribute what you can afford, and you can withdraw funds with ease. To learn more about myRA, visit www.myra.gov

And, as always, there is Social Security, which is funded by taxes you pay while you work. To get estimates of future benefits and check your earnings record for accuracy, you can create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

Prepare for your future and start saving — and planning — today!


PREPARE FOR YOUR DISABILITY INTERVIEW: TIPS FROM SOCIAL SECURITY  - 9/1/2016
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

When a person becomes disabled, it can be a very stressful time in their life. There are many questions and unknowns when you have to transition out of the workforce due to medical issues. While an employer may offer short or long-term disability, most people faced with a disability will file for benefits with Social Security.

If you’re facing life with a disability and don’t know where to start, we encourage you to visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityssi You can apply for benefits on our website; it’s the most convenient way. Additionally, you can contact us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local office if you wish to apply for disability benefits. When applying for benefits, you should be prepared to answer a number of questions including:

• When your conditions became disabling:
o Dates you last worked;
o The names, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of visits to your doctors;
o The names of medications that you take and medical tests you’ve had; and
o Marital information.
• In addition, if you plan on applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability payments, for people with low income who haven’t paid enough in Social Security taxes to be covered, we will ask you questions about:
o Your current living arrangement, including who lives there and household expenses;
o All sources of income for you and your spouse, if applicable; and
o The amount of your resources, including bank account balances, vehicles, and other investments.

You can view our disability starter kit at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits.htm

Remember, we are there when you might be faced with one of the hardest obstacles of your life. Social Security helps secure today and tomorrow with critical benefits for people with severe disabilities, not just during retirement.

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov


PREPARE FOR YOUR DISABILITY INTERVIEW: TIPS FROM SOCIAL SECURITY  - 9/1/2016
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Social Security joins you and your family in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15.

We know the contributions of Hispanics can be traced to before the origins of the United States with the discovery, exploration, and naming of many places in our nation, such as state names like California, Colorado, and Texas and city names like San Antonio, Santa Barbara, and Boca Raton. Hispanics have influenced every facet of life, from language to our cultural development. Hispanics play a crucial role in American life.

The most important things to you are your family and maintaining the feeling of individuality through your language. That’s why Social Security provides a website — www.segurosocial.gov — with a variety of publications and services in Spanish that are important to you and your family.

If you need to apply for your first Social Security number or a get a replacement Social Security card, we invite you to read our publications Social Security Numbers for Children and Your Social Security Number and Card.

We offer a toll free number, 1-800-772-1213, which provides automated instructions for Spanish speakers. We also try to have employees available on the phone and in many of our offices who speak Spanish. However, if you need an interpreter, you can go to www.segurosocial.gov/espanol/interpreter.htm to find out more about our free interpreter services.

Just as grandparents help guide their grandchildren through life’s journey, we at Social Security are with you throughout yours. The services we provide guide you through your journey from birth, with your first social security card, to your dream of a secure retirement.

You don’t have to wait to find out what your retirement benefits may be. We provide the Retirement Estimator, one of our most popular online calculators, in Spanish. It offers instant, approximate estimates of your future retirement benefits. Try it for yourself at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador  Remember what your father wisely said to you: “It is up to this generation to secure our community’s today and tomorrow."

Whether it’s through our website, visiting one of our offices, or calling our toll free number, we at Social Security maintain our commitment of providing first-class service to the nation’s growing Latino community.
To learn more, visit www.segurosocial.gov


SOCIAL SECURITY COVERS CHILDREN BATTLING CANCER  - 9/1/2016
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

The effects of cancer on our society are devastating for those directly and indirectly dealing with the disease. Sadly, thousands of people under the age of 20 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and it remains the leading cause of disease-related death for children. We honor the courage of children who are battling the many forms of cancer, as well as the young people who lost their lives to these terrible diseases.

Social Security provides benefits for children who suffer from many disabling diseases, including some forms of cancer. These benefits could help with the additional costs of caring for an ill child. Although children haven’t paid Social Security taxes and, thus, cannot be covered for Social Security disability benefits, they may receive disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. SSI pays benefits to disabled children who have limited income and resources.

If you wish to apply for benefits for your child, you’ll need to complete an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and a Child Disability Report. The report collects information about your child’s disabling condition, and about how it affects his or her ability to function.

Here are the steps to apply.
o Review the Child Disability Starter Kit. This kit answers common questions about applying for SSI benefits for children, and includes a worksheet that will help you gather the information you will need. You can view the starter kit at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_child_eng.htm
o The SSI program has strict limits on the amount of income and assets you can have. It is a “needs-based” program for people who have low family income and resources. Contact Social Security right away to find out if the income and resources of the parents and the child are within the allowed limits, and to start the SSI application process.
o Fill out the online Child Disability Report. At the end of the report, we’ll ask you to sign a form that gives the child's doctor(s) permission to give us information about the child’s disability. We need this information to make a decision on your child’s application. The Child Disability Report is available in the Child Disability Starter Kit.

Social Security also has an obligation to provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that they obviously meet our strict disability standards. Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances program enables us to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify under the listing of impairments based on minimal objective medical information. The Compassionate Allowances list allows Social Security to identify the most seriously disabled people for allowances based on objective medical information that we can obtain quickly. Compassionate Allowances is not a separate program from the SSI program. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances

Social Security is here to provide benefits for the most vulnerable members of our society — including children with severe disabilities. If you or anyone in your family needs assistance, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disability


RETIRING OVERSEAS? WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GETTING BENEFITS ABROAD  - 9/1/2016
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York

There are a number of people who choose to live their retirement years in places outside of the United States. Perhaps retirement in Thailand or Portugal is in your plans. Maybe you plan to split your year between Central Europe and Central Asia. In many cases, it’s still possible to receive your retirement benefits while living abroad. Our website can help you navigate your benefit eligibility while living overseas.

If you’ve worked in both the United States and another country, it may be possible for your credits to combine for a larger benefit. Currently, there are 25 countries with such international agreements with the United States. To find out if you have qualifying work in a country with such an agreement, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/international.

You can receive benefits in many countries. To find out whether you can receive your benefits in the country where you are retiring, you should use our Payments Abroad Screening Tool at

www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments_outsideUS_page10.html

There are easy ways to get in touch with us and report changes to Social Security if you live overseas. You can contact your local U.S. embassy, write to us by mail, or call us at 1-800-772-1213. You can find other information in regards to living overseas at www.socialsecurity.gov/foreign


SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY HELPS PEOPLE WHO WORK  - 10/22/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York

People with disabilities are challenged with both overcoming barriers and with convincing others that those barriers do not define them.

That’s why we wanted to mark this October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month by reminding you that Social Security is an earned benefit for millions of disabled individuals, and we can assist them in going back to work.

The Social Security disability insurance program, or SSDI, is perhaps the most misunderstood program of Social Security. Some people may think that SSDI recipients have never worked and are taking advantage of the system by receiving money for minor impairments.

Nothing could be further from the truth. First, anyone who qualifies for SSDI must have worked enough to pay into the system and be “insured.” Second, Social Security has some of the strictest requirements in the world for disability benefits. To qualify, a person must not only have an impairment that will last one year or more, or result in death, but they must be unable to perform any substantial work.

Consequently, Social Security disability beneficiaries are some of the most severely impaired people in the country, and they greatly depend on their benefits. You can learn more by visiting the Faces and Facts website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts At the website, you will find many personal stories of those who have benefited from Social Security when they needed it most.

We also have incentives that give beneficiaries with disabilities — who are able — the opportunity to return to work. These work incentives include continued cash benefits for a period of time while you work, continued Medicare or Medicaid coverage, and help with education, training, and rehabilitation to start a new line of work. In some cases, we may even be able to deduct certain impairment-related work expenses from your countable income, making it possible to earn more and also remain eligible to receive benefits. Examples of these expenses are wheelchairs, transportation costs, and specialized equipment needed for work.

Social Security also offers the Ticket to Work program, which gives participants a “ticket” to go back to work while keeping their disability benefits. This program is free and voluntary. Ticket to Work gives access to an employment network, which offers assistance with job searches and placement, and vocational rehabilitation and training.

Those who enroll find the Ticket to Work program makes it easier to explore whether going back to work is right for them. Some even find that they are able to eventually get back to work and earn far more than the disability payments they once received.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/
work for more information on the Ticket to Work program and work incentives. You may also call 1-866-968-7842 (TDD 866-833-2967).


MAKE YOUR FUTURE A GOOD ONE WITH THE RETIREMENT ESTIMATOR  - 10/22/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

In 1985, after making it back to the future from 1955, Marty joined Doc for a drive 30 years into the future. That future is now.

If the alternate 2015 of the Back to the Future film series were accurate, we’d be easing along on hover boards, navigating skyways in flying cars, and enjoying the luxuries of self-lacing sneakers and self-fitting jackets.

In that imagined 2015, we conduct business by fax and watch multiple channels of entertainment on the wall.

In some ways, the real 2015 is far more advanced than the imagined one of the movies. You don’t see any computers or online services in the movie — let alone the computers most of us carry around with us in the form of smart phones and tablets.

