Social Security Update Archive

October 2017

People Receiving Disability Benefits Can Now Report Wages Online

Social Security has expanded its online services to allow people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and their representative payees to report wages securely online. This service is available through our existing my Social Security portal.

Now, it’s faster and easier for SSDI beneficiaries and their representative payees to report wages; they can avoid visiting a field office to report their wages in person, and they can print a receipt of their earnings.

This service will be available for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients in the future. SSI recipients should continue to report wages through SSI Mobile Wage Reporting, SSI Telephone Wage Reporting, or by visiting a local field office.

You and your clients can visit www.socialsecurity.gov today to learn more about this new online service.

Social Security Benefits to Increase in 2018

When we announce the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), there’s usually an increase in the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit amount people receive each month. By law, federal benefit rates increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-W).

The CPI-W rises when prices increase, making your cost of living go up. This means that prices for goods and services are, on average, a little more expensive. The COLA helps to offset these costs. As a result, more than 66 million Americans will see a 2.0 percent increase in their Social Security and SSI benefits in 2018.

Other changes that will happen in January 2018 are based on the increase in the national average wage index. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll tax will increase to $128,700. The earnings limit for workers younger than “full” retirement age will increase to $17,040, and the limit for people turning 66 in 2018 will increase to $45,360.

For information about the 2018 COLA, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

Social Security’s National Disability Forum

On Tuesday, November 7, Social Security will host a National Disability Forum on Compassionate Allowances and Rare Diseases. The purpose of the forum is to acquire input and obtain suggestions of conditions for inclusion to the List of Compassionate Allowances for children and adults from external stakeholders, including patient organizations.

The Forum will be a moderated expert session discussing challenges for patients and their families, and the importance of the Compassionate Allowances Initiative for those living with debilitating and rare diseases. Experts in the field of rare diseases will share their research and suggestions for Compassionate Allowances conditions. Patient organizations will share extensive information on conditions and recommend conditions for inclusion to the List of Compassionate Allowances.

You and your clients can learn more about the National Disability Forum and our Disability Programs at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/whatsnew.html.

Enumeration Beyond Entry

Social Security is collaborating with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide a new service to our customers. As of October 2, 2017, there’s an automated Social Security number (SSN) application process for noncitizens residing in the U.S. applying for employment authorization.

Enumeration Beyond Entry (EBE) eliminates the need for many noncitizens to visit a field office or card center to apply for a SSN card. Now, the DHS’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has enumeration-specific questions on their application for employment authorization (Form I-765). Every day, the USCIS electronically sends Social Security the enumeration-specific information from approved applications that requested an original or replacement SSN card.

Social Security is continuously expanding its services to put your clients in control and secure today and tomorrow.

September 2017

Three New Conditions Added to Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances Program

Social Security has added three new conditions to the Compassionate Allowances Program. These are impairments that clearly meet our standard for disability under the law. When a Social Security or Supplemental Security Income claim involves a Compassionate Allowances condition, we can make a decision quickly and minimize the time required to begin paying benefits.

The new conditions include:

  • CACH — Vanishing White Matter Disease-Infantile and Childhood Onset Forms
  • Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy
  • Kleefstra Syndrome

Please see our recent press release for more details about Compassionate Allowances and the newly added conditions. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.

Online Tools You Can Use: B.E.S.T.

B.E.S.T. is the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool, available at ssabest.benefits.gov. It can help someone find out if they might be eligible for retirement, disability, survivors, Supplemental Security Income, or Medicare benefits. Although B.E.S.T. asks a series of questions to determine eligibility, they are not personal in nature and the answers are not stored.

On average, it takes only about 10 minutes to complete the B.E.S.T. questionnaire. First, it guides the person through the questions needed to find out if they could qualify for benefits.

The Results section appears automatically after the person completes some basic questions. B.E.S.T. lists each program for which they might qualify. By clicking on the Read More tab, they will find a description of the benefit program, its requirements, and what the Next Steps should be.

If you or your clients are eligible for benefits, you or they must file an application for benefits with Social Security, because B.E.S.T. is not an application. The best way to do this is by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov.

Facebook Live Event with Social Security’s Chief Actuary

Back by popular demand, Social Security’s Chief Actuary, Steven Goss, returned to Facebook Live for another conversation on the future of Social Security. Mr. Goss highlighted key points in the latest Trustees Report, explained the operations of the trust funds, provided insight on the future of Social Security, and took viewers’ questions LIVE.

You and your clients can view a video of it on YouTube at http://ow.ly/8Wfq30fpnxe.

You can also follow Social Security on Facebook, where we post news and program information at www.facebook.com/socialsecurity.

Protect Your Clients Against Phishing and Fraud

Verifying and protecting the identities of you and your clients is of great importance to us at Social Security. We dedicated an entire section of our website to explaining how we process information online and verify Social Security numbers. We include helpful tips you and your clients should be aware of on avoiding identity theft schemes and ways to make your online presence more secure.

www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/verifyandprotectid.html

Checking your personal my Social Security account is also a great way to make sure no one is using your Social Security number fraudulently. You can open or log into your free, secure account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Our mission is to provide you and your clients with enhanced service. Part of that commitment is making sure people know who to trust and how to exercise caution when it comes to personal information and protecting your identity.

August 2017

New States Can Replace Social Security Cards Online at my Social Security

Social Security continues to improve my Social Security with features that make doing business with us easier and more secure. Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, and Virginia are the most recent states to benefit from Social Security’s efforts to make more services available online. Residents of these states join the District of Columbia and 20 other states in being able to request a replacement Social Security card online using my Social Security. And we continue to add more states.

It’s an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online.

Securing today and tomorrow can start now. Putting you in control of your future is a priority for us. Visit my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to learn more.

Treasury Phasing Out myRA Program

The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that it will begin winding down the myRA program.

Participants in the myRA program are being notified of the upcoming changes, including information on moving their myRA savings to another Roth IRA. Participants are encouraged to visit www.myra.gov for additional information or to call myRA customer support with any questions.

Social Security Has You Covered

Social Security’s disability program provides medical and financial support to disabled individuals and their families in a time of need. The Social Security Act uses a strict definition of disability. We pay benefits to people with a severe medical condition that prevents them from performing substantial work and that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Social Security does not pay benefits for partial disability or short-term disability.

From Wounded Warriors to chronically ill children, millions of Americans live with disabilities. When disability strikes, Social Security is there providing financial support to people when they need it most. You and your clients can learn more about our disability programs at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/.

Access my Social Security on the Go!

It’s undeniable that smartphones have changed the world. People have GPS-based maps in the palms of their hands, and they can video chat with strangers on the other side of the planet. About one third of our online traffic to SocialSecurity.gov comes from people using smartphones, and Social Security has made it easier for your clients to do business with us. Your clients can now access their personal my Social Security accounts seamlessly from their mobile devices.

Whether your clients receive Social Security benefits now or not, they can use their personal my Social Security account to access their earnings records and view future benefit estimates, or manage their benefits, if they receive them.

my Social Security is a safe and secure portal to access their personal retirement information. And now, the portal automatically adjusts to the size of the screen and device being used – such as a computer, tablet, and now a smartphone.

Social Security strives to provide customers with the latest technological advancements and my Social Security is one of our most powerful—and now most convenient—tools. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

5 Informative Frequently Answered Questions at Social Security

MyRA

Social Security’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) webpage is one of our most popular and helpful resources. Your clients probably have questions all the time about our programs. Even experts in retirement and disability benefits find this collection of facts helpful. Currently, our top five FAQs are:

  1. How do I apply for a new or replacement Social Security number card?
  2. How do I change or correct my name on my Social Security number card?
  3. What happens if I work and get Social Security retirement benefits?
  4. How long will it take to get a Social Security card?
  5. How can I get a benefit verification letter?

Check out these popular questions and their answers or browse our FAQs by topic to conveniently find the answers to questions about what interests you. Visit faq.ssa.gov today.

July 2017

Inspector General Warns About New Phone Scams

Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General is warning citizens to stay vigilant and protect themselves from potential phone scams seeking their personal information and resources. Gale Stallworth Stone, the acting inspector general of Social Security, recently issued two scam alerts.

Citizens across the country are receiving calls from an individual posing as a Social Security employee. The caller tells the victim they are due a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase of their Social Security benefits. The impersonator then asks the victim to verify their personal information to receive the increase. Reports show the calls have been coming from a phone number with a 323 area code. This call is fraudulent.

Another scheme allegedly targets former clients of Kentucky disability attorney Eric C. Conn. According to reports, the scammers claim to be from Social Security and offer people $9,000 from a “Conn Client Compensation Fund” if they send $200 to the “Federal Reserve Bank of New York.” This compensation fund does not exist. The number associated with these calls is 202-681-5115.

We want to stress that Social Security staff are not making these calls. If you or your clients receive a similarly suspicious call from someone claiming to represent Social Security or its Office of the Inspector General, please report it by calling 1-800-269-0271 or by visiting https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

The Office of the Inspector General offers three tips to protect yourself and others from fraudsters:

  1. Understand the threats. Be wary of scammers who may impersonate government officials or seek advance payment for services.
  2. Exercise caution. In general, no government agency or reputable company will solicit your personal information over the phone or by email, or request an advance fee.
  3. Secure your information. Store your Social Security number in a safe location — don’t carry it with you. Shred documents that include your personal information.

You and your clients can learn more at https://oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/scam-awareness.

Social Security 2017 Trustees Report

On July 13, 2017, the Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report on the current and projected financial status of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) trust funds.

The combined asset reserves of the OASDI trust funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, the same as projected last year, with 77 percent of benefits payable at that time.

In the 2017 Report to Congress, the trustees also announced:

  • The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2021. Beginning in 2022, the total annual cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
  • The DI trust fund will become depleted in 2028, extended from last year’s estimate of 2023, with 93 percent of benefits still payable.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.83 percent of taxable payroll – 0.17 percentage point larger than in last year’s report.

sThe longevity of our programs relies on the accurate, up-to-date data provided in these yearly reports. You can view the full 2017 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2017/.

Increased Security = Satisfied Users

As of June 10, 2017, we use a second way—either a cell phone number or e-mail address—to identify my Social Security account holders when they register and sign in to their account. This is in addition to the first layer of security, a username and password. We take the responsibility of protecting what’s important to you and your clients seriously, and this added security measure is a vital part of keeping that information more safe and secure.

Since this new enhancement went into effect, over 382,000 new users have created a my Social Security account and registered their cell phone number or e-mail address. Out of the more than 30 million accounts created since May 2012, almost 2.9 million users have enhanced their security. Based on our online survey, customers agree that it’s easy to sign in to their account, and don’t have concerns about their account security.

We also upgraded the look and feel of my Social Security. Now, the portal automatically adjusts to the size of the screen and device being used – such as a tablet, smart phone, or computer. No matter what device you choose, you have full, easy-to-use access to your personal my Social Security.

More Americans Can Request Replacement Social Security Cards Online

For millions of Americans, it’s easier than ever to request a replacement Social Security card. We recently added Arkansas, Delaware, and Indiana to the growing list of states where adults with proper state identification can apply for a replacement Social Security card through their online my Social Security account.

To participate, you must be a U.S. citizen age 18 or older, have a U.S. mailing address, and not be requesting a name change or other change to your card. You must have a current and valid driver’s license or state identification from the District of Columbia or one of the 20 states participating thus far.

To see the list of participating states and to set up or access your own my Social Security account, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Offering More Assistance to Those Who Served

The men and women who served our country in the military can count on Social Security to be there for them throughout life’s journey.

Active-duty military members earn credits toward Social Security retirement benefits. Wounded Warriors can receive expedited handling of their claims to receive disability benefits. We also provide survivor benefits for the young children and spouses of veterans who die.

You can learn more about how Social Security helps our veterans and their families at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans.

Now, we offer a new online toolkit to help certain disabled veterans in their efforts to return to gainful employment in the American workforce. Our new Journey to Success: Employment Tools for Veterans with Disabilities guidebook highlights resources, such as career counseling, job training, employment services, and more.

You can access all five parts of Journey to Success at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans.

We know some veterans have suffered injuries so severe they cannot return to any form of work. However, for those who are interested in testing their ability to find and maintain gainful employment, these resources can help.

We thank all members of our military and veterans for their service and sacrifice.

To learn more about our programs and benefits, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.

June 2017

Our New Security Enhancement to Protect Your Privacy

On June 10, 2017, Social Security strengthened the way we protect your clients’ privacy as my Social Security users. We added a new identification method in addition to the first layer of security, which is a username and password. Adding security measures to safeguard your clients’ information — but making them easy to use — is a vital part of keeping your clients safe and secure.

When your client signs in to their personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount with their username and password, we ask them to add their email address or a text-enabled cell phone number.

Each time your client signs in to their account, they complete two steps:

  • Step 1: Enter their username and password.
  • Step 2: Enter the security code we send by text message or email, depending on their choice (cell phone provider text message and data rates may apply).

In addition to these security enhancements, we also upgraded the look and feel of my Social Security to create an enhanced customer experience. The my Social Security portal automatically adjusts to the size of the screen and for the kind of device your client is using – such as a tablet, smart phone, or computer. No matter what type of device they choose, your client has full, easy-to-use access to their personal my Social Security account.

SSDI or SSI – What’s the Difference?

Social Security administers two different programs that pay disability benefits. What it means to be disabled is the same for both programs — a condition(s) making the person unable to work and that is expected to last at least a year or to end in death. But each has a different set of rules and serves a different purpose. Understanding these differences will help your eligible clients apply for and begin receiving critical benefits more quickly.

Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, requires that a person have earnings that are taxed by Social Security to become eligible for benefits. The minimum required varies from as little as one and one-half years for a younger worker and up to 10 years for an older worker. Social Security determines the monthly benefit payable based on the averaged earnings of the worker. Benefits are paid from the Social Security Disability Trust Fund. For most workers, family benefits for eligible spouses and children are available. After 24 months of receiving benefits, the disabled individual becomes entitled to Medicare. For more about SSDI, refer to our pamphlet called Disability Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10029.pdf.

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, payments are paid from the general tax fund. SSI legislation determines the SSI payment amount, which increases when a cost of living adjustment occurs. Payment goes to the disabled individual, which can include children and both members of a disabled couple, if they qualify. Generally, receiving SSI gives the disabled person access to Medicaid (a state health care program). There is no work history requirement to get SSI, but it does have requirements about income and resources. Refer to You May Be Able To Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-11069.pdf to learn more about getting SSI.

Social Security is here to help you and your clients through life’s journey. Planning for unexpected situations like disability is smart financial planning.

Social Security Supports National Cancer Survivors Day

In 2017, more than a million people will be diagnosed with cancer around the world. This alarming statistic affects people and families from all walks of life. Chances are, you know someone who has been affected by this terrible disease. On June 4, we observed National Cancer Survivors Day in the United States. In support of this day, Social Security encourages getting checkups to provide early detection, raise awareness through education, and recognize the survivors who have gone through this battle or are still living with the disease.

Social Security stands strong in our support of the fight against cancer. We offer services to patients dealing with this disease through our disability insurance program and our Compassionate Allowances program. Compassionate Allowances result from medical conditions so severe they obviously meet Social Security’s disability standards, allowing us to process the cases quickly with minimal medical information. Many cancers are part of our Compassionate Allowances list.

There’s no special application or form you need to submit for a Compassionate Allowance. Simply apply for disability benefits online, in-person, or over the phone. Once we identify you as having a Compassionate Allowance condition, we’ll expedite your disability application. You and your clients can learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

Summer is Upon Us, Save Your Days for Fun

With summer beginning, you want to spend much of your free time with family and friends. Using my Social Security can free up hours to do that. It’s easy, secure, and convenient to access when you go online.

Signing up for a my Social Security account will give you a secure and efficient way to interact with us and accomplish various tasks, including estimating your future benefits or managing your current benefits. You can sign up for your own account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and join the more than 30 million Americans who already conduct business with us online using my Social Security.

Social Security is… Social!

We once considered Twitter, Facebook, and other social media as casual pastimes. Now they are a vital part of the way your government communicates with you. We keep you and your clients up-to-date with policy changes and benefits information, and inform people about newly developed tools that make conducting business with us easier and more secure.

Connect with Social Security on

And you can always access www.socialsecurity.gov for detailed program and benefit information.

May 2017

Social Security Launches New Educators Tool Kit

Social Security just launched a new website and tool kit for educators. This is a rich resource for teachers and advocates. It’s full of information and resources to educate and engage students on Social Security, and contains:

  • Two lesson plans with objectives;
  • Infographics and handouts for each lesson plan;
  • Links to Social Security webpages;
  • Talking points; and
  • Quiz questions and answers.

It is important for students to understand why Social Security was created and why it is important in their lives today and in the future. This knowledge and understanding will provide students a strong base on which to build their financial future.

You and your clients can access the webpage and toolkit at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/educators.html.

Young workers can also learn more about the importance of Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/students.

Small Businesses are a Cornerstone of the Economy

National Small Business Week is in May, but Social Security is always here to offer support. Our Business Services Online (BSO) suite of services offers the tools needed to perform several common tasks from the comfort of home or the office.

After you or your clients register with BSO, you can access our online business services and functions. For example, you can complete, update, and submit your business taxpayer information forms and print W-2 forms for your employees. BSO lets people file wage reports and view error notices for any wage files or wage reports submitted by you or your company. You and your clients can also verify existing and prospective employees’ names and Social Security numbers.

BSO is especially valuable for small business. Learn more about our online business services by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/bso.

Homeless Veterans Deserve Our Help

In May, Social Security participated in the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) National Conference. We hosted an information table in the exhibit hall where we shared information about Social Security programs, our online services, and our policies and initiatives affecting disabled veterans.

We also conducted a workshop as part of NCHV’s Employment and Income track focusing on our benefits programs for veterans and a round robin session about our “Ticket to Work” program. Participants chose a table or topic and the expert gave a short overview and then engaged in discussion and Q&A. After about 20 minutes, participants chose a new table and the process began again. These sessions were designed to give participants direct access to experts.

You and your clients can access our resources for homeless people at www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness.

There is also a national call center for homeless veterans which can be accessed at www.va.gov/homeless/nationalcallcenter.asp.

Securing Today and Tomorrow for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

During the month of May, we recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in the United States. It is a time to celebrate this strong, diverse, and culturally rich community. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in America. The AAPI community also has one of the fastest-growing populations of older adults. Of the nearly 38 million Social Security beneficiaries aged 65 and older, roughly 1.4 million seniors are from the AAPI community, and this number is expected to increase in the coming years.

Our website has many resources for the AAPI community. There you will find out why Social Security is especially important to the AAPI community. Knowledge is the key to preparing for tomorrow. Visit our website and learn about the various ways in which Social Security helps the AAPI community secure today and tomorrow. You and your clients can view our website for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/aapi.

From Alessia to Zayn, Popular Baby Names on the Rise!

Every year, we’re the authority on the most popular baby names from the prior year based on requests for Social Security numbers for newborns. It’s fun to see how America’s trends and cultures have diversified and our choices have broadened. You can visit our baby names page to see the top names from 2016 and see where your or your child’s name ranks at www.socialsecurity.gov/babynames.

Our list shows how pop culture affects naming trends year to year. In 2016, the biggest jump in popularity in the top 1,000 were Kehlani and Kylo. Kehlani rose 2,487 spots on the girls’ side to number 872, from number 3,359 in 2015. We can attribute this to Kehlani Parrish, a 2016 Grammy nominee also known for collaborating with Zayn Malik, the former One Direction star and current solo artist. The name Zayn also made the boys fastest riser list. Kylo soared 2,368 spots on the boys’ list, from number 3,269 in 2015 to number 901. Kylo Ren was a character in the 2015 film Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

No matter the inspiration for your child’s name, you can rest easy knowing we’re with you and your child starting from when you choose their special name. Get to know us and the resources we offer to families with children at www.socialsecurity.gov.

April 2017

Thank You for a Successful National Social Security Month

In April, we celebrated National Social Security Month and want to thank you for encouraging your clients to start planning for their future by taking Social Security’s 5 Steps Toward Your Financial Security.

In 1935, Social Security was created to promote economic security for the nation’s people. Since then, we’ve integrated programs and services to support millions of people. Chances are, you either receive Social Security benefits or know someone who does. We provide financial protection for nearly 61 million individuals and families, including veterans, the chronically ill, widows and widowers, the children of deceased workers, retirees, and people with disabilities.

In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, Social Security is the most effective anti-poverty program in the United States. April was National Social Security Month, but it’s always important for you to be as informed as possible, all year long. Celebrate by getting to know your Social Security by taking our 5 Steps Toward Your Financial Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/5-steps-toward-your-financial-security. This is a simple and easy way to start planning for your future. Social Security is with you throughout life’s journey, helping you secure today and tomorrow.

Supplemental Security Income Applications Now Online

We’re always looking for ways to provide your clients with innovative, quality services, and with our newest online enhancement, we’re proud to be doing just that. Now, if your clients meet certain requirements, they can file Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and disability applications at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/ssi/ at the same time.

Your clients can apply online if they:

  • Are between the ages of 18 and 65;
  • Have never been married;
  • Aren’t blind;
  • Are a U.S. citizen residing in one of the 50 states, District of Columbia, or the Northern Mariana Islands; and
  • Haven’t applied for or received SSI benefits in the past.

If they started another application online before April 1, but haven’t submitted it, they can take advantage of this new service option and submit a disability and SSI application together.

With this update, we expanded service to customers with limited English proficiency by allowing them to request an appointment online for an in-person claim or teleclaim in the language of their choice. As we provide this new service in many languages, including Spanish, we are discontinuing the separate Spanish language iClaim option. Applicants who started and saved an iClaim in Spanish can still enter the portal and complete it for up to six months after the claim start date.

With disability, and now SSI benefit applications online, we’re allowing more and more of our customers to access benefits when, where, and how they want.

The Sixth National Disability Forum

Social Security held its sixth National Disability Forum on April 5 at the National Education Association. The theme of the event was “Exploring Potential Changes to the Ticket to Work Regulations.”

The Ticket to Work program provides employment support to our beneficiaries with disabilities as they work toward self-sufficiency. This forum allowed stakeholders to discuss their ideas about possible improvements to the program, in person and virtually. The presenters represented many of our stakeholders: employment networks, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, National Disability Rights Network representatives, and Ticket to Work program participants.

Melanie Porter, Senior Advisor, Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support at the Social Security Administration, moderated the discussion.

Speakers included

  • Joseph M. Ashley, Rh.D., CRC, Assistant Commissioner, Grants and Special Programs, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services;
  • M.J. Willard, Executive Director, National Telecommuting Institute;
  • Judy Sanderson, Director of Employment Services, Granite State Independent Living, New Hampshire;
  • Cheryl Bates-Harris, Senior Disability Advocacy Specialist, Training & Advocacy Support Center, National Disability Rights Network; and
  • Andraéa LaVant, Inclusion Senior Specialist, Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital.

You and your clients can learn more about the National Disability Forum at www.socialsecurity.gov/ndf/.

Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill

As part of Financial Literacy Month, Social Security participated in Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill with a mix of government, not-for-profit, and corporate organizations. The principal purpose of Financial Literacy Day is to introduce Capitol Hill and the public to:

  • The strides Social Security has made in the financial literacy effort.
  • The most effective financial education programs and resources available now.
  • The diversity of organizations and individuals who are working together toward these shared goals.

Social Security participated as an exhibitor and promoted our new Educators webpage at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/educators.html that includes a Teachers Toolkit, and new Students webpage at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/students/ that includes infographic resources to educate young people on Social Security (What is Social Security? and What the FICA?).

Social Security Teamed Up with Suze Orman for National Social Security Month

Financial planning expert Suze Orman shared her expertise with Social Security as part of National Social Security Month. Suze wrote four guest blog posts on Social Security and retirement planning that we posted in our Social Security Matters blog every Thursday in April. We appreciate Ms. Orman joining our effort pro bono. You and your clients can read the posts at blog.socialsecurity.gov/author/suze-orman.

Social Security hosted a National Social Security Month conference call featuring Suze Orman on April 19. We invited the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) federal partner agencies, American Savings Education Council (ASEC), and JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. We also invited non-governmental partners who work on financial literacy issues as well as other close partners.

Social Security Hosts Facebook Live Event

As part of National Social Security Month, Social Security hosted a Facebook Live event highlighting the five steps people can take to secure their financial future. The Facebook Live event was viewed by over 12,200 individuals, generated almost 224,000 impressions on Facebook alone, and there were over 420 comments.

It doesn’t have to be April for you to learn the five steps to secure your financial future. These steps include:

  1. Get to know your Social Security
  2. Verify your earnings
  3. Estimate your benefits
  4. Apply for benefits
  5. Manage your benefits

You and your clients can learn more about these five valuable steps at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/5-steps-toward-your-financial-security.

Our New Security Enhancement to Protect Your Privacy

On June 10, 2017, Social Security is adding enhanced security to protect your and your clients’ privacy as my Social Security users. This is in addition to the first layer of security, a username and password. Adding security measures to safeguard your clients’ information — but making them easy to use — is a vital part of keeping your clients safe and secure.

When your client signs in to their personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount with their username and password, we will ask them to add their email address or a text-enabled cell phone number.

Then, each time your client signs in to their account, they will complete two steps:

  • Step 1: Enter their username and password.
  • Step 2: Enter the security code we send by text message or email, depending on their choice (cell phone provider text message and data rates may apply).

In addition to these security enhancements, we’ll also upgrade the look and feel of my Social Security to create an enhanced customer experience. The my Social Security portal will automatically adjust to the size of the screen and kind of device your client is using – such as a tablet, smart phone, or computer. No matter what type of device they choose, your client will have full, easy-to-use access to their personal my Social Security account.

March 2017

Joining Forces to Improve the Representative Payee Program

The Social Security Advisory Board held a policy forum on the Social Security Administration’s Representative Payee Program on March 27 at the 20 F Street NW Conference Center. This forum included panels on identifying who needs a representative payee, monitoring representative payee performance, and the way forward.

Currently, more than six million payees manage $80 billion in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 3.5 million adults and 4 million children determined to be incapable of managing their benefits. Projections indicate that the number of people needing assistance will increase dramatically in the coming decades as the population ages. The day’s discussion included the process of determining capacity, best practices, collaborative efforts and new approaches from the front lines, necessary oversight, program evaluation, and preparing for the future.

You and your clients can read more about Social Security’s Representative Payee Program at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee.

Why Wait? Get Your Social Security Benefit Verification Letter Online

Social Security puts you in control. Over the years, we have invested in technology that lets the public access many of our services online and save a trip to a Social Security office. We want to remind your clients that if they ever have to present proof of income or benefits — or show that they are not receiving benefits — it’s easy to get a benefit verification letter online.

Your clients can get a benefit verification letter instantly with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. It takes only a few minutes to create an account.

The most common reason for needing a benefit verification letter is for proof of income when applying for a loan or mortgage. However, your clients may also need a benefit verification letter as proof of:

  • Income to qualify for assisted housing or other state or local benefits;
  • Current Medicare health insurance coverage;
  • Retirement status;
  • Disability;
  • Age; or
  • A pending benefits application with Social Security.

Please tell your clients about this time-saving online service and direct them to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Secure Your Future During National Social Security Month

In April, we celebrate National Social Security Month and encourage you and your clients to get 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. Here is what Social Security offers:

  • Easy accessibility: 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 Medicare 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.
  • Safe 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.

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.

Exploring Potential Changes to the Ticket to Work Regulations

In April, Social Security will hold the sixth National Disability Forum (NDF) on “Exploring Potential Changes to the Ticket to Work Regulations.” The Ticket to Work Program provides employment support to our beneficiaries with disabilities as they work toward self-sufficiency. The forum invites stakeholders to suggest improvements to the program, both in person and virtually. Presenters represent many of our stakeholders: employment networks, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, and Ticket to Work Program participants.

The NDF is scheduled for Wednesday, April 5, 2017, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET at the National Education Association located at 1201 16 th Street NW, Washington D.C. The forum will also be available via teleconference. You and your clients can view the NDF website at www.socialsecurity.gov/ndf for more details.

The Disability Forum will provide an arena for advocates to share ideas that could support Social Security beneficiary employment goals, increase participation in the Ticket to Work Program, design effective employment models, and foster success with our employment networks.

You and your clients can visit the NDF website at www.socialsecurity.gov/ndf to register and post your comments on IdeaScale.

California, Florida, and Texas added to the Social Security Online Card

Social Security’s online application makes getting a replacement for a lost or misplaced Social Security card easy. We’re happy to announce that we’ve added California, Florida, and Texas to the 14 other states and the District of Columbia where you can use this service.

If you have a driver’s license or state-issued identification card, you can now request a replacement Social Security card online through our secure my Social Security portal. As long as you’re only requesting a replacement card, and no other changes, you can use our free online service from the comfort of your home, office, and even the beach.

The first step is to create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Visit our website to find out whether you can request your replacement Social Security online, and what the requirements are in your area at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

February 2017

Our New Acting Commissioner

On January 23, Nancy A. Berryhill became the acting commissioner of Social Security, with responsibility for overseeing one of our nation’s largest and most important social insurance programs, providing retirement, survivors, and disability protection to almost all Americans. With a $12 billion budget and almost 64,000 employees serving in more than 1,500 offices across the country and around the world, plus 16,000 state employees making disability determinations, we issue more than $960 billion in payments to nearly 66 million people each year. Ms. Berryhill leads an agency with a legacy and continuing mission that helps so many people through life’s journey.

Ms. Berryhill isn’t new to Social Security. She previously served as the deputy commissioner for Operations, our largest organizational component. She gained first-hand experience with many frontline jobs before moving to a number of executive positions in her 40 years with the agency. Several expanded-service delivery options can be traced back directly to her. She has also demonstrated forward thinking by developing successful and innovative initiatives that have earned her many agency and federal awards.

Acting Commissioner Berryhill’s work and achievements consistently demonstrate professional excellence, exceptional leadership, integrity, and commitment to public service.

Withholding Federal Income Tax from Your Social Security Benefits

Having to send the IRS a large tax payment can be a considerable burden. You and your clients can voluntarily ask Social Security to withhold federal taxes from monthly benefits at a rate of 7, 10, 15, or 25 percent. You will need to complete and sign IRS Form W-4V, available at https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs. You can then mail it to your local Social Security office found at www.socialsecurity.gov/locator.

At the beginning of the next calendar year, you and your clients will receive Form SSA-1099, which will show any Voluntary Federal Income Tax withheld. If you wish to change, or even stop the amount withheld, just complete a new form W-4V, sign it, and mail it to your local Social Security office. You can access more tax withholding resources at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/taxwithold.html.

New Website for Tax Preparers

Social Security has a new online resource for tax preparers at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/atp.html. Your clients can access this resource to get information on income taxes and their Social Security benefits, learn how to get an instant replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1024S online, as well as getting an IRS Form W-4V. Small business owners can also learn about reporting wages online using our Business Services Online, which is a suite of services available to business owners.

In our effort to put our customers in control of their financial future, Social Security continues to improve our online tools and resources, securing today and tomorrow.

Empower Yourself with America Saves Week

The American Savings Education Council and America Saves coordinate the annual America Saves Week. Started in 2007, the week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

For years, Social Security has collaborated with America Saves Week to promote our shared mission of helping millions of people save for their future. This year, America Saves Week began on February 27, but people like you and your clients strive to save every day.

It’s never too early or too late to start planning for your future. Set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically. Savers with a plan are twice as likely to save successfully. Pledge to save for America Saves Week at www.americasaves.org. Share what you’re saving for on Twitter by using the hashtag #ImSavingFor.

Congressional Testimony before House Subcommittee on Social Security and Oversight

On February 7, Social Security’s acting deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, Marianna LaCanfora, testified before the House Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittees on Social Security and Oversight. She detailed how Social Security determines whether a beneficiary is incapable of managing his or her benefit payments.

She said, “Early on in Social Security’s history, Congress recognized that some beneficiaries were incapable of managing their benefits and amended the Social Security Act to allow us to appoint representative payees for such beneficiaries. Representative payees help our vulnerable beneficiaries by managing their benefit payments for their basic needs.”

Ms. LaCanfora also detailed the three types of evidence required to make a capability determination, the process of selecting a representative payee, appeal rights, and Social Security’s improvements in our process of determining capability.

You and your clients can read the entire testimony at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/congressionaltestimony.html.

Why Social Security is Important to Women

Women have challenging choices to make. Some may spend their entire adulthood in a career or job outside the home. Some may work for a few years, leave the labor force to raise children, and eventually return to work. And some may choose not to work outside the home at all. Whether you work, have worked, or have never worked outside the home, you need to understand how Social Security can help you and your family find financial security.

When most people think of Social Security, they think of retirement benefits — with good reason. We have you covered throughout your lifetime. Knowing you will probably be entitled to a portion of your spouse’s retirement benefits if they pass away is an added security. On average, women tend to make less in wages than men. Social Security pays a higher benefit in relation to earnings for people who earn lower wages.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, helping you secure today and tomorrow. Any woman, no matter how young or old, would benefit from visiting our webpage for women at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/women.

January 2017

Celebrating Those Who Provide Care: Social Security’s Representative Payee Program

According to the Census Bureau, there are nearly 57 million people living with disabilities in the United States. Thirty percent of American adults help provide care for a sick or disabled family member.

Social Security works closely with caregivers through our Representative Payee Program. A representative payee is someone who receives and oversees the Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for an adult or child who cannot manage his or her benefits. You can learn more about our Representative Payee Program at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee.

A representative payee is usually a trusted family member or friend of the beneficiary, but when friends or family are not able to serve as representative payees, Social Security looks for qualified individuals or organizations to represent the beneficiary. You can learn about becoming a representative payee by watching our new series of training videos on the duties of a representative payee at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee/rp_training2.html.

Receiving HUD Benefits? A Trip to Social Security May Not be Necessary

Social Security is constantly evolving to make doing business with us easier. If your client is currently receiving benefits from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and is reapplying for benefits, or is assisting someone with their application, a trip to a 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 who run HUD rental assistance programs may get registration information about EIV by logging onto the HUD portalor visiting www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/mfh/rhiip/eiv/eivhome.cfm.

If your client is a new applicant for housing assistance, they can provide their HUD administrator with their Social Security award letter, Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) notice, SSA-1099, or other Social Security benefit document.

Your clients can also get an instant benefit verification letter online with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

LGBT Communities can Count on Social Security

In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states and have their marriage recognized by other states. This decision made it possible for more same-sex couples and their families to benefit from our programs.

We now recognize same-sex couples’ marriages in all states, and some non-marital legal relationships (such as some civil unions and domestic partnerships), for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits and Medicare, and eligibility and payment amount for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). We also recognize same-sex marriages and some non-marital legal relationships established in foreign jurisdictions for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits and Medicare, and SSI.

Social Security is committed to treating all Americans fairly. This commitment extends to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people covered by Social Security’s many programs. We encourage anyone who believes they may be eligible for benefits to apply now. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

When Should I Start Receiving Social Security benefits?

Deciding when to retire and receive Social Security benefits is a personal decision that will affect you and your family. Taking benefits as soon as you can may reduce the amount you receive each month. Waiting until your full retirement age will greatly increase your monthly benefits. Knowing what you need for a comfortable and secure retirement takes planning, and we are here with information to help you.

“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 retire from your work to start receiving your full benefits. The choices you make may affect any benefit your spouse or children can receive on your record, too.

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

Social Security’s mission is to secure your today and tomorrow, and we help by providing you and your clients with the tools and information to make the right retirement decision. You can learn more by visiting our Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire.

Reminder: You Can Get Instant Replacement Tax Forms Online

You’ve finally sat down to work on your taxes and you’re ready to file today—until you notice that you’re missing your SSA-1099! Now what?

We make it easy to get the replacement Social Security tax forms you need. But first, double-check your stack of mail—you may already have the one we mailed to you in January.

An SSA-1099, or Benefit Statement, is a tax form Social Security mails each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of Social Security benefits received in the previous year so people know how much Social Security income to report to IRS on their tax return.

For noncitizens who live outside of the United States and who received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we will send form SSA-1042S instead. The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If you or your clients currently live in the United States and need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, we have a way for them to get an instant replacement, quickly and easily. Encourage your clients to go online and get an instant replacement form with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. The online replacement form is available beginning February 1, 2017.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey—even during tax season.

Get your replacement Social Security tax forms at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

December 2016

Happy Holidays from Social Security!

We would like to wish you happy holidays from the Social Security family to yours! The spirit of giving is at the heart of what we do — supporting those in need all year long. Should you need to do business with us around the New Year’s holiday, we want you to know that our offices will be closed the day after New Year’s Day, January 2. However, our online services are available.

For a list of our secure and convenient online services, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

Now is the Time for Affordable Care Act Enrollment

Enrollment for affordable healthcare is open until January 31, 2017, which is the last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. You and your clients can learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace and how to apply for benefits at www.healthcare.gov.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also ensures that even if you have a preexisting condition you will be covered. If you are already covered, but want to change your plan, this is the time to do it. You or your family may have experienced changes over the last year that would make you want to update your coverage. Over the past two open enrollment periods, over 20 million individuals have enrolled in affordable health coverage, many for the first time. We now have the lowest uninsured rate in the country’s history.

  • January 1, 2017: 2017 coverage starts for those who enrolled or changed plans by December 15.
  • January 31, 2017: Last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. After this date, you can enroll or change plans only if you qualify for a special enrollment period.

Even if you’re just curious about the many plans in the open marketplace, you and your clients can compare healthcare plans at https://www.healthcare.gov/have-coverage.

Social Security Appeals Made Even Easier for You

We are always improving the way you and your clients can do business with us. As of December 10, claimants can file an appeal online for non-medical determinations and adverse actions--even if they live outside the United States. Examples of non-medical appeals include appealing an overpayment and appealing Medicare premium rates. You and your clients can find the link at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html.

The online appeals application is simple, convenient, and secure. It guides claimants through every step of the process. From outlining their rights to an appeal, to publications on the appeals process, a fair review of their case is right at their fingertips. The application also lets claimants upload supporting documentation and save their submission.

We are constantly looking for ways to make our services accessible and readily available when our customers need them. It’s part of our commitment to delivering excellent service and providing claimants with more options, like an online appeal, to conduct their business.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices to see the many secure services we provide online.

Social Security Continues to Innovate with New Features: Application Status

In an effort to serve you and your clients better and to meet our goal to deliver innovative, quality services, we are improving how your clients can check the status of their Social Security benefit application online.

Placing the “application status” feature behind my Social Security provides a secure service delivery channel that will allow the Agency to provide detailed status information without requiring a confirmation number.

Our first service improvement will include status information for Social Security and any Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits initial claims and appeals, but future modifications will include allowing your clients to check the status of medical and non-medical redeterminations.

With the new application status, you will see:

  • the re-entry number for in-progress online applications;
  • detailed information about the current status of the application or appeal;
  • the location where the claim is being processed; and
  • scheduled hearing information for appeals.

Log into my Social Security to see what other personalized features are available to your clients at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Get Replacement Social Security Tax Forms Online with Ease

Preparing for tax season can seem overwhelming. Some forms and paperwork might be difficult to track down. We have made this much easier with annual Benefit Statements.

An SSA-1099, or Benefit Statement, is a tax form Social Security mails each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of Social Security benefits received in the previous year so people know how much Social Security income to report to IRS on their tax return.

For noncitizens who live outside of the United States and who received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we will send form SSA-1042S instead. The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

If your clients currently live in the United States and need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, we have a way for them to get an instant replacement, quickly and easily. Encourage your clients to go online and get an instant replacement form with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. The online replacement form is available beginning February 1, 2017.

Every working person in the U.S. should create a my Social Security account. The secure and personalized features of my Social Security are invaluable in securing a comfortable retirement — for today and tomorrow.

November 2016

Veteran Health Records Now Available without Delay

Social Security is always finding new ways to provide world-class service. We now receive Veteran and eligible family member’s medical records electronically from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) using health information technology (health IT).

We request close to 15 million medical records from healthcare organizations to make decisions on about three million disability claims annually. Health IT brings the speed and power of electronic medical records to the disability determination process. With health IT, we can obtain medical records in minutes.

We have added the VA to the Department of Defense and more than 50 other health IT partners, which represent about 7,000 facilities across the country that provide us with electronic health records. When we receive medical records immediately and electronically, we are speeding claims processing time and reducing manual efforts. Health IT has already helped obtain records for hundreds of thousands of disability claims.

Our goal is to continue expanding the number of healthcare organizations and federal agencies providing electronic health records to us, within a safe and secure environment, and to meet the needs of our customers.

You and your clients can learn more about this initiative here www.socialsecurity.gov/hit.

Act Now — Affordable Healthcare Act Enrollment is Open

Enrollment for affordable healthcare opened on November 1, 2016 and will run through January 31, 2017. Now is the time to compare healthcare plans so that you can find the best one for you. You and your clients can learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace, how to apply for benefits, and available subsidies at www.healthcare.gov.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also ensures that even if you have a preexisting condition, you will be covered. If you are already covered and want to change your plan, this is the time to do it. Factors might have changed over the last year that would make you want to update your coverage. Over the past two open enrollment periods, over 20 million individuals have enrolled in affordable health coverage, many for the first time. We now have the lowest uninsured rate in the country’s history.

Important dates to remember are:

  • December 15, 2016: Last day to enroll in or change plans for coverage to start January 1, 2017.
  • January 1, 2017: 2017 coverage starts for those who enroll or change plans by December 15.
  • January 31, 2017: Last day to enroll in or change a 2017 health plan. After this date, you can enroll or change plans only if you qualify for a special enrollment period.

Even if you’re just curious about the many plans in the open marketplace, you and your clients can compare healthcare plans at www.healthcare.gov/have-coverage.

Helping Veterans and Active Duty Military Members

For veterans and active duty members of the military who return home with injuries, Social Security is a resource they can turn to. If you know any wounded veterans, please let them know about Social Security’s Wounded Warriors website at www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.

Benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application. The expedited process is used for military service members who become disabled while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs.

Even active duty military who continue to receive pay while in a hospital or on medical leave should consider applying for disability benefits if they’re unable to work due to a disabling condition. Active duty status and receipt of military pay doesn’t necessarily prevent payment of Social Security disability benefits. Although a person can’t receive Social Security disability benefits while engaging in substantial work for pay or profit, receipt of military payments should never stop someone from applying for disability benefits from Social Security.

Social Security is proud to support the veterans and active duty members of the military. Let these heroes know they can count on us when they need to take advantage of their earned benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors.

Social Security Holiday Field Office Closings

Social Security would like to wish you happy holidays and season’s greetings from our family to yours! The spirit of giving is at the heart of what we do — supporting those in need all year long. Should you need to do business with us during the holiday season, we want you to know that our offices will be closed the day after Christmas Day, December 26, and the day after New Year’s Day, January 2.

For a list of our secure and convenient online services, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

2017 Brings New Changes to Full Retirement Age

Changes are coming with the New Year to Social Security retirement beneficiaries. People who were born 01/02/1955 through 01/01/1956 will attain full retirement age at age 66 and two months.

Full retirement age is the age at which a person may first become entitled to full or unreduced retirement benefits. You can check you full retirement age at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html.

As the full retirement age increases, there will be decreases in benefits claimed at ages prior to full retirement age. You can learn more about the full retirement age on our website and how to calculate your own.

Some things you must remember when you are thinking about retirement:

  1. You may start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. The longer you wait, the higher your monthly benefit will be.
  2. Your monthly benefits will be reduced if you start them any time before full retirement age: www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/agereduction.html.
  3. If you elect to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits: www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html.
  4. If you die, your retirement date can affect the payment to your surviving loved ones. If you started receiving retirement benefits before full retirement age, we cannot pay the full retirement age benefit amount to your survivors. Their benefit amount will be based on your reduced benefits.

You and your clients can learn more by visiting our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire.

October 2016

Social Security Benefits to Increase in 2017

The annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) can provide an increase in the benefit amount people receive each month. By law, the monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) federal benefit rate increases when there is a rise in the cost of living as determined by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index (CPI-W).

The CPI-W rose this year. When inflation increases, your cost of living also goes up. Prices for goods and services, on average, are a little more expensive. Since the CPI-W did rise, the law increases benefits to help offset inflation. As a result, monthly Social Security and SSI benefits for over 65 million Americans will increase 0.3 percent in 2017.

Other changes that would normally take effect based on changes in the national average wage index will begin in January 2017. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase to $127,200. You can read a new fact sheet that provides more information on 2017 Social Security and SSI changes at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/factsheets/colafacts2017.pdf.

For information about the 2017 COLA, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

For additional information about changes in the national average wage index, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/AWI.html.

To get more Social Security news, follow the Press Office on Twitter @SSAPress.

Act Now! Open Enrollment for Affordable Healthcare

HealthCare.gov

Open enrollment for affordable healthcare begins November 1 and lasts until January 31, 2017. If you want your coverage to begin on the first of the year, you will have to enroll by December 15. Now is the time to compare healthcare plans so that you can find the best one for you. You and your clients can learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace and how to apply for benefits at www.healthcare.gov.

Signed into law on March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act provides Americans with better healthcare security by expanding coverage, lowering healthcare costs, guaranteeing more choice, and enhancing the quality of care for all Americans. An estimated 20 million people have gained health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act – more than 6 million of them were uninsured young adults. We now have the lowest uninsured rate in the country’s history.

No matter who you are, you and your clients are entitled to affordable healthcare. It's a crucial part of securing today and tomorrow. The Affordable Care Act also ensures that even if you have a preexisting condition you will be covered. If you are already covered and want to change your plan, this is the time to do it. Factors might have changed over the last year that would make you want to update your coverage. Even if you’re just curious about the many plans in the open marketplace, you can compare healthcare plans at www.healthcare.gov.