In the real 2015, you can do a far better job of predicting your own future. Just visit the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire/estimator.html
 With the Retirement Estimator, you can plug in some basic information to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future benefits. Different choices in life can alter the course of your future, so try out different scenarios such as higher and lower future earnings amounts and various retirement dates to get a good prediction of how such things can change your future benefit amounts.

As Doc said in the final moments of the film series, no one’s future has been written yet. “Your future is what you make it. So make it a good one.”

With the information you get from the Retirement Estimator, you’ll have a better idea of what types of savings and pensions you may need, and at what age you should consider retiring — to make your future the best it can be.

You don’t need a converted DeLorean or flux capacitor or even a team of creative filmmakers to predict your future. Just visit the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire/estimator.html


And when you’re ready to put that future in motion, apply for benefits online at

www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/apply-for-benefits.html


THIS INTERNATIONAL SKEPTICS DAY, CHECK YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY STATEMENT  - 10/22/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

We have created an easy way to cast aside doubt about Social Security, and you can access this resource any time of the year, day or night. You can clear any amount of skepticism you might have about your Social Security earnings by creating a safe and secure my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

With a my Social Security account, you can instantly check your Social Security Statement. Financial experts have said that your Statement is “… probably the most crucial financial planning document for every American.”

By thoroughly checking your Social Security Statement, you can make sure each year that your work was correctly documented. This will ensure you get a correct Social Security benefit when you start collecting.

There are many other valuable features of my Social Security that will stave off that skepticism. You can:

• Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;
• Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
• Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and
• Manage your benefits:
o Change your address;
o Start or change your direct deposit;
o Get a replacement Medicare card; and
o Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

If you do find a discrepancy on your Statement, you will need to collect the proper documentation from your employer to correct any misinformation and submit it to Social Security. For detailed instructions, you can access the publication How to Correct Your Social Security Earnings Record at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs

Join the over 20 million people who are accessing their personalized accounts from the comfort of their home or office at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount


Replacing Your Social Security Card? Know Before You Go  - 8/3/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Keeping your Social Security number card in a safe place is vital to protecting you against identity theft. Never keep it in your purse or wallet — this is the most common way people lose their card. No matter how hard you try to keep track of your important documents, sometimes they get lost or even stolen.

Getting a replacement Social Security number card is free, but you will have to provide the proper documents to get a new one. Being prepared will save you time at the Social Security office or card center. If you are replacing your card, you will need original or certified copies of the required documents, which include:

1. Proof of citizenship:
If you have not already established your U.S. citizenship with us, we need to see proof of U.S. citizenship. We can accept only certain documents as proof of U.S. citizenship, like your U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport.
2. Identity:
We can accept only certain documents as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information (date of birth or age), and preferably, a recent photograph. For example, as proof of identity, we must see your:

• U.S. driver’s license;
• State-issued non-driver identification card; or
• U.S. passport.

If you do not have one of these specific documents, or you cannot get a replacement for one of them within ten days, we will ask to see other documents, including a(n):

• Employee identification card;
• School identification card;
• Health insurance card (not Medicare card); or
• U.S. military identification card.

Remember, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year or ten in your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in immigration status that require card updates may not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in immigration status that require card updates may not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in immigration status that require card updates may not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship.

What’s more important than having your card is knowing your Social Security number. This is how we identify you, tally your wages correctly, and how we eventually issue you accurate retirement benefits. You might not even need your card for identification purposes if you know and consistently use your correct number.

For more information about replacing a lost or stolen Social Security number card, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber


Your Social Security Record at Your Fingertips  - 8/3/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

With today’s technology, you may never have to go to an office or even make a phone call to do your business with Social Security. Current workers and people who receive benefits can join the millions who already interact with the agency by computer or tablet by opening a free my Social Security account. It’s easy, safe, and, most of all, secure. You’ll only need a few minutes at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to sign up.

You are never too young to start thinking about your financial future. A my Social Security account is very valuable for younger people who don’t receive benefits yet. Young workers can use the best free retirement and financial planning tool available. Once you open a my Social Security account, you can have access to and — at the same time — download your Social Security Statement. With your Statement you can review

• Estimates of your potential future retirement and disability benefits;
• Estimates of survivors benefits for your spouse and children, if you should die;
• Your earnings record to confirm the accuracy; and
• The estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

If you already receive Social Security benefits, with a my Social Security account you can

• Get a benefit verification letter;
• Change your address and phone number;
• Start or change direct deposit of your benefits payment;
• Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season; and
• If you’re signed up for Medicare, order a Medicare replacement card.

To open your free my Social Security account, you must be at least age 18 and have a

• valid email address;
• Social Security number; and
• U.S. mailing address.

It only takes a few minutes to sign up, and it’s easy to do. There’s an informative video and frequently asked questions on our website to help you.

So, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and open your own, secure my Social Security account today. Then you can join the millions who can plan, invest, and save for a secure retirement with confidence.


Social Security Matters  - 8/3/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Social Security recently launched its new blog, Social Security Matters. This is our new location for engaging with you by answering questions and concerns in a more sharable and interactive way. This is where you’ll see the latest Social Security news, like added features to my Social Security, helpful tips about retirement and other benefits, and much more.

Think of the blog as a dashboard for the latest news and updates that affect retirement, survivors and disability benefits, veterans, the chronically ill, and anyone entitled to our broad range of services. We already communicate with you using Facebook and Twitter. This new blog is a meaningful enhancement to our social media outreach. Social Security Matters is easy-to-navigate and user-friendly — tags categorize the topics you care about into organized sections. This way you will always find the answers you are looking for.

Social Security Matters allows us to speak to a broad audience in articles that explain how our programs and services affect you. And the blog lets you provide meaningful feedback that can help us serve the public more effectively. The blog will also be a platform for interviews with experts and a way to spotlight the important work we do.

You know how much we matter to our beneficiaries. We’d like you to share that news. Social Security Matters lets you share our posts on social media with a click of a button. Additionally, you can subscribe to our blog and get Social Security news as it happens. Simply select the blue button titled “Get blog updates.”

You matter to us, and with Social Security Matters, we think of you with every new post. Our comment section allows you to voice your thoughts and ask questions of us to address. The conversation is growing every day. No matter what, we want to know that we are doing our absolute best to serve you, and a big part of that is listening to what you have to say. Come see what matters to you at blog.socialsecurity.gov


A Day Dedicated to the New You  - 2/4/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Proudly displaying your new last name on a marriage certificate is only the first step in legally changing your name. Now that the wedding and honeymoon are over, you need to tell Social Security so you can get a corrected Social Security card.

February 18 is “Get Another Name Day.” It’s the perfect day for you to get a replacement, corrected, or original Social Security card—but only if you really need one. Of course, you can do this any time, but you should do it as soon as possible after your name changes.

If you have changed your name, whether due to marriage, divorce, or for another reason, the way to change your name with Social Security is to apply for a corrected Social Security card. This ensures that your legal name matches our records, thus avoiding possible problems in the future, such as a delay in obtaining any federal tax refund owed or not getting full Social Security credit for all your earnings.

There are a number of other reasons you may want to get a Social Security card: starting a new job, verifying eligibility for government services, opening a bank account, obtaining medical coverage, filing taxes, and legally changing your name. In most cases, unless an employer or other entity specifically requests to see your card, all they really need is your number. But, be cautious when sharing your Social Security number. People who commit fraud or want to steal your identity will often ask for your Social Security number. Always verify the identity of anyone who is asking, whether you’re online, on the phone, or face-to-face.

If you just had a baby, he or she will need a Social Security number. The main reason is to show your child’s dependent status on your tax return. In most cases, you apply for your newborn’s Social Security card and number, as well as the baby’s birth certificate, in the hospital.

If you need a new, replacement, or corrected Social Security card, you can find all the details at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber including the “Learn What Documents You Need” page, which lists the specific documents we accept as proof of age, identity, and citizenship. Each situation is unique, but in most cases, you simply need to print, complete, and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the appropriate documentation (originals or certified copies only).

After you receive your Social Security card, don’t carry it with you. To reduce your risk of identity theft, keep your card in a safe place with your other important papers.

Learn more about your Social Security card and number at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber


Ring in the New Year with a COLA  - 1/27/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Happy New Year from Social Security! Put down the champagne and ring in the New Year with a COLA! And we don’t mean the soda. In 2015, nearly 64 million Americans who receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase to their monthly benefit payments of 1.7 percent.

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2015 is $1,328 (up from $1,306 in 2014). The average monthly Social Security benefit for a disabled worker in 2015 is $1,165 (up from $1,146 in 2014).

For people who receive SSI, the maximum federal payment amount increased to $733 (up from $721 in 2014).

Other Social Security changes in 2015 are also worth noting. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase to $118,500 (up from $117,000 in 2014). A worker will earn one credit toward Social Security coverage after paying taxes on $1,220 in earnings in 2015 (up from $1,200 in 2014). As a reminder, eligibility for retirement benefits still requires 40 credits (usually about10 years of work).

Information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at www.medicare.gov

The Social Security Act outlines how the COLA is calculated. To read more about the COLA, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola

To learn more about other changes in 2015, read our fact sheet at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/factsheets/colafacts2015.html


Unflinching in the Fight Against Fraud  - 1/27/2015
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

If you’re like most people, you protect what’s valuable to you.

To protect your family financially, you buy health and life insurance. To protect your home, you get homeowner’s insurance, a security alarm, or perhaps a large dog. To protect your jewelry, you hide it in a safe place or buy insurance in case you need to replace it. To protect your money, you invest it, perhaps in a bank that offers FDIC coverage.

Social Security is much the same. We value the people we serve, our employees who work hard to provide world-class customer service, and the integrity of our programs. We protect these by using many tools to identify, prevent, and stop fraud, and we seek the maximum punishment for those who commit it.

The tools we use help us predict where fraud may occur, and, by monitoring cases closely, we identify fraud sooner rather than later. We also have stiff penalties that discourage people from committing fraud.

Social Security has a zero-tolerance policy for fraud. While we cannot prevent every instance of fraud any more than law enforcement can prevent all crime, we aggressively investigate and pursue prosecution of those who try to cheat the system. Our message to those who would defraud Social Security is clear: We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to restore to the American public the money you’ve stolen.

Social Security takes fraud seriously and so should you. If you suspect someone is committing Social Security fraud, report it online at http://oig.ssa.gov/report or call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.


Message from webmaster - 8/27/2014

This morning I got my usual monthly letter from Everett Lo with only one topic and that was that you should create a my Social Security account if you do not have one or if you already have one you should sign on and see what's new.  As with anything that's new you will hit a few bumps but if you hang in there its worth it.  Please remember when you create your account copy the password and all challenge questions somewhere because if you don't have these handy it will take an act of congress to get signed on.

First bump, I haven't signed on in a year so of course I couldn't so I did what I always do call the Social Security Help Desk.  It seems they make you change your password every six months so the woman I spoke to told me to say I forgot my password and the system will let me change my password.  Remember of course you cannot use the old password. 

I had a very enjoyable conversation with the help desk and she told me that Social Security To help combat the rising threat of fraud and identity theft, they will no longer issue Social Security number printouts beginning in August 2014.  You can sign-on and see everything you ever wanted to know about your Social Security benefits and print out your benefits on-line.

The national "help desk" is open from 7:00am to midnight EST and the telephone number is (800) 772-1213


IS A NEW SOCIAL SECURITY CARD IN YOUR CARDS? - 7/23/2014
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

To help combat the rising threat of fraud and identity theft, Social Security will no longer issue Social Security number printouts beginning in August 2014. If you need written confirmation of your Social Security number—perhaps your new employer needs verification—and you can’t find your Social Security card, you can apply for a replacement.

But do you really need a replacement? In most cases, you don’t need your card as long as you know your number. For all intents and purposes, your number is your card. Usually providing your number and identifying information is enough.

In the event you really do want or need a replacement card, either for yourself or for a child, you can find all of the details you need at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber
The “Social Security Number and Card” page provides information on how to obtain a replacement card and what specific documents you need to provide.

Need a Social Security card for your new baby to claim him or her as a dependent on your tax return or to apply for government or social service benefits? In most cases, an application for your newborn’s Social Security card and number is taken in the hospital when you apply for your baby’s birth certificate. If not, you can request one for your child the same way you do for yourself.

Whether you need a Social Security card for yourself or your child, it’s easy—and free—to apply for one. But consider whether a new Social Security card is really in the cards for you. It may be that your “card” is already with you—in your head.

While you’re at our website, open your free my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount It can help you plan for retirement, check your earnings history, request your Social Security Statement, and more.
Learn more about your Social Security card and number at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber


MEDICARE IS HERE TO STAY - 7/23/2014
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Medicare went into effect 48 years ago on July 1, 1966. Earlier that same year, Medicare workers went door to door trying to get seniors to sign up. Medicare was not the cornerstone then that it is today and people did not know whether it was going to work for the long haul.

Now, nearly half a century later, Medicare remains one of the most popular government programs in the nation.

We can’t see the future, but one thing’s for sure: Medicare is here to stay. Medicare provides health insurance to more than 50 million Americans. Forty-two million are people age 65 and older and the other 8 million are younger and have disabilities.

Most people first become eligible for Medicare at age 65.

The four parts of Medicare are parts A, B, C, and D.

• Part A (Hospital Insurance) helps cover inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care, and home health care. Most people get Medicare Part A premium-free since it is earned by working and paying Social Security taxes.
• Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover services from doctors and other outpatient health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventive services. Most people pay a monthly premium for Part B. In 2014, the premium for most people is $104.90, the same as it was in 2013. Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. Your Medicare Part B premium also can be higher if you do not enroll when you are first eligible, also known as your initial enrollment period. There also is a Medicare Part B deductible of $147 in 2014.
• Part C (Medicare Advantage) allows you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a provider organization. This plan includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B, usually includes Medicare prescription drug coverage, and may include extra benefits and services at an extra cost. You must have Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C. Monthly premiums vary depending on your state, private insurer, and whether you select a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization.
• Part D (Medicare prescription drug coverage) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs. Many people pay a premium for Part D. However, people with low income and resources may qualify for extra help from Social Security to pay the premium and deductible. To see if you qualify for extra help visit www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp

Will you be age 65 soon? Even if you decide not to retire, you should consider applying for Medicare. You can apply in less than 10 minutes using our online Medicare application. Do it today at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly

To learn more about applying for Medicare when you plan to delay retirement, read our publication Applying For Medicare Only—Before You Decide, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs


SOCIAL SECURITY HONORS VETERANS - 7/23/2014
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


In the United States, people do a lot to recognize and honor the heroes who serve in the Armed Forces and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. July is an appropriate month to recognize veterans and wounded warriors, as we celebrate our nation’s independence.

On July 12, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a measure to award the U.S. Medal of Honor “to such noncommissioned officers and privates as shall most distinguish themselves by their gallantry in action, and other soldier-like qualities during the present insurrection.” The first Medal of Honor went to Private Jacob Parrott during the Civil War for his role in the Great Locomotive Chase. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, a total of 3,487 medals have been awarded.

Such recognition is important, but perhaps just as important is awarding Social Security benefits to veterans as well. Earnings for active duty military service or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957. Social Security also has covered inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) since 1988.

In fact, more than one out of five adult Social Security beneficiaries has served in the military. Veterans and their families make up 35 percent of those receiving Social Security.  If you served in the military before 1957, you did not pay Social Security taxes, but you received special credit for some of your service.

You can get both Social Security benefits and military retirement. Generally, there is no reduction of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement benefits. You’ll get your full Social Security benefit based on your earnings.
If you served in the Armed Forces and you’re planning your retirement, you’ll want to read our publication, Military Service And Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. If you are disabled and can no longer work, you may also want to read our publication, Disability Benefits For Wounded Warriors, available at the same web address. Note that Social Security offers veterans expedited processing on their applications for disability benefits.

Another reason July is significant to veterans: on July 3, 1930, Congress signed a bill to authorize the President to issue an executive order establishing the Veterans Administration, or VA. President Herbert Hoover signed Executive Order 5398 to create the VA on July 21 of that same year, 84 years ago. Learn more about the VA and types of benefits it provides at www.va.gov.

Also, you can learn more about military service and Social Security benefits by visiting the Military Service page for wounded warriors and veterans at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/veterans.htm  Social Security thanks you for your service, and we hope we can now be of service to you.


Your Spouse May Be Covered by Social Security  - 2/04/2014
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

If you have a spouse who does not earn an income or who earns less than you do, your spouse (including a same-sex spouse) may be entitled to Social Security spouses’ benefits based on your record.

Social Security can be an important financial asset for married couples when the time comes to apply for retirement benefits. In many cases, one spouse may have earned significantly more than the other, or may have worked longer. Or it could be that one spouse stayed home to do the work of raising the children, caring for elderly family members, or managing the household while the other focused on a career.

Whatever your situation, Social Security will look at all possibilities to make sure both spouses receive the maximum Social Security benefits possible, whether based on each spouse’s earnings record or the higher wage-earner’s record.

Your spouse can apply for benefits the same way that you apply for benefits on your own record. He or she can apply for reduced benefits as early as age 62, or for 100 percent of the full retirement benefits at “full retirement age.” Not sure what the full retirement ages are? To learn your and your spouse’s full retirement ages, based on birth year, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/ageincrease.htm

The benefit amount your spouse can receive at full retirement age can be as much as one half of your full benefit. If your spouse opts for early retirement, the benefit may be as little as a third of your full benefit amount. Note that benefits paid to your spouse do not decrease your benefit amount.

If you have already reached full retirement age but continue to work, you can apply for retirement benefits and request to have the payments suspended until as late as age 70. This would let you earn delayed retirement credits that will mean higher payments later, but still would allow your spouse to receive a spouse’s benefit.

People can also apply for spouse benefits based on the earnings record of an ex-spouse or deceased spouse if married for at least 10 years. Spouses can consider a number of options and variables. We make it easier to navigate them. A good place to start is by visiting our benefits planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners  Take note of the “Benefits As A Spouse” section.