Social Security is Committed to Customer Service

In 1992, the U.S. Congress designated the first full week in October to be Customer Service Week, a nationally recognized event celebrated annually. Social Security realizes the importance of customer service, and took the time to recognize all of our hard-working employees. We do so not only during Customer Service Week, but all year long.

The theme for Customer Service Week this year was “Service Champions.” Social Security employees are often champions to the millions of people they serve — including wounded warriors, disabled, children, and the elderly. This is a week to say “thank you,” raise awareness of the importance of customer service, and remind customers of Social Security’s commitment to customer satisfaction.

Customer Service Week also supports Vision 2025, Social Security’s vision for the next decade. You and your clients can view Social Security’s Vision 2025 at www.socialsecurity.gov/vision2025.

Social Security Opens the Fifth National Disability Forum

The National Disability Forum is an open forum that gives all interested stakeholders an opportunity to share their unique insights on topics of particular interest to them and to Social Security, and to communicate directly with policy makers. The forum provides an opportunity for stakeholders to hear from one another. Open to everyone, the Disability Forum is not intended to be a means for reaching agreement on any particular issue, and Social Security’s participation is for the purpose of gaining insight through listening.

The theme is “Exploring Opportunities to Advance the Disability Program through Telehealth and Telemedicine.” Telehealth encompasses a variety of ways to use video and other technology to enhance healthcare and education delivery.

Telemedicine involves clinical services provided by interactive communication, most commonly a video, between a patient and a practitioner at different locations. We are eager to hear your input on ways that telehealth and telemedicine might be able to help us better serve individuals with disabilities and improve the overall administration of our programs.

The National Disability Forum is scheduled for Thursday, October 27, 2016 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT at the National Education Association located at 1201 16th Street, NW, Washington D.C.. The forum will also be available via teleconference. Register for the event at www.research.net/r/NationalDisabilityOct2016.

You and your clients can learn more about the National Disability Forum series at www.socialsecurity.gov/ndf.

September 2016

SSA Adds More States that can Replace Social Security Cards Online

Arizona, Maryland, and South Dakota are the most recent states to benefit from Social Security’s efforts to make more services available online. Residents of these states can request a replacement Social Security card online using my Social Security. Your state might also be available; check it out here. It’s an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online.

To request a replacement card online, you must:

  • Have or create a my Social Security account;
  • Have a valid driver’s license in a participating state or the District of Columbia (or a state-issued identification card in some states);
  • Be age 18 or older and a United States citizen with a domestic United States mailing address (this includes Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office, and Diplomatic Post Office addresses); and
  • Not be requesting a name change or any other changes to your card.

We will provide updates when the service becomes available in additional states. With a secure my Social Security account, you can also:

  • 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:
    • Change your address and phone number;
    • Start or change your direct deposit;
    • Get a replacement Medicare card; and
    • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

Visit my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference

In September, Social Security participated in the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference as part of our commitment to serve the African-American community.

African-Americans are more than twice as likely as whites to hold no financial assets and to have zero or negative net worth. Most African-American households have less than $10,000 in retirement savings and little invested in a retirement account.

Additionally, they are more likely to live with a disability than the general population, and less likely to live as long. Regardless of background or income level, all workers need to have a realistic financial plan to make the most of their resources. A great way to get started is by creating a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, it’s free, fast, and secure.

Also, the Department of the Treasury’s myRA account is an easy and affordable way for you to save for retirement, if you do not have a retirement plan through your employer. Visit myRA at www.myra.gov for more information.

Social Security testifies before the Senate Special Committee on Aging

On September 14, 2016, Virginia Reno, Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy, testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging. The title of the hearing was, “Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits: What You Need to Know.” At the hearing, Ms. Reno talked about the ways Social Security provides information to help workers and their family members decide when to file a claim for Social Security retirement benefits. She discussed the resources that are available to help people make the best decision for their individual situations, including information we provide both before and at the point of filing. Some of the resources include the Social Security Statement, our website, publications, outreach, and more.

Charles Jeszeck, the Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security of the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), also testified. He provided a summary of a recent GAO report that addressed the extent to which people understand Social Security rules affecting their retirement benefits. Included in his report was information Social Security provides to assist individuals in making an informed decision when filing for benefits and other ways Social Security can better inform individuals about retirement options.

You and your clients can learn more about Social Security retirement options and resources at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/retirement/.

Social Security testifies before the Government Operations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

On September 22, Marianna LaCanfora, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Retirement and Disability Policy, testified before the Government Operations subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The focus of the hearing was government efforts to reduce improper payments, and compliance with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010.

Ms. LaCanfora's testimony highlighted the many methods Social Security uses to maintain a high payment accuracy rate and reduce improper payments. She noted that the overpayment accuracy for the Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance Program was 99.6 percent in 2015. She also noted that, while reducing improper payments in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is one of Social Security's greatest challenges, we have made progress. In FY 2015, our SSI overpayment accuracy rate was 93.8 percent, the highest since 2003.

You and your clients can learn more about SSI at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.

Social Security testifies before the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means

On September 21, Stephen Goss, Social Security's Chief Actuary, testified before the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Committee on Ways and Means. The subject of the hearing were the estimates produced by the Social Security Trustees and the Congressional Budget Office regarding the Social Security program.

You and your clients can read Social Security’s Trustees reports at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR.

Bipartisan Budget Act and Social Security’s Fiscal Year 2017 Funding

The funding Social Security receives to administer its programs and serve the public has been strained in recent years. Social Security’s core operating budget has shrunk by 10 percent since 2010, after adjusting for inflation. While Social Security’s budget fell by 10 percent, the number of Social Security beneficiaries has increased by 12 percent during that same time.

Our fiscal year (FY) 2016 enacted budget was around $350 million less than the President’s Budget request. As a result, we were forced to constrain every aspect of the budget. We are sensitive to the fact that service delays cause hardships for our most vulnerable citizens and we work tirelessly to compensate for budget shortfalls.

Our FY 2017 President’s budget request of $13.067 billion will allow us to rebound from our current situation, modernize our service delivery, and strengthen the integrity of our programs. This funding level will allow us to increase our program integrity work at the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 level ($1.819 billion). Funding at this level supports the hiring of critical frontline positions associated with processing continuing disability reviews and SSI redeterminations.

Social Security Revises Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders

On September 26, 2016, the Social Security Administration published a final rule, “Revised Medical Criteria for Evaluating Mental Disorders.” This regulation reflects the most comprehensive revision in over 30 years to the criteria we use to evaluate disability claims involving mental disorders.

With the publication of this final rule, our standards for evaluating claims involving mental disorders will reflect up-to-date standards and practices used in the mental health community. The rule becomes effective on January 17, 2017.

The rule reflects information from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, which is the mental health profession’s standard for classifying mental disorders. Our criteria for evaluating intellectual disability generated significant public interest. Besides reflecting comments from members of the public, the rule reflects the expertise of disability policy experts, adjudicators, psychiatric professionals, and vocational experts, who provided input at every phase of the rulemaking process.

People with mental disorders are some of the most vulnerable members in our society and we take seriously our obligation to provide them with effective service and support. Publishing this rule is an important cornerstone of that effort.

You and your clients can read the detailed press release at www.ssa.gov/news/press/releases/#/post/9-2016-1 and also our blog post at blog.socialsecurity.gov/mental-disorders-rule-update.

August 2016

Expanded SSI Application Window for Foster Kids

The transition to adulthood is one of the most important parts of life’s journey. For foster children living with a disability, it can be even more challenging. Social Security is conducting a pilot study that will let these young people apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits sooner.

Since 2010, our policy has been to allow foster children to apply for this program up to 90 days before their foster care eligibility ends. This lessens the risk that these young people will experience a gap in income support while we consider their application. However, in some cases the decision process can last longer than 90 days.

On August 1, 2016, we implemented a year-long pilot study doubling the SSI application window to 180 days before foster care eligibility ends. This pilot will help us assess whether the longer period significantly reduces the number of individuals experiencing gaps in income support. After a year, we will decide whether to make this policy permanent. For more information, you and your clients can visit our spotlight page at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-disabled-youth.htm.

Social Security Temporarily Rolls Back Multifactor Authentication

On July 30, 2016, Social Security began requiring new and current my Social Security account holders to sign into their account using a one-time code sent via text message. This second layer of security that requires more than a username and a password is known as “multifactor authentication.” We recently mandated this second layer of security to comply with the President’s Executive Order on Improving the Security of Consumer Financial Transactions. We implemented it aggressively because we have a fundamental responsibility to protect the public’s personal information.

Our aggressive implementation resulted in some of our customers being unable to access their my Social Security accounts. We listened to the public’s concerns, and have temporarily rolled back this mandate.

As before July 30, current account holders will be able to access their secure account using only their username and password. We highly recommend the extra security text message option, but it will not be required. Now, we are developing an alternative authentication option, besides text messaging, that we will begin implementing within the next six months.

We strive to balance security and customer service options, and we want to ensure that our online services are both easy to use and secure. The my Social Security service has always featured a robust verification and authentication process, and it remains safe and secure.

We regret any inconvenience you or your clients may have experienced. There is no requirement that you access your personal my Social Security account as a result of the steps we are taking. However, when you do access your account, we encourage you to sign up for the extra security text message option. You can access your account by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

New CDI Unit Opens in South Dakota

The Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Program is a joint effort among federal and state agencies to effectively pool resources to prevent fraud in Social Security’s disability programs and related federal and state programs. This effort supports the agency's strategic goals of

  • ensuring superior stewardship of Social Security programs and resources by preventing fraudulent and erroneous payments and improving debt management;
  • increasing the accuracy of earnings records;
  • strengthening the integrity of the Social Security number; and
  • efficiently managing agency finances and assets.

Our newest unit just opened in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. We anticipate it will be fully operational by the end of fiscal year 2016.

Also, this month, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin helped dedicate the open and operating CDI unit in Raleigh, North Carolina.

You and your clients can learn more about CDI and The Office of the Inspector General and our disability investigations at oig.ssa.gov/cooperative-disability-investigations-cdi.

At 81, Social Security is an Expert You Can Count On

Social Security celebrated its 81st anniversary in August. It’s no surprise we are experts in retirement planning and preparation. And we are also experts on your personal work history. We have been there from the very beginning — when you were born and when you got your first job.

We track your work history so you get the benefits you are entitled to, be it disability benefits if you need them or retirement benefits when you reach retirement age. The best way to access your personal information is through our secure website, my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. There, you can see your work history. You can also estimate your future retirement benefits as well as view your Social Security Statement. We encourage you and your clients to check your Statement annually to ensure that we have recorded your earnings correctly.

With over 80 years of experience, we know that the more information you have, the better prepared you will be for retirement. We are with you every step of the way. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov to get started today.

July 2016

New Online Security

We’ve added an extra layer of security for our customers when they interact with us online. my Social Security account holders will need to use their cell phone as an additional authentication factor during online registration and every sign in.

This new multifactor authentication requirement is the result of an executive order for federal agencies to provide more secure authentication for their online services. Any agency that provides online access to a customer’s personal information must use multifactor authentication. We take the security of the public's information very seriously, and continually use a proactive approach to improve our online services.

Since the release of my Social Security in May 2012, almost 26 million individuals have signed up for an account. Previously, we offered multifactor authentication, but only for customers who opted to register for a my Social Security account with extra security.

Our new authentication requires customers to use a security code we send to their cell phones to register and sign in. Cell phone provider’s text message and data rates may apply.

We’re committed to using the best technologies and standards available to protect our customers’ data. Multifactor authentication is just one of the ways we’re ensuring the safety and security of the resources entrusted to us. Visit my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Beat the Heat with my Social Security

We are in the midst of the dog days of summer. Why take time away from barbeques and baseball games to visit your local Social Security office? Stay cool and conduct your business online using a my Social Security account.

Having a personal and secure account makes doing business with us easy and convenient, but better yet, it empowers you. You can access the services you need in the convenience of your own home without traveling to a local office and waiting in line. To sign up, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

With a my Social Security account, you can:

  • Obtain your Social Security Statement for a personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits;
  • Verify the accuracy of your earnings record — your future benefit amounts are based on your earnings record;
  • Change your address and phone number, if you receive monthly Social Security benefits;
  • Sign up for or change Direct Deposit of your Social Security benefits;
  • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax purposes; and
  • Obtain estimates of the Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

In some areas, you can even request a replacement Social Security card using my Social Security.

With my Social Security, you can spend less time waiting in line and more time doing the things you enjoy—in or out of the heat. And with newly enhanced security features, signing up is even safer than ever. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Social Security Advisory Board Hosts Public Forum for the SSI Program

Social Security Advisory Board logo

The Public Forum for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program met on July 12, at the Carnegie Library in Washington D.C. Both Henry Aaron, the chair of the Social Security Advisory Board, and Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin spoke about the importance of the programs. Forum sessions included:

  • SSI resource limits and the ABLE Act;
  • SSI policies on in-kind support and maintenance;
  • Policy and practice on child welfare programs; and
  • SSI youth transitions to adulthood.

You and your clients can learn more about the Social Security Advisory Board and all the work that they do at www.ssab.gov.

Is The Catcher in the Rye Ready to Retire?

It’s hard to believe the seminal novel, Catcher in the Rye, turned 65 this year. This means that Holden Caulfield, the book’s scruffy protagonist, would be well into retirement.

When Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951, no one could have imagined that there would be an internet, or how convenient it would become. If you had told Holden that he could file for retirement benefits from the comfort of his home, he would have fallen down laughing. Social Security knows better. We’ve grown up fast and adapted with the times. All you have to do is look at our many online services as proof.

A great example is our online suite of retirement resources. At www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/retirement/ you can:

  • File for retirement or Medicare benefits;
  • Plan for your future;
  • Calculate your future benefits;
  • Read our many publications; and
  • Find your full retirement age.

But the options don’t stop there. Holden Caulfield might have been full of angst in his youth, but we think that smart young man would have probably enjoyed a healthy retirement with the people he loved. You too can begin your own unique retirement journey at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire.

Providing Disability Benefits for 60 Years

On August 1, 2016, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, will have been providing benefits for 60 years. Originally, the program was limited to individuals who were age 50 or older. It also had a six-month waiting period, and there were no benefits payable to any dependents. The disability program has undergone many changes to become the program it is today. Now, people who receive Social Security disability benefits can also receive Medicare coverage after 24 months, and their dependents may be eligible to receive benefits on their earnings records. There are also work incentives in place to help people with disabilities go to work.

As of June 2016, there are more than 10 million disabled workers and dependents receiving more than $11 billion each month in Social Security disability payments. It can happen to anyone: studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching their full retirement age.

To meet the challenges of providing benefits to so many, the agency has evolved, using technology to operate more efficiently. Access to online applications for disability benefits, reconsiderations, and hearings have given applicants more service options when applying for benefits. Our health IT initiative allows Social Security to access electronic medical records, including those from the U.S. Department of Defense, which reduces administrative costs, streamlines operations, and speeds up service to veterans. For more information about the disability program, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/disability/.

June 2016

New States Added to Social Security’s Online Card Replacement

Residents of Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania can now order a replacement Social Security Card using their personal and secure my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. The service is available in 11 states and the District of Columbia, and we will be adding new states in the coming months.

This is just one of many useful tools at my Social Security. You can also:

  • Obtain an instant, personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits;
  • Verify the accuracy of your earnings record — your future benefit amounts are based on your earnings record;
  • Change your address and phone number, if you receive monthly Social Security benefits;
  • Sign up for or change Direct Deposit of your Social Security benefits;
  • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season; and
  • Obtain estimates of the Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

Remember, my Social Security is just one of the vital resources that help you through your life’s journey. Access your personal account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Navigate Social Security with Ease

Social Security is constantly perfecting the way we interact with our customers. Millions of our customers rely on our website to file for retirement and disability benefits as well as other vital services. Your starting point is often our ever-improving homepage. Along with our recently updated Social Security homepage, you will now see a streamlined navigation bar.

This simplified version has just three choices: Search, Menu, and Sign In/Up. The old menu system on the home page forced users to sort through up to five layers before getting to the main content. The new menu presents the user with everything at once. These three choices offer more succinct search capabilities and quicker access to the most popular services.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov to test it out yourself and see the many useful online services we provided to millions of Americans.

Update: 2016 Board of Trustees Report

Earlier this month, the Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report on the current and projected financial status of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) trust funds. The report gives the public a clear understanding of the long-term financial status of the Social Security program.

The combined asset reserves of the OASDI trust funds are again projected to become depleted in 2034, if Congress does not act before then.

In the 2016 Report to Congress, the trustees announced:

  • The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to do so through 2019. Beginning in 2020, the cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
  • The OASDI trust funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, when benefits will become payable at 79 percent.
  • The DI trust fund will become depleted in 2023, extended from 2016 in last year’s estimate, with 89 percent of benefits payable.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.66 percent of taxable payroll — 0.02 percentage point less than in last year’s report.

For more than 80 years, Social Security has helped secure today and tomorrow with financial benefits, information, and tools that provide a safety net throughout life’s journey. The solvency of our programs relies on the accurate, up-to-date data provided in these yearly reports.

You and your clients can view the 2016 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2016.

Updates to Our Resources for the Diverse People We Serve

Social Security is at the forefront of changing federal policy and adapting to the ever-evolving needs of our diverse population. Part of providing superior customer service to millions of people is changing our own policies to fit those needs while providing equality for all. This is why we have fully redesigned many of our webpages and updated our publications.

Last year, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges stating that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states. As a result, Social Security recognizes valid same-sex marriages for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits or eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin has said, “As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice. With the release of these instructions, we continue our commitment to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity and respect.”

We encourage anyone who believes they may be eligible for benefits to apply now. Learn more at our newly designed webpage, including a new publication, at www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

Teaming Up to Prevent Elder Abuse

The World Health Organization and the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, 2006. Elder abuse is an epidemic. Unfortunately, statistics show that the number of older Americans physically, mentally and financially exploited is rising.

According to a study released by the American Journal of Public Health in 2010, there are approximately five million elder abuse victims in the United States. Statistics also indicate that most reported cases involve family members or people closely related to the victims. Many elder abuse victims suffer from decreased cognitive capacity, such as dementia, and are not able to protect themselves. Adult protective services operate under state law to investigate reports of elder abuse and to work with the victims to protect them and stop the maltreatment.

It is important that adult protective services agencies in every community have a close working relationship with Social Security to:

  • Remove abusive representative payees;
  • Prevent unsuitable representative payees from being put in place or being re-instated; and
  • Appoint appropriate representative payees who will protect the victim’s benefits.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, and we take this commitment seriously. Under Acting Commissioner Colvin and Social Security Chief of Staff Stacy Rodgers, Social Security has made great strides in a short time to protect beneficiaries from financial exploitation and to coordinate with adult protective services agencies on behalf of our mutual clients. You can help by visiting the Administration for Community Living at acl.gov/newsroom/observances/WEAAD and www.ncea.aoa.gov for more information on how you can be involved.

You and your clients can also learn more about World Elder Abuse Day at www.un.org/en/events/elderabuse.

Discover the Courageous Faces of Disability

The nation celebrated Cancer Survivor’s Awareness Day in June. Social Security is no stranger to helping people with chronic illnesses maintain a higher quality of life through disability benefits. And we frequently feature these courageous people on our Faces and Facts of Disability website.

The newest person we are featuring is Lynne Parks. She is an artist from Baltimore, Maryland. First diagnosed with metastatic fibrosarcoma at age 14, she has lived with this illness for nearly 35 years. Inflammatory responses, infections, and new tumors are complications that Lynne deals with every day.

The disability benefits Lynne receives are a crucial resource for her quality of life. Our disability programs continue to be a mainstay in the lives of many individuals — people just like you. Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country. It’s something that can happen to anyone when least expected.

Life’s journey may take you or someone you love through a similar path of courageousness. We invite you to learn the facts about the disability insurance program, and see and hear these stories of hardship and perseverance at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Social Security at the Annual Conference & Exposition for the Society for Human Resource Management

This month, Social Security participated in the 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) to show how we are helping to secure today and tomorrow. The SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition is the largest and best HR event in the world, providing organizations with the tools and resources they need to create and implement successful HR practices that help companies thrive.

Social Security is constantly working to improve our superior customer service, and to develop our diverse workforce. You and your clients can read more about the SHRM at annual.shrm.org. You may also visit one of the best resources for doing business with Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. We are constantly adding new features that let you take control of your retirement future.

In addition to using your personal my Social Security account, you can prepare for a secure, comfortable retirement by visiting www.myra.gov. There, you’ll find myRA, a new retirement savings option from the Department of the Treasury for the millions of people who face barriers to saving for retirement. myRA is a simple, secure, and affordable way to help you take control of your future.

May 2016

Social Security Announces Top Baby Names of 2015

This month, we announced the top baby names for 2015. Published each year for nearly 20 years, the annual list provides insight into current naming trends. Once again, Emma and Noah were the most popular names. Here are the top 10 names for each gender:

Boys Girls
1. Noah 1. Emma
2. Liam 2. Olivia
3. Mason 3. Sophia
4. Jacob 4. Ava
5. William 5. Isabella
6. Ethan 6. Mia
7. James 7. Abigail
8. Alexander 8. Emily
9. Michael 9. Charlotte
10. Benjamin 10. Harper

Naming trends often follow pop culture, with many parents seeking inspiration from books, movies, and religious texts. The two names with the biggest jump in popularity this year were Alaia and Riaan. Alaia moved to number 664 and Riaan, which is of Indian origin, cracked the top 1,000 at 926.

For more information regarding the trends in baby names, including popular names by state and records going back to the 1880s, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/babynames.

Social Security Honors Public Servants

Public Service Recognition Week, May 1 through 7, recognized all individuals who serve the public on a federal, state, county, or local level. The theme for this year was “Honoring Our Public Servants.”

Those who answer the call to service are hardworking, caring, compassionate, and committed to the missions of their agencies.

At Social Security, we have more than 60,000 employees who serve the public each day in a variety of capacities. They are part of our field and hearing offices, teleservice and payment centers, as well as our headquarters and regional offices. These devoted public servants are committed to ensuring timely processing of claims, requests for assistance, and providing the quality customer service Americans deserve and have come to expect from us.

For Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin’s online tribute to America’s public servants, visit blog.socialsecurity.gov/recognizing-those-who-make-it-all-possible.

Social Security Hosts Second Annual Faith Week of Action

We celebrated our second annual Faith Week of Action from May 1 through 8 by partnering with faith- and community-based groups across the country to help their members understand our Social Security programs and to encourage financial planning. The campaign featured a Faith Week of Action Toolkit that national stakeholders could use to plan a my Social Security event. The toolkit included sample press releases and social media posts, as well as ways to connect to Social Security and join in our faith-based national outreach. Please continue to encourage your clients to create their own secure my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

The campaign reached more than 23 million people across the internet and included a radio media tour, social media posts, and executive speaking engagements, including a radio interview with Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin highlighting the importance of financial literacy. For more information about our partnership with faith- and community-based organizations, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/faithaction.