If you are ready to apply for benefits, the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way is to apply online! You can do so at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline and complete your application in as little as 15 minutes.

Due to a Supreme Court decision, we now are able to pay benefits to some same-sex couples. We encourage people who think they may be eligible to apply now. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples

Whether you receive benefits on a spouse’s record or your own, rest assured we will make sure you get the highest benefit for which you qualify. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov


CHECK IN WITH SOCIAL SECURITY BEFORE TRAVELING OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES - 12/15/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Mark Twain once advised people to “Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Americans today have taken that advice to heart, and are visiting places around the globe–often for vacations, and sometimes to relocate in another country. If you are one of these people and receive Social Security benefits, we offer a special website: “Social Security Payments Outside the United States.” Here you can find answers to such questions as “will my Social Security payments be affected? Do I have to let Social Security know I’m out of the country? When should I do it? What happens if I need to contact Social Security while I am out of the country?”

You can find answers to all of these questions and others at www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments.html   The website features a “Payments Abroad Screening Tool”, which asks you a few short questions to determine if your payments can continue.

The page also offers links to publications, such as Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States, which explains how your benefits may be affected and other important information you need to know about receiving Social Security benefits while outside the country.

And one more important point to note. If you receive Social Security benefits as a dependent or survivor there are additional United States residency requirements that may affect your benefit payments while you are outside the United States.

It also is important to note that there are different provisions for anyone receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Once you have been outside the United States for 30 or more days in a row, your SSI cannot start again until you have been back in the country for at least 30 consecutive days. There are special rules for dependent children of military personnel who leave the United States and exceptions for students studying abroad.

So if you receive Social Security or SSI benefits and are planning to travel or live outside the United States, you’ll first want to pay a visit to www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments.html


Share a Social Security Tip with Your Wise Elders - 09/25/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

While the baby boom era is behind us, the effects will live on. The number of people reaching the autumn season of life is higher than ever. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that there are around six hundred million people aged 60 and older living in the world today. That number is expected to double by 2025 — a short 12 years from now — and is expected to reach about two billion by 2050.

In the United States, 10,000 people reach retirement age every single day.

The elders of a community are often known as wise sages that younger people go to for advice; older people have the life experience and reflection that younger people lack. But given the fast-paced changes the world now experiences, with new technologies becoming outdated in a matter of years or even months, there may be some helpful insights you can share with your elders.

For example, if you know someone who is nearing retirement age, tell them about www.socialsecurity.gov  They may not be aware of the helpful and easy-to-use tools available to them. It’s no exaggeration to say that even someone who does not use the Internet on a regular basis can easily plan their retirement or even complete their retirement application online in a matter of minutes — much less time than it would take to drive to a local Social Security office.

The best starting place for anyone thinking about retirement is Social Security’s Retirement Estimator. Use it to get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits in a matter of minutes. Spend a few more minutes plugging in different information, such as different projected future wages and different retirement dates, to help make a wise decision on the best retirement date. The Retirement Estimator is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator

Then there’s the online retirement benefit application. In as little as 15 minutes, a person can apply for Social Security benefits and submit their application online. In most cases, once one submits the application, there is nothing more to do but wait for the first payment. It’s really that simple. And, if one decides they’d like to double-check some information before submitting the application, that’s fine too. The application can be paused and then restarted at any time during the process. It’s all available at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline

It makes sense to go to our elders for advice and guidance. But in this technology-driven world, we may be able to offer a little advice to the sages as well. A good bet is to tell the older adults in your life about www.socialsecurity.gov


If You Can’t Work Due to A Disability, Social Security Can Help - 09/25/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

If you are disabled and you’re no longer able to work, you should learn how Social Security can help you.

Disability is something most people do not like to think about; however, the unfortunate reality is this: the chances that you will become disabled are probably far greater than you realize. Studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a more than one in four chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age.

Social Security pays benefits to people with disabilities through the Social Security disability insurance program, which is financed by Social Security taxes. If you qualify, you can receive a monthly disability benefit from Social Security for as long as your disability keeps you from working. The amount of your benefit is based on your average lifetime earnings. Potential Medicare coverage is dependent on several factors and usually starts after you receive disability cash benefits for 24 months.

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits. The number of credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age, and some of the work must be recent. For example, if you become disabled after age 31, you need to have worked at least a total of 10 years, including five of those having been worked within the past 10 years. But if you become disabled before age 24, you need only one and a half years of work in the past three years.

If you have a disability that keeps you from working, the time to get started with your application is now. That’s because it takes time to determine whether you qualify for benefits. It usually takes about three to five months for a medical decision from the state agency that evaluates your condition. If your application is approved, your first Social Security disability payment will be made for the sixth full month after the date we determine that your disability began.

Given the time it can take, it’s in your best interest to do everything you can to speed up the process. The best first step is for you to read our online publication, Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs  It will tell you all about the process, including the information you will need to apply for benefits.

Then, take advantage of our online disability starter kits. You will find them on our disability website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability  From that page, simply select the option to apply for benefits online, and on that page you will find the disability starter kits. There is one kit for children and one for adults. Each kit is available in both English and Spanish. The starter kits help you begin the process by providing information about the specific documents and the information that we will request from you.

Take a look at the disability starter kit now at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability
Once you complete the online disability starter kit and you’re ready to apply, the most convenient way to do that is also online. Just go to the same disability website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability


You Know Where to Find Us (Because We Make It Easy) - 08/30/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


If you’ve read anything about Social Security in recent years, then you probably know that our most convenient office location is wherever you happen to be — thanks to www.socialsecurity.gov  Whether you’re on your home or office computer, or at the park or the beach with a mobile device, Social Security’s online office is just a click away. However, we recognize that some people prefer to do business with us face-to-face. If that’s you, we still would like to let you know about an online feature that can make finding your nearest Social Security office much easier.

From your computer or your mobile device, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/locator   That link will take you to our Social Security Office Locator. Once there, key in your ZIP code and you’ll get the address, phone number, and hours of the Social Security office closest to you.

The Locator page also gives you the option to see a map and get directions. If you are on the run and have your mobile device, this feature has the capability to “Map It,” providing turn-by-turn directions, making it easy to get to the office from where you are at the time. Of course, it’s still up to you to find a place to park (if needed).

You don’t have to worry about parking or traffic or lines if you transact your business at our online office on our website. If you can use our online Office Locator, you’ll probably be able to easily take advantage of our other online features.

For example, you can get a personalized, instant estimate of your future Social Security benefits by using our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator Or, do some retirement planning with our Benefits Planners at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners
You can even apply for benefits from your home computer by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline

We also encourage you to set up a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount   Then you will have quick and easy access to a number of personalized, secure services. Get your Social Security Statement online, or if you already receive benefits, get an instant benefit verification letter right over the computer.

You may just want some information. You can get that online as well. Browse our library of publications, which you can read or listen to, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. Get the Social Security forms you need at www.socialsecurity.gov/online   Or, get an answer to a question by visiting our frequently asked questions at www.socialsecurity.gov/faq

You can find these and many other Social Security services at www.socialsecurity.gov


Get Your Benefit Verification Letter Online - 08/30/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


Do you need a letter from Social Security verifying your benefits? The fastest, easiest, most convenient way to get a benefit verification letter these days is to go online to www.socialsecurity.gov

You may need a benefit verification letter for a number of reasons. Perhaps you need proof of income for a loan or to verify your monthly income for housing, or state or local benefits. You may need proof of your current Medicare health insurance status. In some cases, a person may need proof of retirement status, disability status, or age. For any of these situations, a benefit verification letter will provide the proof you need.

Sometimes a benefit verification letter is called a budget letter, benefits letter, proof of income letter, or proof of award letter. Don’t let the different titles confuse you; they are all the same thing: a benefit verification letter. Whatever the reason you need your benefit verification letter, you can get yours immediately online for free.

To get your benefit verification letter, simply visit us online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount  and set up a my Social Security account. To create an account, you must provide some personal information about yourself and give us answers to some questions that only you are likely to know. They are the same types of questions you would encounter if you were trying to open an online account at a financial institution or obtain your credit report.

Next, you create a unique username and password that you will use to access your online account. This process protects you and keeps your personal Social Security information private.

Once you’ve established your account, it will be simple for you to come back and transact business with Social Security in the future. For example, in addition to getting another benefit verification letter in the next year or two, you can check your benefit and payment information as well as your earnings record. You also can change your address, phone number, and direct deposit information.

So remember: there’s no need to fight traffic and visit a busy government office in order to obtain proof of your benefits. Simply visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount  and establish a my Social Security account so you can obtain your benefit verification letter online in a matter of minutes.


SPOUSES HAVE A SIGNIFICANT BENEFIT - 08/11/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Social Security can be an important financial asset for married couples when the time comes to apply for retirement benefits. In many cases, one spouse may have earned significantly more than the other, or have worked for a longer span of years. Or it could be that one spouse stayed home to do the work of raising the children or caring for elderly family members while the other focused on a career.

Regardless of your situation, Social Security will look at all possibilities to make sure both spouses receive the maximum benefit possible.

Even if you have not paid Social Security taxes, it’s likely you’ll be eligible to receive benefits on your spouse’s record. If you did work and pay into Social Security, we will check eligibility based on your work record and your spouse’s to see which amount is higher.

You can apply for spouses benefits the same way that you apply for benefits on your own record. You can apply for reduced benefits as early as age 62, or for 100 percent of your full retirement benefits at your “full retirement age. ” You can find your full retirement age, based on your birth year, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/ageincrease.htm

The benefit amount you can receive as a spouse, if you have reached your full retirement age, can be as much as one half of your spouse’s full benefit. If you opt for early retirement, your benefit may be as little as a third of your spouse’s full benefit amount.

If your spouse has already reached full retirement age but continues to work, your spouse can apply for retirement benefits and request to have the payments suspended until as late as age 70. This would allow the worker to earn delayed retirement credits that will mean higher payments later, but would allow you to receive your spouse’s benefit.

You can also apply for spouse benefits based on the earnings record of an ex-spouse or deceased spouse if you were married for at least 10 years. Spouses can consider a number of options and variables. We make it easier to navigate them. A good place to start is by visiting our benefits planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners  Take note of the “Benefits As A Spouse” section.

If you are ready to apply for benefits, the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way is to apply online! You can do so at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline

Whether you receive benefits on a spouse’s record or your own, rest assured we will make sure you get the highest benefit we can pay you. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov


IN THE AFTERMATH OF DISASTER, SOCIAL SECURITY CAN HELP - 08/11/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


For some, recent years have been made difficult by natural disasters. Fatal tornadoes in Oklahoma. Massive wildfires and strong earthquakes in Colorado and California. Landslides in Washington. Flooding in Texas, North Carolina and Florida. Hail storms in Tennessee. Hurricane Sandy along the Eastern seaboard. And now, we brace ourselves for yet another hurricane season.

In addition to the catastrophes caused by Mother Nature, there are man-made tragedies, such as the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado that killed 12 and injured 58; the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut , which left 26 children and staff members dead; and the Boston Marathon explosions, killing three and injuring more than 260.

When disasters strike, despite the immediate response by so many well-intentioned people and organizations, it’s often hard to know where to turn. But when it comes to the need for disability and survivors benefits, Social Security is always here to serve those who require our services.

Dependent survivors of wage earners, such as spouses, minor children, and in some cases parents or grandchildren, may be eligible for survivor benefits when the family’s provider dies. The sad fact is that about one in eight of today’s 20 year-old workers will die before reaching age 67. The good news is about 96 percent of people age 20 to 49 who work have survivors insurance protection if they die and leave behind young children and surviving spouses.

Social Security is here to help people inflicted with disabling conditions as well. In fact, disabled workers account for about 19 percent of all Social Security benefits paid. One in four of today’s 20 year-old workers will become disabled before reaching age 67.

Our emergency services reach more than the limited numbers of people who die or become disabled as a result of a tragedy. For example, if you are still receiving a paper check and the delivery of mail is interrupted due to severe weather, in many cases any Social Security office can issue an immediate replacement payment. To avoid this situation, however, switch to electronic payments as required by law. Even if your mailbox — or home — is destroyed due to an emergency, or you are evacuated or displaced, your payment will always arrive on time every time if you receive it electronically.

Sometimes, emergencies cause Social Security offices to close. If you want to check whether your local office is open, the best place to go is to Social Security’s Office Closings And Emergency Information page at www.socialsecurity.gov/emergency   This site is a great place to visit before you try to go to an office, especially when severe weather is affecting your area.

The emergency page also offers valuable FEMA advice that can help you prepare for or cope with emergency situations.

While we all hope and pray to avoid disasters, unfortunately, they are bound to occur. The best we can do is to be as prepared as possible to deal with them if they happen. And know that Social Security will be here for you when you need it.

Be prepared. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/emergency


APPLY FOR DISABILITY BENEFITS FROM THE CONVENIENCE OF HOME - 06/16/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Have you been thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits, but you are unable to visit a Social Security office to complete the interview? Or perhaps your disabling condition makes it difficult to visit a Social Security office. We have good news: you can complete your application for Social Security disability benefits from the convenience of your home. Get started at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability

The application process involves determining 1) whether you have sufficient work to be eligible for Social Security; 2) the severity of your medical condition; and 3) your ability to work. Because we carefully review so many cases — more than three million each year — it can take us three to five months to determine whether you are eligible to receive benefits.

The amount of time it takes to make a decision on your application can vary depending on a number of factors, such as:
• the nature of your disability;
• how quickly we obtain medical evidence from you, your doctors, hospitals, or other medical sources; and
• whether we need to send you for a medical examination to obtain evidence to support your claim.

We have several important initiatives to speed up the process. For example, our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast-track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities. Two hundred different types of disabilities qualify for this expedited decision, and the list continues to expand. Since Compassionate Allowances began in 2008, the agency has fast-tracked more than 250,000 disability applications, getting benefits to people in a matter of days instead of months. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances

Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm

There are things you can do to help speed up the decision process too. The more information you provide up front, the less time it will take us to obtain the evidence we need — and the faster we can make a decision on your application. The types of information we need include:

• medical records or documentation you have; we can make copies of your records and return your originals;
• the names, addresses, and phone numbers for any doctors, hospitals, medical facilities, treatment centers, or providers that may have information related to your disabling condition;
• the names, addresses, and phone numbers for recent employers and the dates you worked for each employer; and
• your federal tax return for the past year.

If you’re not able to work due to a disability and getting to an office is troublesome, don’t worry. You can apply online for Social Security disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability


YOUNG WORKERS, MEET SOCIAL SECURITY - 06/16/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Welcome to the workforce, new workers! Whether you’re beginning the career of a lifetime or just earning some extra money for the school year to come, there is one question that is likely to hit you when you see your first pay stub: “What is the FICA, and why is my paycheck less because of it?”

Generally, employers are required to withhold Social Security and Medicare tax from a worker’s paycheck. Your employer matches the amounts you pay in Social Security and Medicare taxes. Usually the money we withhold is referred to as “Social Security taxes” on the employee’s payroll statement. Sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA taxes,” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, and sometimes OASDI, or Old Age Survivor and Disability Insurance. Name aside, what’s important is how that money is being used, and what’s in it for you down the road.

The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection, when you eventually retire or if you become disabled. If you die, your dependent children and spouse may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work. Today you probably have family members — grandparents, for example — who already enjoy Social Security benefits that your Social Security taxes help provide.

You may be a long way from retirement now, so you may find it hard to appreciate the value of benefits that could be 40 or 50 years away. But consider that your Social Security taxes could pay off sooner than you think. Social Security provides valuable disability benefits — and studies show that a 20-year-old has about a three in 10 chance of becoming disabled sometime before reaching retirement age.

Don’t be tempted if you’re offered a job “under the table” or “off the books.” If you work for any employer who pays you cash, you’re likely not getting Social Security credit for the work you’re doing and potentially missing out on future benefits.

Want to learn more about Social Security and what it means to young workers? If so, we invite you to enjoy an online video: Social Security 101: What’s In It For Me? The webcast will fill you in on the details you should know to get the most out of Social Security. Check it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/webinars/social_security_101.html

Here’s another tip: open a my Social Security account so that you can access your Social Security Statement. That will allow you to make sure your earnings are recorded properly each year — and you can get estimates of what your future benefits may be. You can easily open a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

If you have questions about Social Security, the best place to go is www.socialsecurity.gov


CAN’T WORK DUE TO DISABILITY? MAYBE SOCIAL SECURITY CAN HELP - 05/02/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Disability is something most people don’t like to think about. But if you’re not able to work because you have a disabling condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death, then it’s a subject you may not be able to avoid.  You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It may take you months to obtain all your medical records and for us to process an application for disability benefits.

The types of information we need include:
• medical records or documentation you have; we can make copies of your records and return your originals;
• the names, addresses, and phone numbers for any doctors, hospitals, medical facilities, treatment centers, or providers that may have information related to your disabling condition;
• the names, addresses, and phone numbers for recent employers and the dates worked for each employer; and
• your federal tax return for the past year.

If you don’t have all of the information handy, that’s no reason to delay. You should still apply for benefits right away. Social Security can assist you in getting the necessary documents, including obtaining your medical records. Just keep in mind that if you do have the information we need, it will probably speed up the time it takes to make a decision.

The fastest and most convenient way to apply for disability is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability
 You can save your application as you go, so you can take a break at any time.

If you prefer, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to make an appointment to apply at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your application over the phone.   If you are approved for disability benefits, that doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to work again. In fact, Social Security has special rules called “work incentives” that allow you to test your ability to work.

Learn more about disability benefits and take advantage of the helpful Disability Starter Kit at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits.htm


BEST WAYS TO DO BUSINESS WITH SOCIAL SECURITY - 03/17/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Many people save time by going online to take care of everyday tasks. For example, they shop online to avoid going to crowded malls or stores. They pay bills and check their account balances online to save a trip to the bank.
It’s true of Social Security business, too. You can save a lot of time by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov
Here, you can handle much of your Social Security business quickly and securely from your home or office computer. At the Social Security website you can —
• create a my Social Security account for quick access to your information;
• get an instant, personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits;
• apply for retirement, disability, spouse’s, and Medicare benefits;
• check the status of your benefit application;
• change your address and phone number, if you receive monthly Social Security benefits;
• sign-up for direct deposit of Social Security benefits;
• use our benefit planners to help you better understand your Social Security options as you plan for your financial future;
• request a replacement Medicare card; and
• apply for Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug costs.