Don’t Be a Scam Victim — You’re in Control

With tax season wrapping up, scammers are out in full force. Perhaps you received a phone call demanding payment from the “IRS.” Scammers might threaten you with legal action if you do not pay immediately. They may even say something like, “I’m sending the police to arrest you.” While these calls may seem scary, it is important to understand that they are not legitimate. This IRS scam, which started in October 2013, has taken more than $29 million from its victims. Unfortunately, this is just one of many scams designed to make you believe you are speaking with a government official.

Scammers use many tactics to convince victims to share their personal information via telephone and email. In Social Security related scams, fraudsters often call under the guise of helping you complete a disability application, asking you for your Social Security number or banking information. A legitimate inquiry from any government entity will be in writing. If you receive a call from a government employee, they will be able to provide you with a callback number and an extension to reach them.

Get more information on how to protect yourself from these scams at www.ftc.gov, or at www.irs.gov/uac/Report-Phishing for information on the IRS specific scam.

Social Security’s FY 2016 Budget

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 provides Social Security with $12 billion in administrative funding, including $1.4 billion for dedicated program integrity funding. We plan to complete 850,000 medical continuing disability reviews and 2.5 million Supplemental Security Income (SSI) non-medical redeterminations. This is a significant increase from the previous fiscal year.

Additionally, we will pursue our Compassionate and Responsive Service (CARES) strategy to address the hearings backlog. This includes hiring additional administrative law judges and support staff. This appropriation also provides $150 million for the renovation of the Headquarters Altmeyer Building in Woodlawn, Maryland, which is 55 years old.

We’re proud of our low 1.3 percent administrative costs. For a complete view of Social Security’s budget information, you can visit www.socialsecurity.gov/budget.

Social Security Celebrates AAPI Heritage Month

May was Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year’s theme is “Walk Together, Embrace Differences, Build Legacies.” At Social Security, we shared information about our commitment to removing communication barriers.

We offer free interpreter services in person and by phone, as well as publications in Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. The AAPI community makes up approximately 5.4 percent of the total United States population and includes individuals from nearly 50 countries and ethnic groups. To learn more about Social Security’s commitment to serving the AAPI population, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/people/aapi.

For more information about our free interpreter services and our non-English publications available in 17 languages, visit our Multilanguage Gateway at www.socialsecurity.gov/multilanguage.

Social Security Featured on Federal News Radio

April was Social Security Month at Federal News Radio. The station interviewed Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin as well as several other Social Security executives. They discussed a variety of topics related to current agency news and trends for the future of Social Security. Acting Commissioner Colvin spoke about our efforts to hire more administrative law judges to reduce wait times and the number of claims waiting for a hearing. She also discussed the future of Social Security’s field offices and providing our customers with more choices for conducting business with us.

Federal News Radio also interviewed Doug Walker, the Deputy Commissioner of Communications. He spoke at length about the many ways the public can connect with us, including our blog and social media channels. Deputy Commissioner of Human Resources, Dr. Reginald Wells, talked about the challenges of attrition as Social Security employees with long-term institutional knowledge begin to retire. He also spoke about diversity in the workforce and advances in telework. Additionally, Robert Klopp, Chief Information Officer and Deputy Commissioner of Systems, discussed data storage and our ability to use our data to make informed decisions to better serve the public.

You can hear these interviews at www.ssa.gov/news/#/post/4-2016-2.

April 2016

National my Social Security Week was a Success

National my Social Security Week

During April 4 to 13, we celebrated a third successful National my Social Security Week. With the help of a myriad of groups and organizations, we hosted events and activities across the country to raise awareness about the benefits of opening a secure online my Social Security account.

With a my Social Security account, 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:
    • Change your address;
    • Start or change your direct deposit;
    • Get a replacement Medicare card; and
    • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.
  • As part of my Social Security Week, on April 7 we held “Check Your Statement Day,” encouraging people to join the millions who regularly check their Social Security Statement. Your Statement can help you plan for your financial future. We encourage you to access your Statement whenever you have a change in employment or wish to verify any changes in your benefit estimate.

In some states, you can also request a replacement Social Security card online using my Social Security. Currently, this service is available in the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Washington, and Wisconsin. It’s an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online. To request a replacement card online, you must:

  • Have or create a my Social Security account;
  • Have a valid driver’s license in a participating state or the District of Columbia (or a state-issued identification card in some states);
  • 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
  • Not request a name change or any other changes to your card.

We will provide updates when the service becomes available in additional states.

Open a my Social Security account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Social Security is Hiring More Administrative Law Judges

National my Social Security Week

The public deserves timely, high-quality hearing and appeal decisions. Currently, the wait for a hearing decision on disability benefits is too long. Reducing the wait time for a hearing decision is one of our agency critical priorities.

To address that goal, we developed our CARES Plan, a Plan for Compassionate And Responsive Service. One of the key elements of CARES is to address the need to hire and retain administrative law judges. Administrative law judges (ALJs) are our primary decision makers in the hearing process, and hiring has not kept pace with the growing number of pending cases and ALJ attrition. Our goal is to reduce the wait time for a hearing decision to 270 days by fiscal year 2020.

Good news! This fiscal year, Congress gave us the necessary resources to accomplish our hiring goal, and we’re in the process of hiring up to 250 new ALJs. Social Security is by far the largest employer of ALJs — they're needed in many states, including rural locations. The highly competitive ALJ hiring process takes a good deal of time, but it’s worth the wait. You and your clients can learn more about ALJs and the hearing process at www.socialsecurity.gov/appeals/hearing_process.html.

Providing Testimony at the Windfall Elimination Provision Hearing

On March 22, Samara Richardson, Acting Associate Commissioner, Office of Income Security Programs, testified at the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) Hearing before the House of Representatives. She summarized the history of Social Security coverage, described both the WEP and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), provided an overview of the issues with WEP and GPO, and described how we administer them. She also discussed our legislative proposal, which would simplify and improve administration of the WEP and GPO.

Ms. Richardson stated, “Congress created the WEP and GPO provisions so that Social Security benefits would remain progressive and fairly reflect an individual’s covered and non-covered earnings. However, in the absence of non-covered earnings data on which to calculate an appropriate benefit reduction, Congress based its reductions on the receipt of a non-covered pension. This approach was the most manageable solution, given the limited earnings information available for use in the late 1970s and early 1980s.”

She added, “We will soon have more than 40 years of non-covered earnings data in our records. These data will give us the capability to transition toward an alternative WEP and GPO formula based on these earnings. The Administration recommends such an approach, as it would simplify administration, reduce improper payments, and provide all workers with more equitable treatment. In the interim, the President’s Budget proposes requiring state and local government pension payers to provide us with non-covered pension data, thereby enabling us to apply current-law WEP and GPO more consistently and correctly.”

You and your clients can watch or read the testimony at http://waysandmeans.house.gov/event/chairman-johnson-announces-hearing-on-social-security-and-public-servants-ensuring-equal-treatment.

You can also learn more about Government Pension Offset by searching that term at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Two Important Events during National Financial Literacy Month

Financial Literacy Hill Day 2016s

April is National Financial Literacy Month. Americans are encouraged to focus on financial literacy, and to establish and practice smart financial habits. On April 5, there were two important events that addressed responsible saving: Financial Literacy Day on Capitol Hill and an event Social Security co-hosted with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called “Promoting Retirement Security Makes Good Business Sense.”

Financial Literacy Day on the Hill was introduced in 2003 by the Council for Economic Education, Junior Achievement, and the Jump$tart Coalition. Over the years, “Hill Day” has evolved from a small gathering to a public event that attracts hundreds of participants. You and your clients can learn more about saving for your future and download the Financial Literacy Month app at www.jumpstart.org/hill-day.html.

The purpose of the Promoting Retirement Security Makes Good Business Sense event was to advance the business community’s interest in Social Security. It further promoted the partnership between Social Security and the business community to support a secure retirement for workers. Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin keynoted at the Chamber of Commerce event. For more information, visit www.uschamber.com/event/promoting-retirement-security-makes-good-business-sense.

When it comes to finances, Social Security is there through life’s journey, helping secure today and tomorrow. Find out more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Social Security to Co-host the Ending Homelessness Forum

Social Security and the U. S. Interagency Council on Homelessness will host a forum about ending homelessness on April 28, 2016, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Hampton University Student Center in Hampton, VA.

We welcome your participation in this important conversation about how to better serve people experiencing homelessness. Representatives from federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and partner organizations will be on hand to share successful strategies in the fight against homelessness. The forum will also focus on the best practices that the Commonwealth of Virginia has implemented to end veterans homelessness and significantly reduce family homelessness.

Planned speakers include:

  • Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security
  • Paul Reagan, Chief of Staff to Virginia Governor Terence R. McAuliffe
  • Matt Leslie, Director of Housing Development, Virginia Department of Veterans Services
  • Luis Vasquez, Director, Division of Service and Systems Improvement, Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • Marcy Thompson, Senior Advisor, Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Sim Wimbush, Executive Director, Virginia Housing Alliance

Learn more about how Social Security helps the homeless at www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness.

DoD Medical Data Available Almost Instantaneously

Social Security is always finding new ways to provide superior customer service. We can now receive service members’, Veterans’, and eligible family members’ medical records electronically from the Department of Defense (DoD) by using health information technology (health IT) that leverages the eHealth Exchange. This latest improvement speeds processing times of disability applications. Our disability case processing sites can receive medical records from DoD almost instantaneously.

We have added the DoD to the more than 50 other health IT partners in over 7,000 facilities that provide us with electronic health record (EHR) data. More and more facilities across the nation are implementing EHR systems.

Obtaining medical evidence is critical to the disability determination process. Social Security requests more than 15 million medical records from almost 500,000 providers to make decisions on approximately three million disability claims annually. As EHR systems mature, and health IT exchanges grow between organizations across the country, we are able to help more people through the disability determination process while also improving services to the non-military public. Health IT partnership benefits include:

  • a more efficient means of obtaining medical records;
  • improvement in the rate of responses received;
  • consistently formatted records;
  • reducing paper-based processes; and
  • reducing the total time it takes to process disability claims.

Our goal is to continue expanding the number of healthcare organizations and federal agencies providing EHRs to us in an efficient and secure electronic environment.

You can learn more about our health IT initiative at www.socialsecurity.gov/hit.

Keep the Faith, Spread the Message

National my Social Security Week

Social Security Faith Week of Action takes place May 1- 8 this year with the theme of “Shining a Light on Your Lifetime Protections.” Throughout this week, Faith-Based national organizations and Faith-Based community groups across the country will host events to help people understand their Social Security protections.

Social Security touches nearly every person at some point in their life. It helps children when a parent dies, retires, or becomes disabled. It protects workers and their families in the event of a disability. For millions of seniors, it helps put food on the table or pay for other necessities. And it continues providing for our families even after we’re gone.

To enjoy a comfortable retirement, most people need to save and invest throughout their working lives. To do that, they need a plan. A great way to get started is by creating a my Social Security online account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. It’s free, fast, and secure!

Workers can use my Social Security to get estimates of their future benefits. They can also check to be sure the earnings information we have for them is accurate. This is important because we base our benefit calculations on earnings.

We also want to highlight the new myRA investment option at myRA.gov. This is a safe way for earners without a retirement plan at work to get started on growing their nest egg. There’s no cost or fees, no complicated investment choices, and no risk. Since it’s not tied to an employer, workers can hold on to their myRA account when they move from one job to another.

Look for a Social Security Faith Week of Action event in your area. And create your own my Social Security account anytime at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Deputy Commissioner Nominee Clears Finance Committee

We are pleased to announce that the Senate Finance Committee favorably reported the nomination of LaMont Eanes to become Deputy Commissioner of Social Security to the full U.S. Senate. His term would last through January 19, 2019.

At his February confirmation hearing, Eanes said, “If Social Security is to meet service expectations for generations to come, the Agency will have to be inventive, bold, and thoughtful in new ways. I truly hope to be able to contribute to SSA — by building upon its successes of the past with innovative strategies of the future. This is the lesson I took from my private sector experience, and what will guide my work at SSA: no matter how good we are today, we can be better tomorrow.”

You can read the entire testimony to the Senate Finance Committee at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_020416.html

March 2016

Celebrate National my Social Security Week | April 4 - 13, 2016

mySSA week

National my Social Security week will be celebrated from April 4 -13. With the help of many groups and organizations, we will host numerous events and activities across the country to raise awareness about the benefits of opening a secure online my Social Security account.

With a my Social Security account, 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:
    • Change your address;
    • Start or change your direct deposit;
    • Request a replacement Medicare card; and
    • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

In some states, you can also request a replacement Social Security card online using my Social Security. Currently this service is available in the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Washington, and Wisconsin - with more states coming online soon. It's an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online. To request a replacement card online, you must:

  • Have or create a my Social Security account;
  • Have a valid driver's license in a participating state or the District of Columbia (or a state-issued identification card in some states);
  • 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
  • Not be requesting a name change or any other changes to your card.

We will provide updates when the service becomes available in additional states.

During my Social Security Week, we will hold"Check Your Statement Day" on April 7 and you can join the millions who regularly check their Social Security Statement. Support our Thunderclap campaign and help us rally the public together to spread the message about the importance of checking your Statement every year because we base your future benefits on your recorded earnings. Your Statement can help you plan for your financial future. We encourage you to go online to my Social Security to access your Statement whenever you have a change of employment or wish to see an updated benefit estimate.

For more than 80 years, Social Security has helped secure today and tomorrow with information, tools, and resources to meet your changing needs and lifestyles. Open a my Social Security account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

People in Three More States can Apply for a Social Security Card Online

The list of states where my Social Security account holders can apply for a replacement Social Security card is growing. We just added Iowa, Kentucky, and New Mexico to the list that includes the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, and Wisconsin. It's an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online.

All you have to do is access or create your personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. There, you can also:

  • 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:
    • Change your address;
    • Start or change your direct deposit;
    • Request a replacement Medicare card; and
    • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

In the months to come we will add more to the list of states that are eligible for online Social Security card applications. Check back at my Social Security often to see what updates we have made to make your business with Social Security quicker and more convenient.

Social Security to Host National Disability Forum Event

On Wednesday, March 30, we will host a National Disability Forum: Developing and Assessing Medical Evidence for Extreme Limitations in the Ability to Focus on Tasks. It will explore ways to better develop and assess evidence supporting impairment-related extreme limitations in attention, concentration, and persistence that result in the inability to focus on work-related tasks. For example, such limitations may cause a person to be"off task," preventing them from working.

We will discuss vital issues that include:

  • At what level do impairment-related limitations in attention, concentration, and persistence cause off-task behavior to the extent a person could not do any job in the national economy? What is the research base?
  • Are there standard measures, tests, or questionnaires to determine an individual's ability to maintain attention, concentration, and persistence?
  • Who is best positioned to provide information about a person's job-related attention, concentration, and persistence?
  • Does research exist that addresses employer tolerances for employees being"off task?"
  • Do employers typically make reasonable accommodations in relation to off task behavior? If so, what accommodations?

These findings will help us better serve people who are disabled, and aid us to provide disability benefits in the most meaningful way possible. We're constantly refining the way we provide superior service to our millions of customers.

We encourage you to join us at the forum and share your insights about how our disability determination process can better serve individuals with extreme limitations in attention, concentration, and persistence. Your involvement is critical in helping us continually improve our programs.

For more information about the National Disability Forum series, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ndf.

Social Security Joins the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to Help Plan for Retirement

On April 5, in collaboration with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, we will participate in a joint event to advance the business community’s interest in Social Security. It also will promote a partnership with the business community to help their employees plan for a secure retirement. The event will be held at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C.

Topics that will be discussed include:

  • Importance of helping employees save for retirement;
  • Employer tools to help employees save for retirement;
  • myRA and promoting my Social Security accounts to plan for the future;
  • National my Social Security week - April 4 - 13, 2016

Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin will participate as well as executive staff of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The event will start at 9 am at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20062, in the Lee Anderson Room. You and your clients can learn more about your many options for saving for retirement at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire and myra.gov.

Women's History and Social Security

We celebrated Women’s History Month this month — a time to focus not just on the past, but on the challenges women continue to face in the 21st century. Though there are countless women who have made this country great, we would like to honor some of the notable women who have revolutionized America, including:

  • Susan B. Anthony, a key figure in the women's suffrage movement;
  • Sojourner Truth, an African American abolitionist and women's rights activist;
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an American suffragist, social activist, and leading figure of the early women's rights movement;
  • Harriet Tubman, an African American abolitionist, and humanitarian, became a famous"conductor" on the Underground Railroad: and
  • Frances Perkins, the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet.

More contemporary trailblazers include:

  • Jeannette Rankin, the first woman member of Congress - elected to the House of Representatives from the state of Montana;
  • Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives; and
  • Representative Barbara Mikulski, who co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming Women's History Week and who is the longest-serving woman in the history of the United States Congress.

Social Security continues to play an important role in the lives of women. With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income.

If you'd like information about the role of Social Security in women's lives today, Social Security has a booklet that you may find useful. It's called Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know. You can find it online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10127.pdf.

Protect Yourself from Fraud and Scams

Looking to protect yourself from fraud, identity theft, and scams? Maybe you're wondering about the best way to use credit, how to shop for a used car, or maximize your security online.

Part of our commitment to bringing you superior service includes always looking for ways to help protect your identity and information. And not just during National Consumer Protection Week - which was March 6-12, 2016 - but all year round. National Consumer Protection Week is a coordinated campaign that encourages you to take full advantage of your consumer rights and to make informed decisions.

One of Social Security's highest priorities is to protect the privacy and security of the personal information we maintain on you and other Americans. You can rest assured that doing business with us online is both safe and secure.

The agency's benefit programs are far-reaching and complex, which means that preventing, detecting, and combatting fraud, waste, and abuse are ongoing challenges. We can't prevent every instance of fraud any more than law enforcement can prevent all crimes. However, we aggressively investigate potential instances of fraud and pursue prosecution of those who commit it. This is where we need your help the most. If you suspect fraud, report it online at oig.ssa.gov/report, or call the fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

On our website, we provide you valuable information about safeguarding against fraud, phishing scams, and protecting your identity. Visit today for more information. Also, visit www.ncpw.gov to learn how to get free consumer education materials and read the latest from consumer protection experts.

February 2016

Acting Commissioner Keynotes at the National Academy of Social Insurance Annual Conference

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The National Academy of Social Insurance held its annual conference on January 28 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. This year, the theme of the event was “Disparate Income, Wealth, and Opportunity: Implications for Social Insurance.” Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin provided details about the crucial role we play in providing a financial safety net for millions of Americans.

“Today, Social Security’s insurance protection has become the foundation of retirement security for almost all American workers and families. The average retirement benefit is modest, about $1,340 a month, yet benefits are the main income for most seniors. For two in three seniors who receive Social Security, it is more than half of their total income.”

The Acting Commissioner continued by stating, “Social Security is particularly important to seniors in communities of color. In African American and Latino communities, nearly three in four seniors who receive Social Security get most of their income from it.”

It’s clear that Social Security plays a vital role in the quality of people’s lives. Over the decades, public opinion polls have consistently shown that large majorities of Americans strongly support Social Security. Year after year, respondents consider Social Security crucial for their economic stability. You and your clients can learn more about our lasting commitment to providing fair and equal retirement income to American workers at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Social Security Works with Small Businesses

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One of Social Security’s priorities is to reach out to small and disadvantaged businesses about contracting opportunities. This applies to both prime contractors and subcontractors.

Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said, “Social Security recognizes that small businesses, including service disabled, veteran-owned, historically underutilized business zone, small disadvantaged, and women-owned, are a vital part of our economy. We embrace a culture of shared responsibility in seeking qualified small businesses to support the mission of the agency.”

You and your clients can find information about contracting opportunities and our ongoing commitment to small and disadvantaged businesses by going to our webpage dedicated to Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/osdbu.

Empower Yourself During America Saves Week

Saving for retirement should be on everyone’s mind, regardless of their financial situation. According to financial experts, you’ll need at least 70 percent of your pre-retirement income to enjoy a comfortable retirement. For the average American worker, Social Security will replace only about 40 percent of pre-retirement earnings. Unless you have an additional pension, you’ll need to save more to close that shortfall.

Started in 2007, America Saves Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior. It also serves as a reminder for individuals to assess their own saving practices. Typically, thousands of organizations participate in America Saves Week, reaching millions of people.

“Social Security is an important part of a sound financial plan. But, it can’t be the only part. To enjoy a comfortable retirement, people need to save and invest throughout their working lives. The Department of Treasury’s new myRA savings account is an excellent place to start. Social Security also offers valuable tools to assistant with planning for a comfortable future. I always encourage workers to view their personalized Social Security Statement frequently for estimates of their future Social Security benefits,” says Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin. “It’s easy to do by creating a my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov. This service is free, fast, and secure. What better time than America Saves Week to get serious about planning for the future. To start saving today for a secure future, open a myRA account. For more information visit www.myRA.gov.”

You and your clients can also encourage others to take the America Saves Pledge, where they can make a commitment to themselves to save for an identified goal. You can learn more about saving for your future at www.americasavesweek.org.

Fiscal Year 2017 Budget and Social Security

Under the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, Social Security will continue its key programs including the Social Security Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Program (OASDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program.

To support this mission, the President’s budget provides $13.230 billion in discretionary funding for the agency. This funding will allow us to balance our important service and stewardship work, and to develop and pilot innovative new strategies to help people with disabilities remain in the workforce. Funding highlights include:

  • Improving and modernizing customer service by providing the resources needed to reduce the national 800 number wait times, maintain field office service quality, and provide more online services.
  • Investing in cost-effective program integrity efforts, such as continuing the path to eliminating pending Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) by the end of 2019.
  • Executing a plan for Compassionate and Responsive Service (CARES) to tackle pending hearings and begin to bring down hearings wait times.

Social Security continues to improve customer service and expand customer choice with the addition of new services to the my Social Security portal, including online Social Security number replacement cards. The customer experience can be tailored to the person, whether a customer prefers to visit an office, call us by phone, or visit us online.

Learn more about the budget and related information at www.socialsecurity.gov/budget.

Same-Sex Married Couples and SSI

Last year, the Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states. As a result, we’re recognizing more same-sex couples as married for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits or eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. This month, we issued clarifications and instructions for processing claims, appeals, post-eligibility, and post-entitlement actions involving a determination of marital status.

“As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice,” said Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin. “With the release of these instructions, we continue our commitment to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity and respect.”

We encourage anyone who believes they may be eligible for benefits to apply now. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

New Rules for Claiming Strategies

We have published additional information regarding changes to deemed filing and to file and suspend claiming strategies resulting from the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

First, individuals who are eligible for both retirement and spouse benefits (including divorced spouse benefits) must claim the two benefits simultaneously.

Second, if you submit a request to suspend your benefits to earn delayed retirement credits on or after April 30, 2016, you won’t be able to receive auxiliary benefits on someone else’s Social Security record. In addition, if you suspend your benefit, anyone receiving benefits on your record — excluding divorced spouses — will also be suspended for the same months your benefit is suspended.

Please visit our Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire to view frequently asked questions and an information guide on these topics.

January 2016

Important Reminder—ACA Enrollment Ends January 31

Everyone procrastinates sometimes, but now’s not the time if you need health care coverage. The Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period ends on Sunday, January 31. Did you know that 8 out of 10 people who sign up for coverage at HealthCare.gov qualify for financial help to lower the cost of their monthly insurance premiums? And after that financial assistance, 7 out of 10 people can find plans with premiums for less than $75 dollars per month.

Reducing the Wait Time for a Hearing - CARES

The plan for Compassionate and Responsive Service (CARES) is Social Security’s new strategy for reducing the wait time for a hearing. Social Security is currently facing an unprecedented public service crisis with over one million people waiting for a hearing decision. While we have many responsibilities, none is more important than helping these people.

The CARES plan is a comprehensive, multi-faceted plan to address the increase in wait times and pending hearings. The plan has both immediate, tactical initiatives, as well as long-term initiatives that will ensure an efficient, effective, and sustainable hearings process.

The CARES plan builds on two essential components: people and quality — engaged, well-trained people providing quality service. We have also identified several broad categories of drivers that will help our employees provide quality service to the people who need us most. These initiatives are designed to help increase hearings adjudication and disposition capacity, improve ALJ support and staff efficiency, and strengthen personnel oversight and policy compliance without sacrificing our commitment to quality. Technology investments also will provide faster, streamlined, and more efficient tools for our employees, external stakeholders, and the public.

The best way to appeal a disability decision is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/appeals/index.html.

Replacing Your Social Security Card Online

We strive to provide you world-class service. With that in mind, we rolled out a new service that allows some of our customers to request a replacement Social Security card online.

The new online version of the Application for a Replacement Social Security Card allows people in some states to request a replacement card through our secure my Social Security portal without traveling to a field office. You can create or log into your personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Currently available in the District of Columbia, Michigan, Nebraska, Washington, and Wisconsin, it’s an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online.

When you open a my Social Security account, we protect your information by using strict identity verification and security features. The application process has built-in features to detect fraud and confirm your identity. In certain cases, security experts at Social Security will contact you to ensure it is a legitimate application. We only issue a replacement card if there’s no suspicion of fraud and then we only mail it to a verified address.

To take advantage of this new service option, you must:

  • Have or create a my Social Security account;
  • Have a valid driver’s license in a participating state or the District of Columbia. (or a state-issued identification card in some states);
  • 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
  • Not be requesting a name change or any other changes to your card.

We will provide updates when the service becomes available in additional states.

Before you request a replacement card online, you may want to consider whether you need a card at all. Most times, knowing your number is what’s important. You’ll rarely need the card itself, perhaps only when you get a new job and have to show it to your employer.

For more information, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Make 2016 about Savings with myRA

Many Americans are far behind on saving for their retirement. The sooner you start saving, the more of a nest egg you will have. This year, get on the path to a secure retirement. To help promote retirement savings, the U.S. Department of the Treasury introduced myRA, a retirement savings account for people looking for a simple, safe, and affordable way to save for their retirement. myRA offers a favorable choice for those who want to save for retirement. Let your clients know that with myRA:

  • There’s no cost and no fees to open and maintain an account;
  • The investment will not lose money;
  • U.S. Treasury backs the investment;
  • They choose how much to save ($2, $20, $200 — whatever fits their budget);
  • If they change jobs, the account stays with them; and
  • They can withdraw the money they put in without tax or penalty.

Automated features make it easier to save. There are several ways you or your clients can contribute to a myRA account:

  • From a paycheck. Set up automatic direct deposits with their employer(s) to their myRA.
  • From a checking or savings account. Set up recurring or one-time contributions from their checking or savings accounts to their myRA.
  • From a federal tax refund. At tax time, they can direct all or part of their federal tax return to their myRA.

Saving for retirement is vital to an enjoyable retirement. We encourage you and your clients to learn more about the power of secure savings with myRA at www.myra.gov.

Business Services Online Supports You in the New Year and Beyond

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In the New Year, organizations and small businesses will find it more convenient and more secure than ever to conduct business with us. Our Business Services Online (BSO) suite of services offers you the tools you need to perform several tasks from the comfort of your home or office.

After you or your clients register with BSO, you can access our online business services and functions. For example, you can complete, update, and submit your business taxpayer information forms and print W-2 forms for your employees. BSO lets people file wage reports and view error notices for any wage files or wage reports submitted by you or your company. You and your clients can also verify your employees’ names and Social Security numbers.

BSO is especially valuable for small businesses. You can learn more about our online business services by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/bso.

Tax Credit Helps Low-Income Families

The Earned Income Tax Credit is a federal tax credit specifically for low-income working families. Many families who receive this credit use it to pay living expenses and to save for future needs. Unfortunately, at least 20 percent of eligible taxpayers did not file for their Earned Income Tax Credit last year.

January 29 is Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day. Please help spread the word so that qualifying taxpayers are aware of it. Learn more at www.eitc.irs.gov.

December 2015

Happy Holidays from Social Security!

Happy Holidays

Social Security would like to wish you happy holidays and season’s greetings from our family to yours! Should you need to do business with us during the holiday season, we want you to know that on December 24 our field offices will close at noon local time, and our national 800 number will close at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time. We also will be closed Christmas Day, December 25, and New Year’s Day, January 1.

For a list of our secure and convenient online services, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.Speaking of our online services…

The Force is Strong with Social Security’s Online Services

This month, Americans of all generations are awakening to the newest film in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Many people who need to do business with Social Security are finding an awakening of sorts in how easy it is to use our online services. We continually expand our online services to reflect changing customer needs and preferences, and to provide you with world-class service that would even have interplanetary traveler Han Solo saying, “Chewie, we’re home.”

For instance, you can use our website at www.socialsecurity.gov to apply for retirement, spouses, or disability benefits online. You can also apply for Medicare and Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug costs on our website. We also have online benefit planners to help you estimate your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits.

This winter, you and your clients should check out our online services and join the over 21 million other Americans who have already awakened with their own personal my Social Security account. A my Social Security account is a force to be reckoned with. And you don’t need to be a Jedi to have one.

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov. Once you go online, this force will be with you … always.

Act Now — Open Enrollment for Affordable Healthcare

healthcare.gov

Open enrollment for affordable healthcare ends on January 31, 2016. Now is the time to compare healthcare plans so that you can find the best one for you. You and your clients can learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace and how to apply for benefits at www.healthcare.gov.

Over the past two open enrollment periods, over 17 million individuals have enrolled in affordable health coverage, many for the first time. We now have the lowest uninsured rate in the country’s history.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also ensures that even if you have a preexisting condition you will be covered. If you are already covered and want to change your plan, this is the time to do it. Factors might have changed over the last year that would make you want to update your coverage. Even if you’re just curious about the many plans in the open marketplace, you can compare healthcare plans at www.healthcare.gov/have-coverage. Start the New Year off right with healthcare coverage through the ACA.

Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin is now a NAPA Fellow

Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin

We are pleased to announce that the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) inducted Acting Commissioner, Carolyn W. Colvin as a NAPA Fellow.

NAPA, is an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan organization established to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. The academy's unique feature is its 800-plus fellows, which includes former cabinet officers, members of Congress, governors, prominent scholars, business executives, and public administrators.

NAPA fellows have a deep understanding of financial management, human resources, technology, and administrative functions at all levels of government.

Shortly after notification of her selection, Acting Commissioner Colvin was interviewed on Federal News Radio. You and your clients can listen to the full interview at federalnewsradio.com/federal-drive/2015/11/carolyn-colvin-social-security-commissioner-now-napa-fellow.

Rob Klopp Named Tech Champion of the Year

SSA's Chief Information Officer and Deputy Commissioner for Systems, Rob Klopp, was recently named Tech Champion of the Year at an awards banquet hosted by FedScoop, a respected government information technology media firm in Washington, D.C.

Twelve information technology leaders from across government were nominated for the award, which recognizes the leader whose passion for technology makes us all think outside the box.

Rob came to SSA with a deep appreciation of leading practices and state-of-the-art application development approaches and database designs. He has leveraged his roles, first as Chief Technology Officer, and now as Chief Information Officer, to introduce new and innovative ways of working. Rob has done so with sensitivity for what SSA has accomplished over the decades, the talent of our IT professionals, and the criticality of our systems for doing their part to deliver on our mission. Congratulations to Rob for this prestigious recognition.

Our CDI Program Relentlessly Fights Fraud

The Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) program is one of Social Security’s most successful anti-fraud initiatives, contributing to the integrity of federal disability programs. CDI units bring together personnel from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), state Disability Determination Services (DDS), and state and local law enforcement agencies to analyze and investigate suspicious or questionable Social Security disability claims, and to help resolve questions of fraud before benefits are paid.

In 1997, then-Deputy Commissioner for Programs and Policy, Carolyn W. Colvin, in collaboration with the OIG, created the CDI program to root out fraud, waste, and abuse in the SSA’s disability programs. To date we have established 37 CDI units, including nine new units—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and Wisconsin—launched in fiscal year 2015. We plan to open additional CDI units, including one recently opened in Washington, D.C., by the end of 2016.

In fiscal year 2015, the CDI program reported $406 million in projected savings to SSA’s disability programs and $292 million to non-SSA programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, housing assistance, and food subsidy programs. Since the program launched in 1997, CDI efforts have contributed to $3.3 billion in projected savings to SSA’s programs, and $2.2 billion in projected savings to non-SSA programs. You can learn more about our vast anti-fraud efforts at www.socialsecurity.gov/antifraudfacts.

November 2015

Colvin Stresses Retirement Planning at Financial Literacy and Education Commission

healthcare.gov

On November 18, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin provided remarks at the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) public meeting at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Acting Commissioner Colvin said, “Social Security is, by far, the most effective poverty prevention program in the United States. Census Bureau data show that our retirement benefits and the benefits from survivors’ insurance and disability insurance for working families keep 22 million Americans out of poverty.”

The FLEC was created to promote financial education and literacy in the U.S. and coordinate the activities of its members. The FLEC is chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury and vice chaired by the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Both provided remarks during the session.

You and your clients can watch the entire Financial Literacy and Education Commission Public Meeting at www.yorkcast.com/treasury/events/2015/11/18/flec.

You can also learn more about the Financial Literacy and Education Commission at www.treasury.gov/resource-center/financial-education/Pages/commission-index.aspx.

U.S. Treasury’s myRA, a New Retirement Savings Option

Over 30 percent of American households have no retirement savings. To help promote retirement savings the U.S. Department of the Treasury introduced myRA, a retirement savings account for people looking for a simple, safe, and affordable way to save for their retirement. myRA offers a favorable choice for those who want to save for retirement. Let your clients know that with myRA:

  • There’s no cost and no fees to open and maintain an account;
  • The investment will not lose money;
  • U.S. Treasury backs the investment;
  • They choose how much to save ($2, $20, $200 — whatever fits their budget);
  • If they change jobs, the account stays with them; and
  • They can withdraw the money they put in without tax or penalty.

Automated features make it easier to save. There are several ways your clients can fund a myRA account:

  • From a paycheck. Set up automatic direct deposits with their employer(s) to their myRA.
  • From a checking or savings account. Set up recurring or one-time contributions from their checking or savings accounts to their myRA.
  • From a federal tax refund. At tax time, they can direct all or part of their federal tax return to their myRA.

Saving for retirement is vital to an enjoyable retirement. We encourage you and your clients to learn more about the power of secure savings with myRA at myra.gov.

Open Enrollment for Affordable Healthcare

healthcare.gov

Open enrollment for affordable healthcare began in November and lasts until January 31, 2016. If you want your coverage to begin on the first of the year, you will have to enroll by December 15. Now is the time to compare healthcare plans so that you can find the best one for you. You and your clients can learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace and how to apply for benefits at www.healthcare.gov.

Signed into law on March 23, 2010, the Affordable Care Act provides Americans with better health security by expanding coverage, lowering healthcare costs, guaranteeing more choice, and enhancing the quality of care for all Americans. Over the past two open enrollment periods over 17 million individuals have enrolled in affordable health coverage, many for the first time. We now have the lowest uninsured rate in the country’s history.

No matter who you are, you and your clients are entitled to affordable healthcare. The Affordable Care Act also ensures that even if you have a preexisting condition you will be covered. If you are already covered and want to change your plan, this is the time to do it. Factors might have changed over the last year that would make you want to update your coverage. Even if you’re just curious about the many plans in the open marketplace, you can compare healthcare plans at www.healthcare.gov/have-coverage. #getcovered.

Congress and the President Agree to Fund Government

Social Security Administration

Congress passed and President Obama signed a continuing resolution to fund government operations through December 11, 2015. If annualized, it provides Social Security with $11.784 billion for our Limitation on Administrative Expenses (LAE) account, a slight reduction from the $11.806 billion we received in fiscal year (FY) 2015. Social Security’s Program Integrity funding is exempt from the reduction.

The FY 2016 budget request that the president provided to Congress is the amount needed to help us continue to improve our service to the American public, modernize our service delivery, and strengthen the integrity of our programs through increased disability reviews and redeterminations, and support vigorous fraud prevention efforts.

We are the face of the federal government for many. Over the past eight decades, generations of Americans have relied on our programs and compassionate employees to help them navigate through life’s personal challenges and during times of change. Social Security is an economic safety net that has kept millions of our citizens from indigence in their retirement or if they become disabled. You and your clients can learn more about Social Security and our programs at www.socialsecurity.gov/agency.

Social Security Best in Government Plain Writing for the Third Year in a Row!

The non-profit Center for Plain Language issued its annual Federal Plain Language Report Card, grading government agencies on how well they communicate with the public.

Social Security is proud to show its report card because, for the third consecutive year, we produced some of the federal government’s best writing! That’s an A+ for Compliance and an A for Writing and Information Design.

The annual report grades agencies on their adherence to the Plain Writing Act of 2010. The Plain Language Report Card reflects how well the agencies are doing, giving grades from A to F on:

  • Compliance with the requirements of the Plain Writing Act;
  • Plain writing; and
  • Information design (this year, information design is combined with writing).

Overall, federal agencies are improving their communication and writing, but we are leading the pack. Social Security shared top grade honors with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Social Security is proud to be recognized as a leader in using plain language. The grades reflect our strong commitment to clear communication at all levels of the agency. Promoting clear, concise, and well organized writing helps us to effectively communicate with the public and to operate more efficiently,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner.

When writing about our many programs and benefits, we’ll always strive to be clear, concise, and easily understood. You and your clients can see our high grades and those of other federal agencies at http://centerforplainlanguage.org/report-cards.

October 2015

Access Affordable Health Care and Insurance Marketplace

healthcare.gov

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) provides Americans with better health security by expanding coverage, lowering health care costs, guaranteeing more choice, and enhancing the quality of care for all Americans. No matter who you are, you and your clients are entitled to affordable healthcare. More than 17 and a half million people now have health insurance than before enactment of ACA, creating the lowest number of uninsured Americans in decades. And 40% of the 10.5 million who remain uninsured qualify for financial help to make their premiums more affordable.

Under the law, the “Patient’s Bill of Rights” gives Americans the stability and flexibility they need to make informed choices about their and their family’s health care. Some of the benefits of this coverage include:

  • Ending Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions for Children. Health insurance plans can no longer limit or deny benefits to children under 19 due to a pre-existing condition;
  • Keeping Young Adults Covered. If you are under 26, you may be eligible for coverage under your parent’s health plan;
  • Ending Arbitrary Withdrawals of Insurance Coverage. Insurers can no longer cancel your coverage just because you made an honest mistake; and
  • Guaranteeing Your Right to Appeal. You now have the right to ask that your plan reconsider its denial of payment.

Open enrollment begins in November. Now is a great time to start comparing health care plans so that you and your clients can find the best option. Encourage your clients to learn more about the insurance marketplace and how to apply for benefits at www.healthcare.gov.

You can help your clients find local, in-person help to apply, pick a plan, and enroll in coverage at https://localhelp.healthcare.gov.

You Can Help Us Define Our Disability Process

Social Security needs your help. We are asking for responses to an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on how we should modernize our vocational rules. These are the rules our disability decision makers use to decide whether an individual with a severe disabling condition can perform work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.

The Social Security Act sets out a strict definition of disability. Our agency pays benefits to eligible people who are unable to perform substantial gainful activity due to a severe, medically determinable mental or physical impairment that has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. This medical condition must prevent the person from doing not only their previous work, but any other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.

On Friday November 20 in Washington D.C., Social Security will host a National Disability Forum. The meeting will focus on the realities of employment for individuals with severe disabling conditions, especially for those who are older, have low skills, or low education levels.

This forum seeks to raise awareness about things that can impact a person’s ability to work —such as age, education, and work experience. The National Disability Forum is an open forum, hosted by Social Security, that gives all interested stakeholders an opportunity to share their unique insights on topics of particular interest directly with policy makers.

The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is available for comment in the Federal Register. To review and comment go to www.regulations.gov and enter SSA-2014-0081-0001 in the search box. Comments will be accepted until November 13.

For more information about the National Disability Forum, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ndf.

Strengthening Your Protection at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Event

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Consumer protection laws guard people from unfair business practices and potentially harmful products and services. These laws help protect homeowners from predatory lenders, keeping families safe and secure. They make sure you and your clients aren’t overcharged, undercompensated, or cheated.

Social Security will participate in a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Event at The Brookings Institution on November 12 from 10 a.m. to noon. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives.

An evolving threat to consumers is identity theft. Chances are you or some of your clients have been a victim. Social Security has resources to help you if your identity is stolen and used fraudulently. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/kc/id_resources.htm for more information about preventing and dealing with identity theft.

Give Us Your Ideas for Reasonable Accommodations

Share Your Ideas

Social Security is always looking to improve our ability to fairly determine if our beneficiaries fit our strict definition of disabled.

The law states that a person is disabled only if his or her physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he or she is not only unable to do his or her previous work but cannot, considering his or her age, education, and work experience, engage in any other job that exists in the national economy.

We would like your input to determine if reasonable accommodations should be considered in our adult disability determination process. IdeaScale is a new way for you and your clients to give your thoughts and ideas on reasonable accommodations related to disability. As we seek to keep pace with changes in medicine, health care practice, technology, and the world of work, we continuously scan the environment to determine if there are advances that we should consider for our disability programs.

Your input is very important to us. Please visit the IdeaScale engagement site at ssa-disabilityideas.ideascale.com/a/ideas/author/campaign-filter/byids/campaigns/15125 and provide comments through December 1, 2015.

No Cost-of-Living Adjustment

As you’ve probably heard, there will be no increase to Social Security benefits in 2016. Social Security’s annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) is an increase in the benefit amount people receive each month. By law, the monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit rate increases if there is an increase in inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The period of consideration includes the third quarter of the last year a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was made to the third quarter of the current year.

As determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2015. Therefore, under existing law, there can be no COLA in 2016.

Other changes that would normally take effect based on changes in the national average wage index also will not take effect in January 2016. Since there is no COLA, the law also prohibits a change in the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax as well as the retirement earnings test exempt amounts. These amounts will remain unchanged in 2016. For additional information about changes in the national average wage index, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/AWI.html.

For additional information about the 2016 COLA, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/cola. Keep in mind, your SSI payments may change if your living situation changes. You are required to report any changes that may affect your SSI no later than 10 days after the month the change takes place. Please remind your clients to call 1-800-772-1213 or contact their local Social Security office to report any changes.

September 2015

OPM’s Identity Theft Protection Plan

On September 1, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Department of Defense (DoD) announced that Identity Theft Guard Solutions, LLC, is the new contractor for the identity theft protection plan for affected individuals whose personal information was stolen from OPM’s background investigations databases. This breach may have affected former federal employees and individuals who previously applied for federal employment.

Identity Theft Guard Solutions, LLC, has extensive identity protection and credit monitoring experience. They provide a comprehensive suite of identity theft protection and credit monitoring services. Affected individuals can use these free services until December 31, 2018. As an added benefit, these services will be available to minor dependent children of affected individuals.

If you believe you were affected by this breach, you can visit www.opm.gov/cybersecurity for important information about OPM’s Cyber Security incident. You will find frequently asked questions and information about how to sign up for automatic updates.

Hispanic Heritage Month and Social Security’s Commitment to Spanish Speakers

September 15 marked the start of Hispanic Heritage Month — a celebration of the many contributions and accomplishments the Hispanic community has made to enrich our great nation. The Social Security Administration is proud to participate in such an important event.

President Obama said, in his proclamation for National Hispanic Month,"Whether our ancestors crossed the Atlantic in 1790 or the Rio Grande in 1970, Americans are bound by a set of common values.” The President also said, “Let us renew our commitment to ensuring ours remains a society where the talents and potential of all its members can be fully realized.”

Following the spirit of the President’s message, we are renewing our focus and commitment to serve all of our customers — including those with limited English proficiency — so they too can have full access to our services. Spanish-speakers can:

You and your clients can visit our Spanish website at www.socialsecurity.gov/espanol/ for more information.

Seventy Years of National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, marking a time to celebrate the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. The theme for this year — which marks 70 years since the first observance — is"My Disability is One Part of Who I Am."

To raise awareness about the positive economic impact of our disability program, we are releasing two new online data resources — our new state disability fact sheets and our national disability issue paper. These two online resources show how we continue to fulfill our intergenerational promise of support to America’s workers and their families.

The state disability fact sheets include information by state and congressional district about disabled workers, children of insured workers, and spouses of insured workers who are receiving disability benefits. They also compare the average annual disability benefit to the poverty threshold and show more specific data about the recipients in those areas.

The national disability issue paper describes the fundamental principles of our disability program, its economic impact, and how it continues to live up to its founding ideals. Read the fact sheets at www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/factsheets/cong-stats-DI/2014/index.html and the issue paper at www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/issuepapers/ip2015-01.html. Find even more information about SSA’s disability programs at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Observing Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Cancer remains the leading cause of disease-related death for children. In September, we honor those children who are battling the many forms of cancer as well as the young Americans who lost their lives to these terrible diseases. Social Security provides benefits for children who suffer from a number of disabling diseases, including some forms of cancer. These benefits could help with the added costs of caring for an ill child.

If you wish to apply for benefits for your child, you will 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 how it affects his or her ability to function.

Here are the steps to apply:
  • Review the Child Disability Starter Kit at www.ssa.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_child_eng.htm. This kit answers common questions about applying for SSI benefits for children, and includes a worksheet that will help you gather the information you need.
  • Contact us right away to find out whether the income and resources are within the allowed limits, and to start the SSI application process.
  • Fill out the online Child Disability Report at: secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/i3820/main.html. At the end of the report, we will ask you to sign a form that gives the child’s doctor(s) permission to give us information about his or her disability. We need this information so we can make a decision on the child’s claim.

No matter what month it is, we’re here to provide benefits for the most vulnerable members of our society — the chronically ill. If you or anyone in your family needs assistance, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/index.htm.

Setting Goals for Even Better Service

One of our priority goals is to improve our world-class customer service. As the number of customers signing up for my Social Security and using our eServices grows, and as the public’s service expectations evolve, we have an opportunity and responsibility to offer the public a broader range of services via the Internet. We are prioritizing our efforts to ensure that our customers can access essential Social Security services whenever they want, wherever they want.