Looking for more Social Security information? Go online to find out almost anything you need to know about the Social Security program. Information is available on subjects ranging from how to get a Social Security number for a newborn to returning to work while receiving disability benefits.

If you need to reach us by phone, you can call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. We treat all calls confidentially. We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call during the week after Tuesday. We can provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day. (You can use our automated response system to tell us a new address or request a replacement Medicare card.) If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

No matter how you choose to contact us, Social Security is here to assist you. We encourage you to give our website a try. You’ll get fast, convenient service by going to www.socialsecurity.gov


Your Number is Your Card - 03/17/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Often times, people decide they need to apply for a new Social Security card because they can’t find their old one. As long as you have all of the required information and documentation, it’s not difficult to obtain a replacement Social Security card. But here’s even better news: you probably don’t need the card.

When you think about it, your Social Security number is your Social Security card. That is, knowing your number is usually all you’ll ever need. Know your number by heart, and you’ll never leave home without it.

In the event that you really do want or need to get a replacement card, either for yourself or for a child, you can find all the details at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber  The “Get Or Replace a Social Security Card” page provides information on how to obtain a replacement card and what specific documents you need to provide. Each situation is unique, but in most cases you simply need to print, complete, and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the appropriate documentation (originals or certified copies only).

In almost all cases, though, an application for your newborn’s Social Security card and number is taken in the hospital at the same time that you apply for your baby’s birth certificate.

There are a number of reasons a baby or child may need a Social Security number, but the main one is so that you can claim your child as a dependent on your tax return. Your child also will need a Social Security number to apply for certain government and social service benefits.

Whether you need a Social Security card for yourself or your child, it’s easy to apply for one. But remember: if you already have one and just can’t find it, in most cases all you really need is to know your number. Memorize your Social Security number, and you’ll never leave home without it.

Learn more about your Social Security card and number at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber


RETIRE ON YOUR OWN TERMS - 03/17/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Most Americans are aware that they need to save for retirement. It is a topic that is easy to brush aside to a later date because although the subject is important, it may not seem urgent. But the longer you put off some basic retirement planning, the harder it will be to catch up later.  Now is the perfect time to give it some thought, as National Retirement Planning Week takes place in April.
We’d like to share with you a few important items about Social Security retirement benefits.

When you decide to retire, the easiest and most convenient way to do it is right from the comfort of your home or office computer. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov where you can apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes. In most cases, there are no forms to sign or documents to send; once you submit your electronic application, that’s it!

In addition to using our award-winning website, you can call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit the Social Security office nearest you. Either way you choose to apply, be sure to have your bank account information handy so we can set up your payments to be deposited directly into your account.

Your age when you start to receive Social Security makes a difference in your benefit amount. The full retirement age (the age at which 100 percent of retirement benefits are payable) has been gradually rising from age 65 to age 67. You can retire as early as age 62, but if benefits start before you reach your full retirement age, your monthly payment is reduced. Find out what your full retirement age is by typing in your year of birth at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/ageincrease.htm

You also can choose to keep working beyond your full retirement age to take advantage of a larger payment. Your benefit will increase automatically each year from the time you reach your full retirement age until you start receiving your benefits or until you reach age 70.

The decision of when to retire is personal and depends on a number of factors. To help, we suggest you read our online fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html

You may want to consider your options by using our Retirement Estimator to get instant, personalized estimates of future benefits. You can plug in different retirement ages and scenarios to help you make a more informed retirement decision. Try it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator

You’ll also want to take advantage of our latest and extremely popular service by setting up an online my Social Security account. You can use my Social Security to obtain a copy of your Social Security Statement to check your earnings record and see estimates of the retirement, disability, and survivor benefits you and your family may receive. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount

Another great website for financial planning — whether for retirement or other financial goals — can be found at:
www.mymoney.gov   The website features information about how to plan for a host of life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child, home ownership, or retirement. The site also provides money management tools, including a financial savings calculator.

To learn more about Social Security retirement benefits and options, please read our publication, Retirement Benefits, at:

www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10035.html
You can retire on your own terms, and we’re here to help.


IDENTITY THEFT — IT’S NO JOKE - 03/17/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Be on guard to protect yourself from an cyber pranks.  You should be wary of identity thieves.   Identity theft is no joking matter. Identity thieves victimize millions of people each year.

Identity thieves have some sly tricks to obtain your personal information. They do it by:
• Stealing wallets, purses, and your mail;
• Posing by phone or email as someone who legitimately needs information about you, such as employers or landlords;
• Stealing personal information you provide to an unsecured site on the Internet, from business or personnel records at work, and personal information in your home; or
• Rummaging through your trash, the trash of businesses, and public trash dumps for personal data.

Don’t be fooled by identity thieves; take the proper precautions. Be sure to safeguard your personal information, such as your Social Security number and mother’s maiden name. If an identity thief scores this information, it could result in more than monetary loss for you as a victim—it also can hurt your credit score and record.

You can help protect yourself by not carrying your Social Security card with you and not providing your personal information to unknown sources over the Internet or by phone. Be sure to shred any documents, bills, or paperwork before you throw them away. Most important, never reply to an email claiming to be from Social Security that asks you for your Social Security number or other personal information. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from Social Security and you have doubts about the validity of the caller, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, you should contact the
Federal Trade Commission at: 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.
Or go to www.idtheft.gov and click on the link for “Report Identity Theft.”

Learn more about identity theft at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html
Please don’t let an identity thief make an April fool out of you.


Fast-Tracked Disability Process now has 200 medical conditions - 02/06/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

With the addition of 35 new Compassionate Allowances conditions involving cancers and rare diseases, there are now a total of 200 disabling conditions that qualify for Social Security’s expedited disability process. The Compassionate Allowances initiative fast-tracks disability decisions to ensure that Americans with the most serious disabilities receive their benefit decisions within days instead of months or years.

In addition to increasing the list of eligible conditions, the agency has achieved another milestone. Since October 2008, nearly 200,000 people with severe disabilities nationwide have been quickly approved using the expedited process.

Compassionate Allowances allow us to quickly identify diseases and other medical conditions that, by definition, meet Social Security’s standards for disability benefits. These conditions primarily include certain cancers, adult brain disorders, and a number of rare disorders that affect children.

Compassionate Allowances permit Social Security to target the most clearly disabled individuals for medical approvals based on objective medical information that we can obtain quickly. Using the Compassionate Allowances criteria, most cases can be medically approved in less than two weeks. Compassionate Allowances conditions are added as a result of information received at public outreach hearings, comments from the Social Security and Disability Determination Service communities, input from medical and scientific experts, and research from the National Institutes of Health. We also consider which conditions are most likely to meet our current definition of disability.

For more information about Compassionate Allowances, including a full list of qualifying conditions, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances


Social Security and Tax Time - 02/06/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

April’s showers bring more than just May’s flowers — they also bring the deadline day for filing taxes. Don’t wait until the showers arrive to prepare for tax season. Whether you are a small business owner, a retiree, or a new parent, here are some Social Security tax tips that may help you.

Are Social Security benefits taxable? They are for some people. About one third of those receiving benefits must pay taxes on some of their Social Security. If your total income, including Social Security and all of your other taxable income, is $25,000 or more and you file federal taxes as an individual, you’ll need to pay federal taxes on some of your benefits. (That amount is $32,000 for married couples filing a joint return.)

Will I get a tax form for my Social Security benefits? Yes. In fact, you should have already received it. Social Security Benefit Statements (Form SSA-1099) for tax year 2012 were mailed to beneficiaries and should have been received by January 31, 2013. If you receive Social Security and haven’t received your 1099, you can request one online at www.socialsecurity.gov/1099

We had our first child in 2012. Does our baby need a Social Security Number? Yes. Most people apply for their baby’s Social Security number while they’re still in the hospital at the same time they apply for the birth certificate. But if you didn’t, you’ll need to apply for your child’s Social Security number in order to claim the child as a dependent on your tax return. You’ll also need it if you ever apply for government benefits on behalf of the child or your family. Learn more about Social Security cards and numbers at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber

I changed my name when I got married last year. Do I need to report it to Social Security? Yes. If you’ve legally changed your name due to marriage, divorce, court order, or for any other reason, make sure you change your name with Social Security, as well as with your employer. If you change with one source but not the other, it could cause your earnings to be improperly recorded. That could result in you not getting all the benefits you earned when you become eligible for Social Security in the future. You can learn more about your Social Security number and how to change your name at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber

I own a small business. Can I report the W-2s of my employees online to Social Security? Yes, and we encourage you to do so at www.socialsecurity.gov/bso  Filing your W-2s electronically is free, fast, and secure! Plus there’s an added bonus: when you file electronically, you receive an extra month to file because electronically filed W-2s aren’t due until March 31st. You’ll also receive an electronic acknowledgement receipt. And when you file electronically, you can print out your W-2s for your employees.