We’re improving options for online customers by providing additional secure online services and improving existing services. These services allow us to provide essential information and services — around the clock — to those members of the public who prefer to conduct business online, allowing our frontline employees to spend more time with customers who need more personal assistance. This will provide an overall higher quality of service to you and your clients and move us closer to our goal of a superior customer experience.

In fiscal years 2016 and 2017, our goal is to provide greater access to our online services by adding new self-service options, increasing the probability of individuals continuing to use online services. Providing more online service options and information will assist in reducing both waiting and processing times.

You and your clients can help us meet our goal of providing convenient, secure online service to millions of customers each year by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

August 2015

Take the Labor out of Business Services

As Labor Day approaches, did you know that you and your clients can take a mini-holiday everyday by saving time doing much of your business with Social Security online? SSA Business Services Online allow organizations and businesses to securely and conveniently interact with and perform many services and functions with Social Security online. For example, employers and businesses can submit wage reports, print employee W-2s, verify Social Security numbers, and update business taxpayer information forms, among other things. These online services can be especially beneficial for small businesses, so we encourage them to visit our website today and become a registered user.

Remember, we take the labor out of doing business with Social Security every day, including Labor Day. You and your clients can learn more about the business services available online at line at www.socialsecurity.gov/bso.

Social Security celebrates 80 years

On August 14, 2015, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. At our Baltimore headquarters, Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin hosted an event with three former commissioners and keynote speaker Congressman Elijah Cummings.

However, the real special guests, according to the acting commissioner, were all of the Social Security employees in attendance. “Our dedicated and compassionate employees … continue to fulfill the promise that President Roosevelt and the early group of framers, including Frances Perkins, envisioned,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “To all our staff nationwide, our success as an agency is a direct result of your tireless efforts, and today we salute you.”

We also created a virtual time capsule to remind future generations of our rich history and of the role we play in serving and meeting the needs of the American public. The capsule contains a collection of employees' reflections on why they serve, pictures from activities held during the 80-day countdown to the anniversary, as well as proclamations from our state and local government partners. You can visit our “Celebrating the Past and Building the Future” anniversary website to view the “Why I Serve” stories from our employees at www.ssa.gov/80thanniversary.

Happy anniversary, Social Security! Now, we’re looking forward to our 100th!

Same-sex marriage and Social Security

As a result of the June 26, 2015 landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges , same-sex couples are able to marry in all states. This means that Social Security can now recognize same-sex couples as married for purposes of determining entitlement to benefits or eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.

Social Security is taking applications from same-sex couples and is working quickly to process the claims and pay benefits. In some cases, we are working with the Department of Justice to obtain legal guidance and to provide specific instructions for claims processing. Remind your eligible clients to apply for benefits right away at www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/apply-for-benefits.html. You can stay updated on Social Security benefits for same-sex couples as new information becomes available at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/same-sexcouples.

Some Important Social Security Homework

Back-to-school checklists can be overwhelming, but the parents of students who are turning 18 and who receive Social Security benefits need to check off one very important item. To make sure those benefits continue beyond age 18, eligible students must provide certification to Social Security from school officials to prove they’re still in high school. Otherwise, their monthly Social Security benefit will automatically stop when the student turns 18 years old.

For more information about Social Security student benefits, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/schoolofficials. This website outlines how the process works, with instructions on what the student and school official must do to ensure that benefits continue past the student's 18th birthday. With the appropriate certification, Social Security generally doesn’t stop benefits until the month before the month the student turns 19, or the first month in which he or she is not a full-time high school student, whichever is earlier.

You and your clients can learn more about crossing this important back-to-school task off your list at www.socialsecurity.gov/schoolofficials.

See Why Social Security Matters

Social Security matters to millions of retirees collecting the retirement benefits they earned. Social Security matters to disabled veterans who are unable to work. Social Security matters to the chronically ill that receive additional income to improve the quality of their life. And Social Security matters to anyone covered under Social Security who can count on future benefits.

Social Security Matters is also the title of our blog — an indispensable hub for news and resources that matter to you. At blog.socialsecurity.gov, you’ll find quick solutions and detailed answers to many topics like disability, applying for retirement, and Medicare. Blog posts are tagged by their subject so you can easily find answers related to the subject you care about. You and your clients can comment on posts because you matter to us. We want to hear how we can make our world-class customer service even better. We encourage you not only to read the blog, but to become a part of the conversation.

Visit blog.socialsecurity.gov to see why Social Security Matters is so important to the millions we serve.

See our iAppeals Webinar

Helping your clients file a disability decision appeal online is faster and easier than ever. On August 27, we conducted a webinar highlighting the latest improvements to our Internet disability appeals application. The application, at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/disability/appeal.html, now features:

  • The ability to provide documents electronically when you file your appeal;
  • The ability to accept online appeals from people living outside the United States;
  • Improved navigation and on-screen help; and
  • Clearer language and less jargon.

Our webinar showed advocates, social service agencies, and other third parties how to navigate the application and promote this online service option. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can help your clients file a disability appeal online, you can view the iAppeals webinar at http://www.ssa.gov/multimedia/webinars/InternetDisabilityAppealsUpdate.html.

This Labor Day, Reflect on Your Bright Future

On Labor Day, we enjoy a long weekend to commemorate the hard work we do all year. With cookouts, games, road trips, and reunions, this annual holiday is a time to enjoy friends and family, free of workday distractions. Labor Day also reminds us that all our hard work is paying off in more ways than one — including paying into a retirement fund that makes you eligible to collect monthly benefits after you reach retirement age.

If you or your clients work 10 years, and receive four credits (a credit in 2015 is $1,220) a year for a total of 40 credits, you’ll enjoy the security of Social Security retirement benefits. Remember, those years don’t have to be consecutive. Of course, the amount of your monthly Social Security benefit will be based on the amount of your earnings over your entire working career.  You can check your Social Security Statement and make sure you have enough credits by opening a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. You can also estimate future benefits with our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Now kick back and enjoy the long holiday weekend. You earned it!

July 2015

Social Security is Connecting the Homeless to Benefits They Need

We are committed to helping people who experience homelessness. These members of your community could be your family, friends, our wounded warriors, or the mentally ill.  The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness created key strategies to connect people experiencing homelessness to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Some of the key strategies include:

  • Assisting people experiencing homelessness with applying for SSI/SSDI
  • Coordinating with Social Security field offices, community organizations, and other federal agencies
  • Coordinating with other benefits and entitlements
  • Working with veterans and other special populations
  • Assisting SSI/SSDI beneficiaries after they begin receiving benefits

Providing people in need with the benefits they deserve is crucial. You can access the key strategies report at usich.gov/usich_resources/key-strategies-for-connecting-people-experiencing-homelessness-to-ssi-ssdi.

You Can Take Action during Social Security’s Faith Week of Action

During the Faith Week of Action, August 2 through 8, faith-based and other community organizations are hosting Social Security events across the country to celebrate our 80th anniversary. We encourage everyone to take advantage of the tremendous retirement planning resources offered by us.

Event representatives will provide information about our benefits and services at places of worship and community centers. Additionally, representatives will also encourage people to create their own my Social Security account. This is a secure online account designed to help the public learn about their potential Social Security benefits and the protections that the program provides to their families.

For eight decades, we have served as the foundation of retirement security for millions of Americans and helped many stay out of poverty. By supporting this initiative, you’ll receive information and promotional materials to use across your various communication channels to educate the people about our program and the importance of planning for their financial future. We invite you to participate with us.  You can find more information at www.socialsecurity.gov/thirdparty/faithaction.

Social Security Board of Trustees Release its 2015 Report

On July 22, 2015, the Social Security Board of Trustees released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security trust funds. Each year, the Board of Trustees reports on the current and projected financial status of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASDI) trust funds.

The combined asset reserves of the OASDI trust funds are projected to become depleted in 2034, one year later than projected last year, with 79 percent of benefits payable after that.  The Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be depleted in 2016, unchanged from last year’s estimate, with 81 percent of benefits still payable.

In the 2015 annual report to Congress, the Board of Trustees announced:

  • The combined trust fund reserves are still growing and will continue to grow through 2019. Beginning with 2020, the cost of the program is projected to exceed income.
  • The projected point at which the combined trust fund reserves will become depleted, if Congress doesn’t act before then, comes in 2034 – one year later than projected last year. At that time, there will be sufficient income coming in to pay 79 percent of scheduled benefits.
  • The projected actuarial deficit over the 75-year long-range period is 2.68 percent of taxable payroll – 0.20 of a percentage point smaller than in last year’s report.

Social Security must use accurate and up-to-date data when making trust fund decisions that will affect the nation. The solvency of our programs relies on these yearly reports. You can view the 2015 Trustees Report at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2015/.

Americans with Disabilities Act Marks 25 Years

July 26 marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and celebrates half a century of removing barriers and empowering people with disabilities. President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law on July 26, 1990. The ADA is one of America's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation, and it prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else.

In August, we will award approximately $20 million to Work Incentive Planning and Assistance (WIPA) organizations. WIPA organizations help beneficiaries understand the work incentives provided to beneficiaries under the Social Security Act and help them develop concrete plans to return to work.  WIPA also links beneficiaries to employment networks and state vocational rehabilitation programs for services and job placement. In the upcoming year, we have asked WIPAs to ensure high-level service to young people with disabilities between ages 16-24 who are in transition from state custody or foster care, military veterans who receive Social Security, and members of underserved groups seeking help in preparing for, obtaining, or maintaining employment.

You can learn more about the Americans with Disabilities Act at www.ada.gov

Check out Social Security’s New Website Home (Page)

This month, we unveiled our redesigned home page. When you visit our website’s home page, you’ll find that it’s easier to navigate and more accessible on mobile devices.

We worked very hard to redesign our home page based on your great suggestions. The top suggestion we received was to list all of our content on one page.

We make clear and concise communication a top priority. We earned the “ClearMark Award of Distinction” from the Center for Plain Language for demonstrating the best plain language in our websites and documents in 2014.  This year, we won the “ClearMark Award of Distinction” for our redesigned frequently asked questions website. With this redesigned home page, we continue to improve our communications to provide you with clear, helpful information and easy access to our online services.

You can visit www.socialsecurity.gov and try it out from your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Celebrating our 80th Anniversary on Capitol Hill and Everywhere

We have provided critical financial help to people of all ages for the last 80 years. As our program celebrates its 80th anniversary on August 14, we’re reflecting on our diverse history, our current strengths, and ways we can continue to improve our services to you.

To celebrate our 80th anniversary, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin invited members of the media to a “Social Security at 80: Celebrating the Past and Building the Future” conversation on Capitol Hill.  This public policy discussion celebratesand reflects on our 80 years of public service. The event, was held at the United States Capitol Visitors Center and moderated by Timothy Noah, “Politico” Labor & Employment Editor.  The event featured Acting Commissioner Colvin and former Social Security commissioners, and they discussed our history and future.

As we celebrate 80 years, we’re proud to present to you our “Celebrating the Past and Building the Future” anniversary website at www.socialsecurity.gov/80thanniversary. The anniversary website includes a timeline of our rich history that begins with the signing of the Act in 1935 and ends with this year’s announcement of Vision 2025 – our bold vision that will guide the agency as we work to meet the future needs of our customers.

my Social Security Week

July 19 - 25 was National my Social Security week. With the help of a myriad of groups and organizations, Social Security hosted numerous events and activities across the country to raise awareness about the benefits of opening a secure online my Social Security account. With a my Social Security account, you can verify your earnings history, see your future benefit estimates, and much more from the comfort of your home or office. The convenience and safety of doing business online is another way we’re meeting the changing needs and lifestyles of our customers.

As we work to expand online services for those who prefer that convenient option, we continue our commitment to providing you with top-notch, face-to-face assistance in field offices across the nation and through our nationwide toll-free telephone service. Our frontline employees offer world-class service to many each day. We have come a long way and we’re proud of our strong history of service to you. We look forward to making the next 80 years just as great with continued professionalism and innovation! You can join the more than 20 million people who have opened their own my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Medicare Provides Needed Medical Benefits for 50 Years

On July 30, Medicare turned 50 years old. For half a century, the Medicare program has provided essential health care services for millions of people who are age 65 or older, disabled, or who have debilitating diseases. Without Medicare, many people wouldn’t be able to pay for hospital care, doctor’s visits, medical tests, preventive services, or prescription drugs.

Your Medicare card is the most important piece of identification you own as a Medicare beneficiary since medical providers will request it when you seek their services. If you need to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged Medicare card, you can do it online with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.. Requesting a replacement card through my Social Security account is safe, convenient, and easy. Going online saves you a trip to your local Social Security office or waiting on the phone. Request your replacement Medicare card the easy and convenient way — online — and you’ll get it in the same amount of time as you would if you’d applied in an office or over the phone — in about 30 days. Half a century of providing benefits is something of which America should be very proud.

You can find out more about Medicare at www.medicare.gov.

June 2015

Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage Nationwide

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court issued its decision in the Obergefell case. The Social Security Administration continues to take claims from same-sex couples, and we are working with the Department of Justice to analyze the decision and provide instructions specific to the decision for those individuals who rely on our programs and services. We encourage those who may be eligible to apply right away for benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/apply-for-benefits.html.

We will update our Important Information for Same-Sex Couples website at www.socialsecurity/people/same-sexcouples/ as new information becomes available.

Get a Replacement Medicare Card Online

Effective June 2015, Social Security made replacing your Medicare card much easier. Anyone with a my Social Security account, who is also receiving Medicare benefits, can request a replacement Medicare card online.

Your Medicare card is the most important piece of identification you own as a Medicare beneficiary, since medical providers will request it when you seek their services. If you need to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged Medicare card, you can do it online with a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Requesting a replacement card through my Social Security is safe, convenient, and easy. You'll get it in the same amount of time as you would if you'd applied in an office or by phone — in about 30 days.

Adding the Medicare card replacement option is just one of the new features we rolled out this year for those with a my Social Security account. Check back with us and see the improvements we're making at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Another Way to Share

Social Security is committed to interacting with the public in a meaningful and helpful way, and our use of social media supports that challenging goal. We're excited to announce a new Twitter account created specifically to reach out to client advocates and partners, @SSAOutreach.

This new account has the official tweets from our Office of External Affairs (OEA). When you follow @SSAOutreach, you'll get the latest updates on Social Security programs, policies, services, and events. You can help us succeed in meeting our communication goals by sharing OEA's messages with your clients and the public.

Many of your clients prefer the safety and convenience of our online services, so it's likely for them to look for answers and information on our social media sites. Besides the new OEA Twitter account, the agency also has its own Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google Plus accounts to raise awareness of our programs and services for a broad audience. Our blog,"Social Security Matters," goes into detail about Social Security-related topics of interest.

You can follow OEA's Twitter account at www.twitter.com/SSAOutreach and view our other social media sites by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/socialmedia.

Grown From a Small Seed

The oak, a symbol of strength, is America's national tree. On June 29, Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin planted an oak at Social Security headquarters as a symbol of our enduring service to our customers.

The tree planting is part of a"Celebrating the Past and Building the Future" event counting down to the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935.

From a humble start as a program without employees or offices, Social Security has grown — and today, its branches continue to expand to cover the nation. We take pride in upholding the goals for the program 80 years ago — to protect our country's most vulnerable members.

Across the nation, we have frontline employees that provide help to millions of people every day. Many of our services are also available online for the convenience of our customers. Making a positive difference for our fellow Americans at different stages in their life is rewarding. We always strive to meet their changing needs and high expectations for customer service.

You can learn more about Social Security's history of serving the American public by visiting our 80th anniversary website at www.socialsecurity.gov/80thanniversary.

The Acting Commissioner Addresses Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

In June, Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin spoke to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the world's largest anti-fraud organization and premier provider of anti-fraud training and education. She addressed Social Security's anti-fraud mission stating"Our message to those who attempt to defraud Social Security is clear: We will find you, we will prosecute you, we will seek the maximum punishment under the law, and we will fight to restore the money you have stolen from the American people."

In the past thirty years, the U.S. population age 65 or older grew by more than 3 percent from 9.7 to 13 percent. By 2030, that population is projected to be even higher at 20 percent."This shift obviously means increased reliance on Social Security programs, making protection of the resources entrusted to us ever more important," the Acting Commissioner said.

Social Security is vigilant against people who commit fraud against our programs. For example, there are people who file false applications to claim disability benefits for nonexistent medical conditions or commit fraud by diverting benefits for a deceased family member for their own use. We encourage anyone who suspects fraud to report it by contacting the Social Security fraud hotline at http://oig.ssa.gov/report, or by calling (800) 269-0271, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

You and your clients can read more from Acting Commissioner Colvin's speech at http://www.fraudconferencenews.com/home/2015/6/16/ssa-acting-commissioner-fraudsters-beware.

my Social Security Week, your Safe and Secure Website

July 19–24 is my Social Security Week, and we're taking this opportunity to tell you and your clients how easy it is to open a safe and secure my Social Security account. Think of my Social Security as a control board for steering your retirement in the right direction. Once you log in, you can access multiple services and resources. For instance:

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

The success of last year's my Social Security Week has us even more excited this year. We'll be updating our Facebook and Twitter feeds with special information all week long. You can easily share your success on social media once you create your own secure account.

Luckily, you won't be alone. You and your clients can join the nearly 20 million people who are doing business with Social Security with the ease of my Social Security — the ever-evolving online service that is available 24/7. For tracking and estimating the retirement benefits you are entitled to, there's really no better way. Visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/ to create or manage your account today, and see why we've dedicated a whole week to one of our most powerful resources, my Social Security.

May 2015

Saluting Wounded Warriors and Veterans

This Memorial Day, Social Security pays respect to the fallen heroes who lost their lives in defense of our great Nation. We can honor them by acknowledging their sacrifices and by aiding our wounded warriors and veterans.

Social Security knows the effects of military service can be profound and lasting. That’s why wounded warriors and veterans who have a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent & Total (P&T) can receive expedited processing of applications for disability benefits. Dependent children and spouses of military personnel may also be eligible to receive benefits. This is especially important due to the overwhelming number of financial, social, and health issues that can result from military service.

For answers to the questions most wounded warriors ask about applying for disability benefits, and more information for veterans who have a 100 percent P&T compensation rating, encourage your clients to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans.

Survivors of fallen heroes may qualify for benefits from Social Security. Learn more about survivors benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/survivors.

Social Security honors and thanks the brave men and women who have died for our country, those who served, and those who serve today. We salute you.

America’s Top Baby Names

The results are in: Emma and Noah are America’s most popular baby names for 2014.   Emma returns to the top spot she held in 2008, and shares first place with Noah. There are a few new names in the top ten this year — James on the boy’s side and Charlotte on the girl’s side, her first time ever in the top 10. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chose well!

Other top boy’s names were Liam, Mason, Jacob, William, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, and Daniel.  Top girl’s names included Olivia, Sophia, Isabella, Ava, Mia, Emily, Abigail, and Madison.

The birth of a child is a special time for families. When you have a baby, one of the priorities on your “to do” list is getting a Social Security number for your newborn. They will need a number to be claimed as a dependent on your income tax return, to open a bank account, buy savings bonds, obtain medical coverage, or apply for government services.

To learn more about baby names, a newborn’s new Social Security number, benefits for children, and what every parent should know, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/babynames.

Older Americans Month: an Opportunity and a Vision

In May, we observe Older Americans Month to acknowledge older Americans and their contributions to the Nation. More than 40 million people in the United States are 65 or older. By 2035, the U.S. Census Bureau projects this number will double, which makes improving the quality of life for older Americans even more important.

No matter your age, you and your clients’ first step in ensuring a secure retirement is signing up for your own my Social Security account. Creating a my Social Security account is quick, convenient, and secure, and you’ll be well on your way to taking charge of your future. Get started now at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

As we look to our future, envisioning how we can better serve the American people, we created our long-range service delivery plan called Vision 2025. The plan ensures our continued, high-quality service to you and your clients. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/vision2025 to learn more about our vision and to participate in a quick survey to share your ideas.

Look Who’s Turning 80: Social Security is Celebrating the Past and Building the Future

Since 1935, Social Security has provided compassionate and professional service to the American public we serve each day. An important part to recognizing our 80-year milestone is sharing facts about our services and agency that you may not already know.

While you are probably aware that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law in 1935, were you also aware that in the same year the Social Security’s founding board had no staff to complete its work? We’ve come a long way since our beginning with no staff. Today, we have over 1,200 offices throughout the country and our national 800 number staffed with professional and courteous employees providing world-class service every day, as well as our popular and convenient online services.  We are much more than the retirement program started 80 years ago. As we reflect on the past and look to the future, we remain committed to being America’s safety net.

“As I reflect on our agency’s rich history, I am deeply honored to be a part of such a great organization with employees who truly embody the spirit of passionate public service,” Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin said.  “There is nothing more rewarding than making a difference in the lives of others, and with our collective commitment, there is no limit to what we can achieve. Happy 80th anniversary, Social Security!”

Take a moment to visit our 80th Anniversary website at www.socialsecurity.gov/80thanniversary to learn about our rich 80-year history of serving the American public.

Get the Latest News at Social Security Matters

Social Security launched its new blog in May under the name Social Security Matters. This is our new hub for engaging with you and your clients by answering questions and concerns in a more detailed, sharable, and interactive way. We already engage the public using Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Like these avenues, Social Security Matters is easy to navigate and user-friendly. Think of the blog as a dashboard for the latest news and updates that affect retirement and disability benefits, veterans, the chronically ill, and anyone entitled to our broad range of services.

You and your clients 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 the 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 and your clients matter to us, and with Social Security Matters, we consider you with every new conversation. Come see what matters to you at http://blog.socialsecurity.gov.

Providing Vital Benefits During Uncertain Times

Since its inception, Social Security has been a cornerstone of support for disabled Americans, providing vital benefits during times of need. Through our Faces and Facts of Disability page, we share stories that highlight the people who have used this earned support to improve their quality of life. This month, we tell the stories of Charlotte and Angela.

Charlotte worked three jobs while getting a college degree in social work and taking care of her ailing mother. During this stressful period, Charlotte had two massive strokes. Her condition prevents her from walking long distances. She needs physical assistance doing simple, daily tasks. The aid she receives from Social Security makes a profound difference in her life. Without her benefits, Charlotte couldn’t pay her electricity bills, put food on her table, or afford her rent.

Angela also shared these worries after developing Multiple Sclerosis and being unable to work. She wondered how she’d be able to support herself and her family. When she needed assistance, Social Security was there. She works part-time as an online professor while receiving Social Security payments during the months her earnings are not substantial.

Like Charlotte and Angela, millions of Americans live with disabling conditions. When you need it, Social Security is there to help. Encourage your clients to visit our Faces and Facts of Disability page at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

April 2015

Vision 2025: Planning for a Brighter Tomorrow

For 80 years, Social Security has worked tirelessly to provide you and your clients with world-class service. We often encourage people to plan for their futures. Now, we’re looking to our future, envisioning how we can better serve the American people. Our long-range service delivery vision, called Vision 2025, will ensure our continued, high-quality service to clients today, tomorrow, 10 years from now, and beyond.

In crafting Vision 2025, we gathered insights and ideas from a wide range of sources, including employees, unions, management associations, advocates, the public, and members of Congress. Based on the feedback we’ve gotten so far, our agency’s new blueprint will include creating a superior customer experience, supported by our exceptional employees, through a transformed and innovative organization.

We encourage you to review Vision 2025. We want to hear your opinions! With your feedback, we can fully realize our plans, and your own vision can help shape them. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/vision2025 to learn more about Vision 2025 and participate in a quick survey to share your ideas.

Video Hearings Increase Efficiency

People denied Social Security disability benefits who appeal to an administrative law judge (ALJ) have the opportunity to request that we conduct their hearing by video service delivery (VSD). VSD uses state-of-the-art video and sound equipment that allows the ALJ and applicant to be in different offices — even across the nation — and hold a hearing just as though they were in the same room.

Video hearings offer the same secure and confidential process that in-person hearings provide. The ALJ has the same access to the applicant’s full Social Security file, including medical and educational records, as employees in the local hearing office. The procedure and development of the case remains identical to in-person hearings, and the judge hears and considers the same testimony. 

You and your clients can help expand the success of video hearings. Participation in VSD is optional. However, applicants and their representatives who participate in video hearings may have a greater chance of having an expeditious hearing. 

For more information on what you and your clients or constituents need to know about the Social Security hearing process, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/appeals or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).  

New Office Detects, Deters, Mitigates Fraud

antifraud

Social Security’s Office of Anti-Fraud Programs (OAFP) is the latest member of Social Security’s team supporting our continued mission to fight and prevent fraud. Established in November 2014, OAFP’s mission is to efficiently and effectively detect, deter, and mitigate fraud, waste, and abuse of our programs.

OAFP works closely with our Office of the Inspector General and combines the resources from multiple areas of Social Security’s expertise to ensure there are consequences for those who commit fraud.

We have a zero-tolerance for fraud. While we can’t 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.

Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin’s message to those who would defraud Social Security is stern: “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 from the American people.”

We also hope that you will help us combat fraud because those who commit fraud are stealing your money. The combined effort of our dedicated team and you can be a mighty weapon in the fight against fraud. To learn more about the tools we use and about how you can do your part and report suspected fraud, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/antifraudfacts.

Financial Literacy Month: Save for a Secure Retirement

Financial Literacy Month

April is Financial Literacy Month. Now is the perfect time to examine your savings habits to ensure that you are on track for a secure retirement.

While there’s no specific dollar amount to guarantee a comfortable retirement, most experts believe people need about 70 percent of pre-retirement earnings to maintain their same standard of living. Since Social Security benefits provide less than half of what you will need to replace your pre-retirement income, pensions, personal saving, and other retirement accounts are vital to filling that shortfall.

We are currently working with the American Savings Education Council, the Consumer Federation of America, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury on the Campaign for a Secure Retirement:  Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement. Together, we encourage retirement planning and saving, and we promote an important retirement planning tool – the online Social Security Statement.

Creating a my Social Security account gives you access to your Social Security Statement, which provides estimated retirement benefits at age 62, at full retirement age, and at age 70. You can also view your earnings records to ensure your recorded earnings are correct. That’s important since your future benefit amount is based on your earnings over your lifetime. This information can help you determine the path toward meeting your future financial goals.

Take steps today to prepare for a secure retirement. Starting a plan now will help you accumulate savings to last you through your golden years. To create your online account, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Communicating Effectively with the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing

Sign Language

Social Security is committed to supporting people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. We provide reasonable accommodations to ensure that we communicate effectively with our deaf and hard-of-hearing customers and enable their full participation in Social Security programs and activities.

Honoring this commitment, we developed a series of closed-captioned videos called Finding Your Path to Employment.” The three-part video, which is in American Sign Language, provides an overview of the Ticket to Work program and helps deaf and hard-of-hearing beneficiaries learn how they can participate.

Ticket to Work is a free and voluntary Social Security program that helps people who receive disability benefits return to work. The program offers access to employment with the help of professional service providers called employment networks.

The introduction video offers a description of the Ticket to Work program and the free support services it offers. In the second video, we provide a detailed outline of the program. The last video shows how to use the Find Help tool to find a service provider.

Learn more and watch the videos at www.chooseworkttw.net/library/finding-your-path-to-employment-ASL-video.

Remembering the Oklahoma City Bombing, 20 Years Later

Remembering the Oklahoma City Bombing, 20 Years Later

In April, we joined the nation in remembering the 168 innocent lives taken in the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995.

Twenty years ago, a truck-bomb exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building — home to one of Social Security’s district offices and other government agencies — killing 19 children and 16 Social Security employees, among others.

We thank the brave men and women, many of whom were Social Security employees, who worked tirelessly in the search and recovery efforts during the hours and days following this tragedy.

In honor of our 16 fallen colleagues who perished in the bombing, we renew our long-standing commitment to bringing compassionate and professional service to the American public.

We invite you to visit our History Museum at www.socialsecurity.gov/history for more on the Oklahoma City bombing and other historical Social Security topics.

March 2015

Social Security Expands Hours to Better Serve Public

Social Security Expands Hours to Better Serve Public

Congress approved resources in the fiscal year 2015 budget to enable Social Security to expand its field office hours. Beginning March 16, our field offices nationwide opened to the public for an additional hour (3 to 4 p.m.) on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Offices continue to close to the public at noon on Wednesdays, so employees have time to complete current work, reduce backlogs, and continue training new employees.

“This expansion of office hours reaffirms our commitment to providing the people we serve the option of top-notch, face-to-face assistance in the field offices even as we work to expand online services for those who prefer that flexibility,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner. “The public expects and deserves world-class customer service, and thanks to approved funding, I am pleased we will continue our tradition of exceptional service.”

Keep in mind that most Social Security business doesn’t require a trip to a field office. For example, you can apply for retirement, replace a Medicare card, or report a change of address – all online. Check out our full list of online services at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

Accurate Accounting for the Social Security Numbers of the Deceased

Social Security Administration Logo

Although Social Security doesn’t generate death information, we collect it from a variety of sources so that we can accurately administer our programs. Social Security posts roughly 2.8 million reports of death each year. We receive these reports from various sources including family members, funeral homes, financial institutions, and states.

When we receive information about a person’s death, we update our records, including the “Numident” file. The Numident is our database of Social Security numbers assigned since 1936. This information allows us to stop paying benefits to a deceased beneficiary and establish benefits for survivors. Following a person’s death, his or her Social Security number remains in the Numident, but we flag the number as belonging to a deceased person to prevent program fraud. This data is widely used by state and federal agencies to prevent improper payments.

Our records are highly accurate—over 99 percent and the death reporting process has proved very successful over the years in administering Social Security-related programs.

Learn more about our death reporting methods and tracking at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_031615.html.

Plan Today, Retire Secure Tomorrow

log in -- create and account

Social Security is joining forces with interested organizations to remind workers that effective financial planning today is the key to enjoying a secure retirement tomorrow.

On average, Social Security retirement benefits replace only 40 percent of a worker’s earnings. To enjoy a comfortable retirement, individuals should think of Social Security as your financial foundation. For a secure retirement, you and your clients will also need other reliable sources of income, such as pensions, savings, and investments.

In partnership with the American Savings Education Council, the Consumer Federation of America, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury, we will reach out to you and your clients in the coming months to get the word out that it’s never too early—or too late—to start planning for retirement. You, too, can help Americans plan for a secure retirement by pledging to partner with us at https://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/e54ag57d64.

One of the best ways to begin sound retirement planning is by creating a my Social Security account. Creating a my Social Security account is quick, convenient, and secure, and you’ll be well on your way to taking charge of your financial future. Get started now at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Go Online if You Need a Replacement SSA-1099

Social Security Administration Logo

The deadline for filing income tax returns is rapidly approaching. If you or your clients receive Social Security, a portion of your benefits may be taxable. Tell your clients they will need a Social Security Benefit Statement (SSA-1099) to verify their income for the taxable year. Social Security mailed a SSA-1099 to all beneficiaries in January, but if you or your clients have not received your forms or can’t find them, not a problem! You can now get a replacement instantly with an online my Social Security account.

Opening a my Social Security account takes only a few minutes and is safe and easy. Your clients can print their replacement SSA-1099 immediately -- there’s no need to call or visit a Social Security office. Tell your clients their information is available at their fingertips. Simply go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Quality of Life is Everything

Faces and Facts of Disabiability

Through our Faces and Facts of Disability webpage, Social Security tells the story of millions of Americans living with disabling physical and mental conditions. The page puts a face to many of these debilitating conditions. This month, we are featuring Ebie’s story. Ebie lived an active, productive life until he became ill, and doctors diagnosed a kidney condition. Without the benefits he receives from Social Security, Ebie couldn’t afford his renal care or maintain his quality of life.

Social Security provides people with benefits that can be a vital lifeline when they are no longer able to work because of a disability. On our Faces and Facts of Disability page, you can read stories and watch videos of people who long to live healthy and active lives, but who are limited by disabling conditions. Our page also provides facts and dispels myths about our disability program.

Encourage your clients to learn more about the Faces and Facts of Disability at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Appealing a Decision is Even Easier

Social Security Administration Logo

People who disagree with a disability decision made by Social Security will be pleased to learn of the improved online appeal process introduced this month. The enhancements are the result of user feedback and provide additional functionality and a better user experience for our customers. We have made the program more flexible and streamlined, making navigation easier and eliminating requests for the same information.

The new online appeal process allows the filer to submit both the appeal form and the medical report in just one online session. Users can electronically submit supporting documents with the appeal request. The screen messages and application language are clear and concise, and the navigation and on-screen help has been improved. Users living outside the United States are now able to file appeals online. The new release continues to support the mandate that representatives seeking direct fee payment must electronically file appeals.

The next time you or your clients need to file an appeal online, be sure to check out the new online appeals process at www.socialsecurity.gov.

February 2015

Social Security Outperforms America’s Top Websites

Social Security Administration Logo

Social Security has done it again! Social Security’s websites scored higher in customer satisfaction than those of some of the leading private sector companies in America, according to the ForeSee E-government Satisfaction Index. The Index also reported that of the 100 top-ranked federal sites, 5 of the top 6 belong to SSA.

The study analyzed 220,000 survey responses collected from users across 100 federal government websites. Social Security’s Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs, Retirement Estimator, Business Services Online, my Social Security, and online retirement application websites were all top-ranked. These websites outperformed those of private-sector customer service icons, including Amazon, L. L. Bean, and Apple.

Social Security’s websites outperform so many others because they are easy to navigate, and the information is easy to find. In addition, we employ acceptance testing, focus groups, and surveys to develop online applications and Web pages that will meet the expectations of users.

Encourage your clients to check out all our great online services by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices

Using Every Tool to Meet Your Savings Goal

America Saves Week Feb. 23-28, 2015.  You look like you can start saving. Put some away for a rainy day, for retirement for a future home, for your education.

According to financial experts, you and your clients will need at least 70 percent of your pre-retirement income to enjoy a comfortable retirement. For the average American worker, Social Security will replace only about 40 percent of pre-retirement earnings. Without the security of a pension, what you’re able to save will be the only contributor to that shortfall. To help educate your clients on the importance of saving for the future, Social Security joined America Saves Week, February 23 to 28.

Financial literacy and education are important all year long. Social Security has made helping people prepare for retirement a priority. Encourage your clients to open their own my Social Security accounts at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to help them estimate their future benefits and better understand what savings they will need for retirement.

You and your clients can also visit the America Saves Week’s website to take the savings pledge. Users can assess their savings goals, test their savings knowledge, and share success stories at www.americasavesweek.org.

Lock Out Identity Thieves Before They Strike

National Consumer Protection Week 2015.  Your Information Destination

Every year, criminals use sophisticated schemes to trick millions of people into giving out personal information, often resulting in financial ruin for the victims. Social Security is joining federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as national organizations, to participate in National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), March 1 to 7. This is a great time for your clients to learn the latest security tips to protect themselves from online predators.

NCPW highlights free resources from government agencies and consumer organizations to help you and your clients spot potential scams. The more sophisticated the scammers become, the more prepared we must be to combat their tactics.  For more information, see www.ncpw.gov.

You can never be too well informed when it comes to identity thieves—knowledge and preparation are your best defense. Tell your clients to visit Social Security’s website to view the publication Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Social Security has zero tolerance for fraud. Learn more about our anti-fraud program at www.socialsecurity.gov/antifraudfacts.

Social Security Testifies Before Congress

Recently, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin had the opportunity to testify before Congress on important issues.

On February 11, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin testified about the financial status of the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund before the Senate Budget Committee. She asked for the Senate’s support for the President’s Budget request, which will reallocate .9 percent of payroll tax revenue from the Old-Age and Survivors trust fund to the Disability Insurance (DI) trust fund for 5 years. This action will keep the DI trust fund adequately financed and able to pay full benefits until 2033.   Read the entire testimony at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_021115.html.

On February 26, Acting Commissioner Colvin testified before the U.S. House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Sub-Committee. The topic of the hearing was “The Vital Responsibility of Serving the Nation's Aging and Disabled Communities.” Colvin stressed that SSA continues to meet the many challenges facing the agency, such as our hearings backlog and hiring administrative law judges.  We also continue to strengthen our disability program through activities such as our continuing disability reviews and Supplemental Security Income redeterminations. These activities save billions of program dollars and protect the integrity of our programs. Read the Acting Commissioner’s complete testimony at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_022615.html.

At The Heart of What Matters

Face and Facts of Disability

Thirty-eight million Americans live with severe disabilities. Through our Faces and Facts of Disability campaign , Social Security provides a platform for those individuals living with severe disabling conditions to tell their stories and the importance of the Social Security disability program. This month, the spotlight is on Larry, who began receiving disability benefits after developing congestive heart failure.

The Social Security Disability Insurance program provides Larry with financial and medical benefits that pay for doctors’ visits, medicines, and treatments. Through a special work program, he can work part-time while receiving benefits. Larry sees the aid he gets from Social Security as an asset, not a crutch. He hopes that he’ll someday be able to return to full-time work and independently support himself.

Disability can happen to anyone, including you and your clients. The facts are sobering for any age group. One-in-4 20-year-olds become disabled before reaching retirement age and may need to rely on Social Security benefits. To learn more and hear stories about people living with disabilities, please visit our Faces and Facts of Disability site at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Here’s to 80 More Years!

Social Security Administration Logo

Eighty years have passed since the signing of the Social Security Act, and our agency and its programs continue to support millions of Americans.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt first brought our agency, then called the Social Security Board, to life on August 14, 1935. With his signature, President Roosevelt said, “Today, a hope of many years’ standing is in large part fulfilled.”

We’ve been through name changes and growth, and we now offer more services than ever before. Through it all, we remain dedicated to serving the American people.  We continue to offer world-class service without compromising quality.

We’re proud of how far we’ve come since 1935 and plan to continue to fulfill the needs of our customers for many years to come.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/history to learn more about our agency’s rich history, and check out upcoming issues of the Update for more about activities we’re planning to celebrate SSA’s 80th anniversary.

January 2015

Field Offices to Open an Additional Hour

Effective March 16, 2015, Social Security field offices across the nation will expand their hours. Offices will be open to you and your clients for an additional hour on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, providing face-to-face service to customers until 4:00 p.m. Offices will continue to close at noon every Wednesday so employees have time to complete current work, reduce backlogs, and continue training new employees.

“This expansion of office hours reaffirms our commitment to providing the people we serve the option of top-notch, face-to-face assistance in field offices even as we work to expand online services for those who prefer that flexibility,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “The public expects and deserves world-class customer service and thanks to approved funding, I am pleased we will continue our tradition of exceptional service.”

Most Social Security business doesn’t require a visit to a field office, though.  You and your clients can apply for retirement, disability, and Medicare benefits, replace a Medicare card, and create a my Social Security account to get benefit verification letters and change addresses, telephone numbers, or direct deposit information, all online. These services are open to you anytime at www.socialsecurity.gov

Access Your 1099 and 1042S Tax Forms Online

my Social Security. Log in -- Create and account

You and your clients are some of the millions of taxpayers who will be gathering the forms needed to file federal, state, and local tax returns. If your clients receive Social Security benefits, one of the forms they may need is the Social Security Benefit Statement, SSA-1099 or 1042S. Social Security mails these forms to all beneficiaries on or before January 31. As of February 1, if you or your clients have not received your forms—or cannot find the one that was mailed to you—there’s a new way to get instant access to a printable SSA-1099 or 1042S with an online my Social Security account.

Opening a my Social Security account is quick, safe, and easy. It only takes a few minutes. In addition to getting an instant replacement SSA-1099 or 1042S, you can get a benefit verification letter, change your address, telephone number, start or change direct deposit information, and get your Social Security earnings record from the convenience of your home. Simply go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Business Services Online Supports You in the New Year and Beyond

Business Services Online (BSO)

In the new year, organizations and small businesses will find it more convenient and more secure than ever to conduct business with Social Security. Our Business Services Online (BSO) suite of services offers you the tools you need to perform several tasks from the comfort of your home or office.

After you or your clients register with BSO, you can access our online business services and functions. For example, you can complete, update, and submit your business taxpayer information forms and print W-2 forms for your employees. BSO lets people file wage reports and view error notices for any wage files or wage reports submitted by you or your company. You and your clients can also verify your employees’ names and Social Security numbers.

BSO is especially valuable for small businesses. You can learn more about our online business services by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/bso.  

Plainly Speaking, Social Security Scores an A Again!

Report cards are in, and for the second consecutive year, Social Security produced some of the federal government’s best writing!

The non-profit Center for Plain Language issued its annual Federal Plain Language Report Card, grading government agencies on how well they communicate with the public. The annual report grades agencies on their adherence to the Plain Writing Act of 2010. The Plain Language Report Card reflects how well the agencies are doing, giving grades from A to F on:

  • Compliance with the requirements of the Plain Writing Act;
  • Plain writing; and
  • Information design.

Social Security tied for top grades with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Homeland Security.

“Social Security is proud to be recognized as a leader in using plain language. The grades reflect our strong commitment to clear communication at all levels of the agency. Promoting clear, concise, and well organized writing helps us to effectively communicate with the public and to operate more efficiently,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner.

When writing about our many programs and benefits, we’ll always strive to be clear, concise, and easily understood.  You and your clients can see our high grades and those of other federal agencies at http://centerforplainlanguage.org/report-cards.

Less Time Applying for Retirement, More Time at the Retirement Party

When it comes time to retire, a retirement party might be on the calendar. A checklist is essential for planning a successful retirement party. You’ll establish a budget, double-check the guest list, make sure the cake is ordered, and, most importantly, the retiree will need to apply for Social Security retirement benefits.

Applying for retirement is the easiest task on that list, and applying online is the quickest and easiest way to do it, especially at this time of year.  This is the busiest time of year when it comes to retirement applications and the demand for service in local Social Security offices. The online application takes as little as 15 minutes to complete—less time than it takes to defrost the car for the drive to an office and apply in person.

Retirement is a big event. Spend more time at the retirement party and less time applying for retirement by applying online at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline.

The Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment Closes Soon

Health Insurance Marketplace

You have only a short time left to enroll in a new health plan or to change your current plan at the Health Insurance Marketplace. Take action now, because the open enrollment period for affordable health coverage closes February 15, 2015. People can stay in their current plan, as long as it’s still offered. But you should visit www.healthcare.gov to compare your current plan with new ones available and determine whether there are significant changes. This comparison will enable you to get the best deal in the competitive marketplace.

Remember, if you or your clients want to enroll in a plan, or change plans, you must take action by February 15. After the deadline passes, the only way to get or change coverage for 2015 is to qualify for a “Special Enrollment Period” because of a qualifying life event. To see a list of qualifying life events, visit www.healthcare.gov

This open enrollment period does not include small businesses, because they can start offering health insurance coverage to their employees at any time during the year. Small businesses can buy coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, Marketplace or through an agent, broker, or insurance company.

Learn more at www.healthcare.gov/marketplace-deadlines/2015.

December 2014

Season’s Greetings from Social Security

Season’s Greetings from our Social Security family to you and yours. Should you need to do business with us during the holiday season, we want you to know that our offices will be closed Christmas Day, December 25, the day after Christmas, December 26, and New Year’s Day , January 1.

Even though our offices will be closed, our online services are available during this busy season—and every day — enabling you to conduct your business with us at your convenience. You can visit www.socialsecurity.gov anytime. Applying for retirement, obtaining proof of benefits, requesting a replacement Medicare card, or getting your Social Security Statement has never been easier. Whether our offices are open or closed, you’re always welcome to visit our online office—even on holidays.

For a list of online services and office hours, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

It’s the Most Busy (Retirement) Time of the Year

You’ve probably heard the song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Where Social Security retirement applications are concerned, it’s also the busiest.

Early in the new year, many of your clients may be applying for retirement benefits. They can save time and stay out of the cold by applying for benefits from the comfort of their home or office. Just tell them to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline. It’s convenient, easy and secure! The application is available every day of the year—even holidays—and can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. In most cases, once your client completes and submits the electronic application, that’s it—no more papers to sign or documents to provide.

They’ll be singing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” when they complete their application online at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline.

Showing Compassion for our Nation’s Homeless People

In December, on or near the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, we observe National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Since 1990, the National Coalition for the Homeless has brought attention to, and sought compassion for, the homeless who have died because they didn’t have a warm place to sleep.

Social Security is proud to provide services to the homeless. Someone who is homeless and has a disability can apply for Social Security disability benefits. If approved, benefits can be deposited directly into a personal bank account, a Direct Express debit bankcard, or another electronic account. He or she can also have benefits mailed to a third party, or, if necessary, a representative payee.

Homelessness is a complicated and emotional issue, but Social Security provides a safety net that can be critically important to those who are homeless.

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness.

Don’t Miss the Health Insurance Marketplace Deadline

Remember, the open enrollment period for affordable health care coverage at the Health Insurance Marketplace closes February 15. Until then, you and your clients can enroll in new plans or change current plans.

You’ll want to visit www.healthcare.gov to make sure your plan is still available in 2015, and to find out whether there are significant changes to your plan. It’s also a good idea to compare your plan to new ones available. If you want to enroll in a plan or change your plan, you must take action by February 15.

Once the deadline for open enrollment passes, the only way to get or change coverage for 2015 will be to qualify for a “special life event.” Healthcare.gov defines which life events qualify for this exception.

This open enrollment period doesn’t include enrollment for small businesses. Employers can start offering health insurance coverage to their employees any time during the year. Small businesses can buy coverage through the SHOP Marketplace or through an agent, broker, or insurance company.

Find out more at www.healthcare.gov/marketplace-deadlines/2015.

The Many Courageous Faces of Disability

The Social Security disability program touches the lives of many Americans when they are most vulnerable. The program provides benefits to disabled workers who meet Social Security’s strict definition of disability. There is no better way to show the importance of Social Security disability benefits than through the personal stories of people whose lives have been immensely improved by receiving Social Security. With that in mind, we’d like to invite you to visit our Faces and Facts of Disability website.