Does Social Security have any advice to make tax filing and future benefit applications go smoothly? We encourage you to carefully check your name, Social Security number and all of the data on your W-2s, your online Social Security Statement, and Social Security card to make sure they all match. If you don’t have access to your card or Statement but know your Social Security number, make sure the number and information is correct on your W-2s. A mismatch could delay your tax refund and cause problems with your Social Security benefits in the future. Such errors are much easier to fix now. If you do notice an error, you should contact Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or if the information on the W-2 is incorrect, notify your employer.

For more information about Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov


Be in the know about Medicare Part B - 02/06/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

You may already know that Medicare is a medical insurance program for people who are 65 or older and for people who are disabled at any age. Some people are covered only by one type of Medicare; others opt to pay extra for more coverage. Understanding Medicare can save you money.

If you’re eligible for and want to be covered by Medicare Part B medical insurance, now is the time to sign up. The general enrollment period for Medicare Part B runs from January 1 through March 31. Before you make a decision about general enrollment, here is some useful information.

There are four parts to Medicare: Parts A, B, C and D. Part A helps pay for inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care, and other services. Part B helps pay for doctors' fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical services and supplies not covered by Part A. Part C allows you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a managed health care organization. These plans, known as Medicare Advantage Plans, may help lower your costs of receiving medical services, or you may get extra benefits for an additional monthly fee. You must have both Parts A and B to enroll in Part C. And Part D is the Medicare Prescription Drug Program.

There is a monthly premium for Medicare Part B. In 2013, the standard premium is $104.90. Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. Your Part B premium also can be higher if you do not enroll during your initial enrollment period, or when you first become eligible.

There are exceptions to this rule. For example, you can delay your Medicare Part B enrollment without having to pay higher premiums if you are covered under a group health plan based on your own current employment or the current employment of any family member. If this situation applies to you, you have a “special enrollment period” in which to sign up for Medicare Part B, without paying the premium surcharge for late enrollment. This rule allows you to:
• Enroll in Medicare Part B at any time while you are covered under a group health plan based on your own current employment or the current employment of any family member; or
• Enroll in Medicare Part B during the eight month period that begins following the last month your group health coverage ends, or following the month employment ends, whichever comes first.

If you receive disability benefits and have coverage from a working family member, the same rules apply.

If you live in one of the 50 states or Washington D.C. and you’re already receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits or railroad retirement payments, you will be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B automatically. However, because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you have the option of turning it down.

If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you first become eligible to apply and you don’t fall under the special enrollment period, you'll have to wait until the general enrollment period, which is January 1 through March 31 of each year. At that time, you may have to pay a higher Medicare Part B premium.

For more information about Medicare, visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website at www.medicare.gov  Or read our publication on Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html


Social Security Announces New Online Services Available with a my Social Security Account - 01/01/2013
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, today announced the agency is expanding the services available with a my Social Security account, a personalized online account that people can use beginning in their working years and continuing throughout the time they receive Social Security benefits. More than 60 million Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients can now access their benefit verification letter, payment history, and earnings record instantly using their online account. Social Security beneficiaries also can change their address and start or change direct deposit information online.

“We are making it even easier for people to do their business with us from the comfort of their home, office, or library,” Commissioner Astrue said. “I encourage people of all ages to take advantage of our award-winning online services and check out the new features available through an online my Social Security account.”

Social Security beneficiaries and SSI recipients with a my Social Security account can go online and get an official benefit verification letter instantly. The benefit verification letter serves as proof of income to secure loans, mortgages and other housing, and state or local benefits. Additionally, people use the letter to prove current Medicare health insurance coverage, retirement or disability status, and age. People can print or save a customized letter.

Social Security processed nearly nine million requests for benefit verification letters in the past year. This new online service allows people to conduct business with Social Security without having to visit an office or make a phone call, and very often wait for a letter to arrive in the mail. It also will reduce the time spent by employees completing these requests and free them to focus on other workloads.

People age 18 and older can sign up for an account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount 

Once there, they must be able to provide information about themselves and answers to questions that only they are likely to know. After completing the secure verification process, people can create a my Social Security account with a unique user name and password to access their information.   People age 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can sign up for a my Social Security account to get a personalized online Social Security Statement. The online Statement provides eligible workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information, and estimates of future benefits they can use to plan for their retirement. In addition, the portal also includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability and Medicare.

“Given our significantly reduced funding, we have to find innovative ways to continue to meet the needs of the American people without compromising service,” said Commissioner Astrue. “These new enhancements will allow us to provide faster service to more people in more places.”

For more information, please go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount


Social Security Cards and Numbers - 12/12/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


Do you know where your Social Security card is located? Hopefully, it’s in a safe place, tucked away securely with your other important papers. It certainly should not be in your purse or wallet and should not be carried with you every day since it can be more valuable than cash to an identity thief.

Do you know your Social Security number? Chances are you have it memorized. If you know your number, you may never need your card again. It is the number, not the card, that is most important.

In the event that you lose your Social Security card and really need a replacement, you can find out all the details on how to obtain a replacement card and what specific documents you need to provide at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber  Each situation is unique, but in most cases you simply need to print, complete, and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the appropriate documentation (originals or certified copies only).

If you need to apply for a Social Security card and number for your child, you can do that the same way, and get the specific information at the same website. In almost all cases, though, an application for your infant’s Social Security card and number is taken in the hospital at the same time that you apply for your baby’s birth certificate.

Why does a baby need a Social Security number? There are a number of reasons, but the main one is so that you can claim your child as a dependent on your tax return. Social Security numbers are also needed for children to apply for certain government and social service benefits.

As you prepare for tax season, just around the corner, make sure the kids (and all the dependents) that you list on your annual tax return have Social Security numbers. If you want to claim your child as a dependent on your tax return (and who doesn’t?) your child will need a Social Security number. Note that all dependents listed on your federal tax return will need Social Security numbers, including a dependent parent who lives with you and receives support from you.

Learn more about Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov. And learn more about your Social Security card and number at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber where you can print out an application and find out everything you need for your specific situation.


Myths about Social Security - 12/12/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


Like any other successful and long-standing program or organization, there are a number of myths surrounding Social Security. Some of them are grounded in truth but just slightly misconstrued. Others are completely out of line with the truth. Let’s take a look at a few.

Myth 1: Social Security is just a retirement program.
Social Security is more than a retirement program. It provides benefits to retirees, survivors, and people with disabilities who can no longer work. In fact, almost seven million disabled workers and nearly two million of their dependents get Social Security disability benefits. Six and a half million dependents of deceased workers (including two million children) get Social Security survivors benefits. Social Security is more than just retirement.

Myth 2: I don’t need to save because Social Security will take care of me when I’m retired.
Social Security was never intended to be a person’s sole income in retirement; it should be combined with pension income and personal savings and investments. Your Social Security Statement, available at www.socialsecurity.gov.mystatement  is a great place to get an idea of what to expect during retirement. You can also visit our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Myth 3: If I work after I retire, I’ll be penalized.
Once you reach your full retirement age, there is no penalty and no limit on the amount you can earn. You can determine your full retirement age by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/retirecharted.htm  The earnings limit for workers who are younger than "full" retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) is $15,120 in 2013. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $15,120.) The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2013 is $40,080. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $40,080 until the month the worker turns age 66.) Keep in mind that if we withhold some of your benefits due to work, we will re-compute your monthly benefit amount when you reach full retirement age to account for those months that we withheld your benefit. There is no limit on earnings for workers who are full retirement age or older for the entire year.
Myth 4: To apply for benefits or do business with Social Security, I need to go to an office.
Not only is this false, but we encourage you to do business with us the most convenient and fastest way: at www.socialsecurity.gov. At our website, you can apply for benefits, use our Retirement Planner, get an estimate of your benefits, request a replacement Medicare card, and much more. You’ll find it all — along with answers to your questions — at www.socialsecurity.gov


A SOCIAL SECURITY CARD AND NUMBER LESSON - 10/03/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


Are you looking to replace your Social Security card just because you don’t have it? Then rest assured: you really don’t need to replace it. What’s most important is that you remember your Social Security number.

Remember, during your formal education, when you used to memorize passages from a book, or answers for a test? In the same way, you should memorize your Social Security number. Knowing your Social Security number is important when it comes to work, taxes, banking, and other types of business. Treat your number as confidential information and keep it protected. Memorizing your number means you don’t need to carry your Social Security card with you unless you need to show it to your employer. Keep it in a safe place with your other important papers.

If you really do need to get a replacement card, it’s easy to apply for a new one. Simply complete an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5) and show us original documents proving your U.S. citizenship or immigration status, age, and identity. The application includes examples of documents you may need; you can find the application at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber  Then, take or mail your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office. We will mail your Social Security card to you.

If your card is lost or stolen, you can apply for a replacement for free. However, with some exceptions, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime.

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov


DISABLED? APPLY FOR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS FROM HOME - 9/27/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


If your disabling condition makes it hard for you to drive or arrange transportation to your local Social Security office, we have some good news. You can complete and submit your application for Social Security disability benefits from your own home computer. Get started at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability

The application process involves determining 1) whether you have sufficient work to be eligible for Social Security; 2) the severity of your medical condition; and 3) your ability to work. Because we carefully review so many cases — more than three million each year — it can take us three to five months to determine whether you are eligible to receive benefits.

The amount of time it takes to make a decision on your application can vary depending on a number of factors, such as:
• the nature of your disability;
• how quickly we obtain medical evidence from your doctors, hospitals, or other medical sources; and
• whether we need to send you for a medical examination in order to obtain evidence to support your claim.

We do a number of things to speed up the process when we can. For example, our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast-track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). There are 165 different types of disabilities that qualify for this expedited decision, and that list continues to expand. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances

Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm
There are things you can do to help speed up the decision process too. The more information you provide up front, the less time it will take us to obtain the evidence we need — and the faster we can process your application. The types of information we need include:

• medical records or documentation you have; we can make copies of your records and return your originals;
• the names, addresses, and phone numbers for any doctors, hospitals, medical facilities, treatment centers, or providers related to your disabling condition; and
• the names, addresses, and phone numbers for recent employers and the dates worked for each employer.

We also ask you to sign release forms that give us permission to obtain the information needed from third parties to make a decision on your claim.

The best place to start is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability   Select “Disability Starter Kits” in the left column. There, you’ll find important information to help you with your application.

If you’re not able to work due to a disability, apply online for Social Security disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability


SOCIAL SECURITY AND LIVING ABROAD - 8/18/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


These days it is more common than ever for a person to travel across the globe – either for vacation or to live in another country permanently. If you are one of these people, Social Security offers a special website: “Social Security Payments Outside the United States.” The website features all you need to know about Social Security while living abroad. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments.html

If you’re in the planning stages of moving to another country, you may want to check out our “Payments Abroad Screening Tool.” It will ask you a few short questions and will let you know whether your payments can continue. It may make a difference in your decision to live abroad.

The page also offers links to publications, such as Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States, which explains how your benefits may be affected and other important information you need to know about receiving Social Security benefits while outside the country.

In the top, right corner of the page, you’ll find important information on how to contact Social Security when you are abroad — to ask questions, make requests, or report events and changes that may affect payments.

Whether you’re stateside or abroad, you’ll want to pay a visit to www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments.html


Get Your Social Security Statement Online - 6/13/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


If you would like to get a Social Security Statement, which provides estimates of your future benefits, it is now available online at www.socialsecurity.gov

“Our new online Social Security Statement is simple, easy-to-use and provides people with estimates they can use to plan for their retirement,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “The online Statement also provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the Statement an important financial planning tool. People should get in the habit of checking their online Statement each year, around their birthday, for example.”

In addition to helping with financial planning, the online Statement also provides workers a convenient way to determine whether their earnings are accurately posted to their Social Security records. This feature is important because Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over a person’s lifetime. If the information is incorrect, the person may not receive proper benefits.

The online Statement provides you the opportunity to save or print the document for future reference, or to have handy for discussions with family members or a financial planner.

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, users are giving the online Statement a score of 89, making it competitive with our other top-rated, best-in-government online services, such as the Retirement Estimator and online retirement application.

To get a personalized online Statement, you must be age 18 or older and must be able to provide information about yourself that matches information already on file with Social Security. In addition, Social Security uses Experian, an external authentication service provider, for further verification. You must provide identifying information and answer security questions in order to pass this verification. Social Security will not share your Social Security number with Experian, but the identity check is an important part of this new, thorough verification process.

When your identity is verified, you can create a “My Social Security” account with a unique user name and password to access your online Statement. In addition, your online Statement includes links to information about other online Social Security services, such as applications for retirement, disability, and Medicare.

For more information about the new online Statement, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement


Report Your Name Change to Social Security - 6/13/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


This time of year, we see a lot of weddings, and in many cases that means name changes. If you need to change your name due to marriage, divorce, or any other reason, you will want to report the change to Social Security.

There are several reasons to report the change. First, IRS and Social Security match computer records. If the name and Social Security number you report on your tax return do not match the name and Social Security number in our records, it could delay the processing of your return as well as any tax refund you might be due.

The second reason it is important to make sure your Social Security records are up-to-date is because your potential Social Security benefits are based almost entirely on the earnings record we maintain for you. If your employer reports earnings to the government under your new name, and your Social Security record still shows your old name, those earnings may not get credited to your Social Security earnings record. Missing earnings can lead to lower future Social Security benefits.

To change your name in Social Security’s records, you must apply for a new Social Security card. To make the application process faster and easier, just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber and print out the form for a Social Security card, “Application Form SS-5.” That’s also the form you need if you simply want to apply for a replacement card. The application form also tells you what evidence you will need to submit.

Complete the one-page form and bring or mail it to your local Social Security office with proper documentation. All documents must be originals or certified copies and must have information that clearly identifies you, like your date and place of birth. The application includes information on what types of identity and documentation are needed for specific cases, and what sorts of documents we can accept.

The application process is easy, and described well (along with other things you may want to know about your Social Security card and number) at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber


NEW COMPASSIONATE ALLOWANCES CONDITIONS MEAN FASTER DECISIONS FOR THOUSANDS OF DISABLED PEOPLE - 5/7/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


In April, 2012 Social Security announced 52 new Compassionate Allowances conditions to the growing list of severe medical conditions that qualify for expedited medical decisions. The new conditions include many neurological disorders, cancers, and rare diseases.

The Compassionate Allowances initiative is a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify as “disabled” based on minimal medical information. Compassionate Allowances allow Social Security to quickly identify the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that we can obtain quickly.

The announcement of 52 new conditions, effective in August, will increase the total number of Compassionate Allowances conditions to 165. That list continues to grow as Social Security, the National Institutes of Health, and a number of patient organizations help identify new conditions that clearly warrant quick approvals.

“Social Security will continue to work with the medical community and patient organizations to add more conditions,” Commissioner Astrue said. “With our Compassionate Allowances program, we quickly approved disability benefits for nearly 61,000 people with severe disabilities in the past fiscal year, and nearly 173,000 applications since the program began.”

Social Security develops the list of Compassionate Allowances conditions from information received at public outreach hearings, comments received from the disability community, counsel of medical and scientific experts, and research with the National Institutes of Health. Also, we consider which conditions are most likely to meet our definition of disability.
For more information on the Compassionate Allowances initiative, please visit:
www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances


SERVING WOUNDED WARRIORS AND THE SURVIVORS OF OUR FALLEN HEROES - 04/10/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


It’s an American tradition to pay tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces each Memorial Day — especially honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country.

If you are a military service member who was wounded and needs to apply for disability benefits, it’s important to know that you will receive expedited processing. Our wounded warriors initiative is for military service members who become disabled while on active duty on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs. Depending on the situation, some family members of military personnel, including dependent children and, in some cases, spouses, may be able to receive benefits. Learn more about it at www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors

Did you know that May also is National Military Appreciation Month? Even more reason to let members of our military know how much we value what they do for us and our nation.

To learn more about the Social Security benefits for those who have served in the military, read our publication, Military Service and Social Security. You can find it online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10017.html, or send us an email at OPI.Net.Post@ssa.gov, or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to ask for a free copy to be mailed to you.

Memorial Day also is a good time to remind families of fallen military heroes that we may be able to pay Social Security survivors benefits. If the person you depended on for income has died, you should apply for survivors benefits. Learn more about Social Security survivors benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/survivors.htm

The men and women of the Armed Forces serve us each and every day. At Social Security, we’re here to serve them too.

 


ALL ABOUT DISABILITY - 3/7/2012
By Everett M. Lo
Social Security Administration’s Regional Public Affairs Office in the New York Region


Disability is something most people do not like to think about. But if you’re not able to work because you have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death, you may be able to get Social Security disability benefits. Here’s what you need to know.

You should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take months to obtain all your medical records and process an application for disability benefits (three to five months, on average).

Generally, the information we need includes:

Your Social Security number;
• Your birth or baptismal certificate;
• Names, addresses, and phone numbers of the doctors, caseworkers, hospitals, and clinics that took care of you, and;
• dates of your visits;
• Names and dosage of all the medicine you take;
• Medical records from your doctors, therapists, hospitals, clinics, and caseworkers you already have in your possession;
• Laboratory and test results;
• A summary of where you worked and the kind of work you did; and
• A copy of your most recent W-2 Form (Wage and Tax Statement) or;
• If you are self-employed, your Federal tax return for the past year.

IMPORTANT--Do not delay filing for disability benefits if you don’t have all the above information in your possession. Social Security will assist you in getting the necessary documents, including obtaining your medical records.

The fastest and most convenient way to apply for disability is online at
www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability   You can save your application as you go, so you can take a break at any time.

If you prefer, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to make an appointment to apply at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your application over the phone.

If you are approved for disability benefits, that doesn’t mean you’ll never return to work. Social Security has special rules called “work incentives” that allow you to test your ability to work.

Learn more about disability benefits and take advantage of the helpful Disability Starter Kit at
www.socialsecurity.gov/disability

 

 

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