There you can meet Kira, a 34-year-old woman living in North Carolina. Her life -- in her own words – though full of love and happiness, can be very difficult at times. You see, Kira lives with cerebral palsy and must use a power wheel chair to move around. She works, but the small sum of money she earns is not enough to cover all her needs. Kira receives Social Security disability benefits, which allow her to be independent.

Like Kira, many disabled Americans face personal hardships and uncertainties.

To read Kira’s story and more like hers, visit our Faces and Facts of Disability website. Here you can also find facts about the program, as well about the benefits we offer, program solvency, and our fight against fraud. You will also find links to our disability publications and data. Through our disability planner, you’ll learn how you and your clients can qualify and apply for benefits, what happens when the application is approved, and even take a quiz to test your disability knowledge.

Visit the faces and learn the facts about our disability program and the people who benefit from it at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Changes (and Resolutions) for the New Year

As you prepare for the new year, take time to learn more about the changes to Social Security benefits. In 2015, the monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits of nearly 64 million Americans will increase by 1.7 percent. This cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is effective on December 31, 2014 for SSI beneficiaries. Social Security beneficiaries receive their increased payments beginning in January 2015. You can learn more about the COLA and how it’s calculated by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

The Retirement Earnings Test Calculator allows an individual to predict their Social Security benefits for the coming year. After they’ve reached their full retirement age, they can simply enter their estimated earnings, along with their estimated monthly income. When they complete the test, they’ll get results outlining their potential annual benefits and be able to view the possible increase in their future benefits. To access the Retirement Earnings Test Calculator, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/RTeffect.html.

For information about Medicare changes in 2015, visit www.medicare.gov.

November 2014

Serving Veterans Every Day of the Year

In November, the Nation celebrated Veterans Day, honoring all those who served in the military. Social Security doesn’t just honor these dedicated men and women on one day of the year—we have made it our daily mission to help service members who have defended our country.  

Through the Wounded Warrior program, Social Security expedites processing of disability applications of current military service members or veterans disabled while on active duty on or after October 1, 2001. Also, service members and veterans who have a Department of Veterans Affairs compensation rating of 100% Permanent and Total (P&T) may receive expedited processing of applications for Social Security disability benefits. Keep in mind this expedited process applies only to the application for benefits. To be eligible for benefits, you must meet Social Security’s strict definition of “disability,” which means:

  • Applicants must be unable to do substantial work because of medical condition(s); and
  • Applicant’s medical condition(s) must have lasted, or be expected to last, at least one year or to result in death.

Tell any veterans with disabilities you know that they can apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability or by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 ( TTY 1-800-325-0778) .

ou can find more information for veterans at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans.

Someday, You’ll be Able to Relax a Little

Everyone has a personal Someday—a day of the year they’re looking forward to, or an enlightened state-of-mind they’re working toward. These somedays include the goals and dreams of soldiers and doctors, chefs and farmers, small business owners and executives—nearly everyone living in our diverse country. Social Security helps make some of these somedays come true by providing the means to achieve them through earned benefits.

One way to make sure your clients set a proper course for that distant someday is by asking them to log into my Social Security, where they can see exactly how Social Security can help.

Setting up a my Social Security account is quick, secure, and easy. More than 15 million Americans already have accounts. Someone opens a new account every six seconds. Tell your clients to join them by signing up today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Combatting Fraud on the Front Lines

When fraudsters steal benefits that they do not deserve, they jeopardize the solvency of our programs. Social Security has a zero-tolerance policy for people who try to cheat the system, and we work tirelessly to combat fraud. While we cannot prevent every instance of fraud any more than law enforcement can prevent every crime, we aggressively investigate and pursue prosecution of those who commit fraud. Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin’s 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 counts on everyone to help us combat fraud—including you. To learn more about how you can do your part by reporting suspected fraud, visit http://oig.ssa.gov/report.

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow … but Only During our Holiday Hours

Social Security’s field offices will close to the public on four days this holiday season—Thanksgiving Day (November 27), the day after Thanksgiving (November 28), Christmas Day (December 25), and January 1 (New Year's Day).

In addition, anyone calling or visiting a Social Security office between December 26 and New Year’s Eve might experience longer wait times than usual because of the holidays.

If your clients need to do business with Social Security, they can skip the busy signals and longer wait times that may come with the holidays by using our online services.

Let it snow and visit www.socialsecurity.gov to complete much of your Social Security business, such as getting a Social Security Statement; applying for retirement, disability or spouse's benefits; checking the status of pending applications; getting personalized estimates of future benefits with the Retirement Estimator; receiving an instant benefit verification letter; requesting a replacement Medicare card; or applying for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs.

These services are available every day—even on holidays or during the harshest blizzard!

Social Security’s list of online services and hours of operation are at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

Health Insurance Marketplace is Open for Business

Open enrollment for affordable healthcare coverage at the Health Insurance Marketplace has begun and is available until February 15, 2015. During this four-month period, you and your clients can enroll in a new plan or change current plans.  

You can choose to stay in your current plan (as long as it’s still offered) or make changes. But you'll want to visit www.healthcare.gov to make sure your plan is still available in 2015 and to find out whether there are significant changes to your plan. It's also a good idea to compare your plan to new ones available.  If you want to enroll in a plan or change your plan, you must take action by December 15, 2014 for your coverage to begin on January 1, 2015.

Once the open enrollment deadline passes, the only way to get or change coverage for 2015 is to qualify for a “Special Enrollment Period” due to a qualifying life event as specified by HealthCare.gov. You have four months to decide what type of coverage you want, but the sooner you act, the sooner you will enjoy the security of affordable healthcare.

This open enrollment period does not include enrollment for small businesses. Employers can start offering health insurance coverage to their employees at any time during the year. Small businesses can buy coverage through the SHOP Marketplace, an agent or broker, or directly from an insurance company.

Find out more about HealthCare.gov’s open enrollment period at www.healthcare.gov/marketplace-deadlines/2015.

October 2014

People Receiving Benefits Will Get an Increase in 2015

Social Security announced that more than 64 million beneficiaries will receive a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in their monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.  

The 1.7 percent increase will begin in January 2015 for the more than 58 million people who receive Social Security benefits. The more than 8 million people who get SSI payments will see the increase beginning December 31, 2014.

Other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the adjustment in average wages. The maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax in 2015 will increase to $118,500 (up from $117,000). Of the estimated 168 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2015, about 10 million will pay higher taxes because of the taxable maximum increase.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there will be no increase in the standard Medicare Part B monthly premium for 2015.

Learn more by reading our press release at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/10-2014-2.

When It Comes to Disability Employment Awareness, Knowledge is Power

As we celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we reflect on this year’s theme:  Expect. Employ. Empower.

At Social Security, we believe the best way to empower people living with disabilities is to provide them with as much information as possible about the benefits that may be available to them through our programs. We offer an online library of disability publications to help you learn about every aspect of our disability program. Whether someone you know is thinking of applying for benefits, or already receiving them, find helpful information on our disability publications page. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs and select Topics and then Disability.

On our Faces and Facts of Disability website, we share stories of real people who have benefitted from our disability program. Take Jamey, for example. Born with progressive nerve damage, Jamey was unable to find a good job until she was 35. “Social Security kept me from being homeless, and it motivated me to keep fighting harder to live the life I wanted to live,” Jamey said. She now works at a job where she helps empower people with disabilities. Learn more about Jamey and how Social Security helped her live a better life of helping others, at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts/stories.html.

Tell anyone considering applying for disability not to delay if they believe they might qualify. To learn more, visit the Faces and Facts of Disability at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

National Support Center Takes Advantage of Modern Technology

On September 29th, a ribbon-cutting ceremony took place at Social Security’s new National Support Center (NSC), which will house computer operations essential to the accurate maintenance of earnings and payment of benefits. The NSC has enhanced disaster-recovery capabilities and is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified. LEED-certified buildings save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of occupants, while promoting renewable, clean energy. To power the building, we are using our own four-acre photovoltaic field made up of solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity—saving $150,000 a year. The NSC’s forward-thinking systems will accommodate the agency’s anticipated information technology workloads for the next 20 years.

Learn more about the new center by reading the press release at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/9-2014-7.

People Appreciate Our Level of Customer Service

We celebrated National Customer Service Week from October 6 to 10, but great customer service is something we practice every day, all year at Social Security.

Providing world-class service to the public is one of our highest priorities. Each year we strive to continue meeting the heightened expectations placed upon us, while raising the level of service we provide the American public.

Our commitment to elevating the quality of our services has not gone unnoticed. From our field offices to our 800-number, Social Security employees work diligently to provide the best service possible. Our online services are also proof of our commitment to offering the best service in the formats most convenient to the people we serve. Social Security’s website is among the highest-rated sites in government and we continue to receive praise for it.

Don’t just take our word for it. Tony, a retiree, left this message on our Facebook page regarding our online services:  “Took me 15 minutes to retire online. Easy as apple pie!” Like Tony, many Americans have discovered the benefit of applying online. It’s quick, easy, secure, and you can do it from the comfort of your home.

Find the information and service you’re looking for at www.socialsecurity.gov.

We’re Expanding Our Pool of Suitable Representative Payees

When Social Security determines that a person is unable to manage his or her benefit payment to take care of his or her needs, we appoint a representative payee to help the beneficiary. We usually look for trusted family members or friends to perform this service. Sometimes this traditional network of support isn’t available and we must find other responsible people.

Social Security is looking to expand our pool of suitable representative payees by partnering with the legal community. We launched a one-year pilot in Maryland to recruit interested attorneys to serve as representative payees for beneficiaries. The pilot is a collaboration between Social Security and the Maryland State Bar Association.

Why attorneys? “The Maryland Representative Payee Pro Bono Pilot offers attorneys a chance to fulfill the Court of Appeals’ aspirational goal of providing pro bono—or volunteer—services by assisting the young, elderly, and disabled with their Social Security benefits,” Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin said. “Attorneys are held to high ethical standards and will serve this at-risk population with the compassion and integrity they deserve.”

To learn more about this pilot program, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/payee/probonopilot.htm.

Open Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act

Remember that open enrollment for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act begins November 15, 2014 and runs through February 15, 2015. If you have 2014 Marketplace coverage and don’t do anything, you will automatically be enrolled in your 2014 plan or a similar plan, and your 2015 coverage will start on January 1, 2015. If you are planning to apply, change your coverage, or help a family member or constituent, visit www.healthcare.gov for more information.

September 2014

Mailed Social Security Statements Resume

In September 2014, Social Security began mailing Social Security Statements to workers ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60 who are not receiving Social Security benefits and do not have a my Social Security account. After age 60, people will receive a Statement every year. Rather than waiting to receive a mailed Statement once every five years, we encourage the public to open a my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount so they can access their Statement online anytime.  The Social Security Statement is a valuable financial planning tool that provides workers their tax contributions, future benefit estimates, and yearly earnings information.  This is important since earnings are the basis for determining retirement benefits.

Learn more about mailed Statements and the benefits of opening a my Social Security account by reading the press release at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/9-2014-1.

Social Security Celebrates Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is "Expect. Employ. Empower."

At Social Security, we strive to empower people with disabilities who want to go to work.  Our Ticket to Work program can help those receiving Social Security benefits prepare for employment, get a job, and become financially independent. 

We are proud to share some of our program’s success stories with you. For example, Lisa wanted to support her family, but her agoraphobia prevented her from working. Using her Ticket, she now works from home and is financially independent. To learn more about the Ticket to Work program, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/work. To meet more of our successful participants, visit www.chooseworkttw.net/about/success-stories/.

More than Half a Million People Sign Up during my Social Security Week

Our first National my Social Security Week was in August, and during the month, over 660 thousand people registered for new my Social Security accounts – an increase of about 33 percent over the monthly average of registrations in fiscal year 2014.  We held events across the country and online. We also worked with advocacy groups and many other federal agencies to increase awareness of this important online service. 

my Social Security is a convenient way for people to access their personal Social Security information, whether they are working and paying Social Security taxes or receiving Social Security benefits. Those not receiving benefits can use my Social Security to obtain estimates of their future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, check the accuracy of their earnings records, and obtain estimates of Social Security and Medicare taxes paid.  Current beneficiaries can check their benefit and payment information, change their address and phone number, start or change direct deposit of benefit payments, and obtain online benefit verification letters.

More than 14 million people have already created accounts and a new my Social Security account is opened about every 6 seconds!

Help us keep the momentum going by encouraging friends, family, and everyone you know to open an account so they can access their benefit information at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

National Anti-Fraud Committee Fights Fraud

On September 18, Social Security’s National Anti-Fraud Committee hosted its inaugural National Anti-Fraud Conference. The committee, regional executives, and other attendees addressed the importance of fraud prevention and detection, as well as the many ongoing and new initiatives of Social Security and its Office of the Inspector General to prevent, detect, and investigate fraud. As Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin stated in congressional testimony, “The agency’s 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 the money you’ve stolen to the American people.”

We also depend on you and your constituents to help stop fraud. Please report fraud online at http://oig.ssa.gov/report or call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 . 

Social Security Testifies Before Congress

In recent months, Social Security has had the opportunity to testify before Congress on a number of important issues.

On June 11, Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin testified about the important role of Social Security’s administrative law judges (ALJ) in the disability appeals process. ALJs have the difficult task of determining benefits, while following a complex legal process set by Congress. Every day, these highly trained public servants make sure people receive fair and equal treatment during difficult times in their lives. Read the entire testimony at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_061114.html.

On June 18, Nancy Berryhill, Social Security’s Deputy Commissioner for Operations, testified before the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging. Berryhill detailed how we are addressing the increasing demand for our services. Online services play a big part in this strategy; half of all retirement and disability applications are now completed online. As the public’s needs shift, our field office structure evolves to meet those needs—with quality service and sensitivity to all at the forefront. You can read the full testimony at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_061814.html.

On July 24, Marianna LaCanfora, Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, and Stephen C. Goss, Social Security’s Chief Actuary, testified before the Senate Finance Committee. LaCanfora explained that Social Security’s disability determination process is one of the largest administrative adjudicative systems in the world. Social Security collaborates with other agencies to improve key knowledge and technological aspects of our disability program, including the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Labor.  Goss stated that, “Without legislative action, the reserves of the Disability Insurance (DI) program are projected to become depleted in late 2016, resulting in a shortage in payments.” See estimates and proposals to improve the status of the DI trust funds at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT. You can read the testimonies at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_072414a.html and www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_072414.html.

On July 30, Pete D. Spencer, Deputy Commissioner for Budget, Finance, Quality, and Management, spoke before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management. To put the agency’s property usage into perspective, Social Security is the General Service Administration’s fourth largest customer for commercial leases and its fifth largest customer in rent costs and square footage.  By the end of fiscal year 2015, the agency plans to reduce its footprint by approximately 2 million square feet below its 2012 baseline. To read the entire testimony, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_073014.html.

On July 31, Acting Commissioner Colvin testified before the Senate Finance Committee and spoke passionately about her commitment to continue to lead Social Security. Colvin, President Obama’s nominee for Commissioner, stated, “It is a privilege to have the opportunity to continue leading SSA, an organization that I hold in high esteem and one that touches the lives of so many people across all stages of life. My passion for the work of the agency comes from my many years of serving those most in need.” She detailed her accomplishments and the challenges Social Security faces while pledging to maintain the diligent and compassionate customer service we provide.

The Senate Finance Committee cleared her nomination on September 18 with a vote of 22-2. We expect the final vote later this year.

Read Acting Commissioner Colvin’s full testimony at: www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_073114.html.

Open Enrollment for Affordable Healthcare

Since enrollment for health care plans under the Affordable Care Act became available in October 2013, over 8 million people have signed up. Open enrollment for healthcare plans begins November 15, 2014 and runs through February 15, 2015. If you are planning to apply, change your coverage, or help a family member, visit www.healthcare.gov/ for more information.

August 2014

First National my Social Security Week

Last week, Social Security celebrated the first national my Social Security Week. Activities across the country included a radio media tour in more than 20 cities, an email blast to 2 million people, a Twitter Chat, a Thunderclap social media event, news articles, Facebook posts, posters and banners, registration events, and more!

Why all the activity? Because the best way for people to access and manage their Social Security information is online, with my Social Security. Taking advantage of this convenient, cost-effective, and secure service allows workers to plan for their financial future and enables them to verify that their information on our records is correct. This is important since earnings are the basis for determining retirement benefits. For people who already get Social Security benefits, my Social Security is the easiest and most convenient way to manage their benefits and get an instant benefit verification letter, change their direct deposit information, and much more.

As of July 31, more than 13 million people have opened my Social Security accounts. In fact, someone opens a new my Social Security account every six seconds. 

Just because my Social Security week has ended doesn’t mean it’s not still a great time to open a my Social Security account. Please help us spread the word about the many benefits of a my Social Security account and encourage everyone to sign up today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Anti-Fraud Partnership Forged in Detroit

Social Security, our Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Michigan Department of Human Services have teamed up to establish a new Cooperative Disability Investigations (CDI) Unit in Detroit, Michigan. As part of the nationwide CDI Program, the Detroit unit will identify and prevent Social Security disability fraud throughout the state of Michigan.

The CDI program is one of Social Security’s most successful anti-fraud initiatives, contributing to the integrity of federal disability programs. CDI units bring together personnel from Social Security, OIG, state disability determination services (DDS), and local law enforcement agencies to analyze and investigate suspicious or questionable Social Security disability claims. The CDI units resolve suspected fraud before benefits are ever paid. The efforts of CDI units help disability examiners make informed decisions, ensure payment accuracy, and generate significant taxpayer savings, for both federal and state programs.

The CDI program began in 1997 when then - Deputy Commission for Operations, Carolin Colvin, establish the first CDI unit in Atlanta. With the opening of the new Detroit unit, there are now 26 units covering 22 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Detroit unit is the first of seven new CDI units planned by the end of fiscal year 2016.

We encourage anyone who suspects disability fraud to report it by contacting the Social Security Fraud Hotline at http://oig.ssa.gov/report; send U.S. Mail to PO Box 17768, Baltimore, MD, 21235; fax (410) 597-0118; or call (800) 269-0271 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.

Learn more about the new CDI unit by reading the press release on the subject. www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/8-2014-1.

Envision the Future

It’s your turn to provide recommendations to us as to how the Social Security Administration will support the public in 2025 and beyond.  We’re asking for your help to envision the future of how Social Security conducts business with the public.

“Vision 2025,” our long-term vision and strategic plan for the agency’s future, is now being developed and will serve as a blueprint for how we deliver services to the American public in the next 10 to15 years and beyond.

We value your opinions and welcome your honest input. We’ve received a lot of comments and ideas, which you are welcome to see for yourself. Read the comments, and share with us your opinions at http://ssa1.ideascale.com/.

Join us in creating a bright future. Learn more about Vision 2025 at our page devoted to the future. www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/asp/Vision2025.html

Disability Application Process: A Video Series Guide

If you want to learn more about what happens behind the scenes when someone applies for Social Security disability benefits, we have created videos for you. The video series, “Social Security Disability Claims Process,” includes seven parts:  an introduction, applying for disability benefits, medical evidence, quality review, the appeals process, the Appeals Council, and the final steps in the claims process.

You can find the videos on our webinars page, at www.socialsecurity.gov/socialmedia/webinars.

To apply online for disability benefits and access our other resources on this subject, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.

You Work Hard for the Money (and Security)

You and your clients have labored hard throughout the year. Hard work amounts to more than just money; you’re also building benefits for your and your family’s future. This Labor Day weekend may be a good time to consider the fruits of your labor.

A great starting point is Social Security's Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits. The Estimator uses a worker's actual earnings history to calculate a benefit estimate but, for privacy purposes, we do not display the earnings. You or your clients can enter a variety of scenarios, such as different earnings amounts and retirement dates, to find out how these variables will change the benefit amounts.

Another great way to keep up with the fruits of your labor is by opening a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. With a personal account, you can check your earnings record, get your Social Security Statement for details about your future benefits, and much more.

When the time comes to retire, the easiest way to apply is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.  It can take as little as 15 minutes—not much labor at all.

Happy Labor Day from Social Security.

July 2014

Serving Where Service is Needed

Providing services when and where the public needs them most is central to Social Security’s mission. With that in mind, Social Security will continue to provide benefit verification letters in local offices when requested.

Over the years, Social Security has invested in technology that allows most government agencies and many other organizations to verify their clients’ Social Security benefits electronically without requiring a visit to a local field office. Social Security will continue our educational outreach to encourage federal, state, and local agencies to take advantage of the agency’s data exchange programs that can serve customers more efficiently and effectively.

“We appreciate the feedback from members of Congress, our community stakeholders and agency partners. We want to ensure that we meet the needs of our customers in a way that is convenient for them and also cost-effective and secure for all,” Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin stated. “We also want to ensure that the public is aware that they can access many of our services without making a trip to a local field office.”

The easiest and most convenient way for most people to get instant benefit verification is by creating a secure my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Two New Anti-Fraud Units Open

Social Security has zero tolerance for fraud and continues to take steps to prevent and combat it by establishing two new special fraud prevention units. The new units are located in the Kansas City region and the Western Program Service Center in the San Francisco region.

These two units follow March’s opening of the centralized fraud prevention unit in New York City. All three anti-fraud units collaborate with Social Security systems’ personnel to build data analytics to detect and prevent fraud at the earliest possible point in the disability decision-making process. The units work closely with the Office of the Inspector General to prevent, detect, and stop fraud.

Acting Commissioner Colvin’s 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 the money you’ve stolen to the American people.”

If a member of the public suspects fraud, they should contact Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271, or visit http://oig.ssa.gov and select "Report Fraud, Waste, or Abuse."

Someday is Here

For many people, Someday is an elusive day on the far-off horizon—always seeming close enough to see, but too distant to touch. Perhaps Someday you plan to go skydiving. Or enter a hot dog-eating contest. Maybe Someday you plan to ride a mechanical bull. Or travel around the world. Or visit all of America’s national parks.

Someday, you will want to retire. If you are mid-career, Someday, you will need to start planning for retirement. Even if you are just now starting your career, Someday you’re going to want to see what your future Social Security benefits will be and check your earnings for accuracy. Someday has arrived. Open a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, and you’ll see what we mean.

Millions of people have opened a my Social Security account, and our Someday campaign will help millions more learn about my Social Security and sign up for their free online account. Someone opens a new account just about every six seconds. Tell your clients that Someday has arrived and encourage them to open a my Social Security account. Whether you share this important information during our upcoming National my Social Security Week (August 18-23) or any time, your clients will benefit.

Watch our new PSA at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Help Form the Future

Time flies, but we have the opportunity to change its course. Remember that movie series in which a time traveler from 1985 goes back 30 years to 1955 and then forward 30 years to 2015? That “future” is almost here. And the year 2025 is right around the corner.

How should Social Security look in the year 2025? We value your opinions and welcome your honest input about how you think Social Security should serve the public in the next 10 to 15 years. That is why we have begun to create “Vision 2025,” a long-term vision and strategic plan for Social Security’s future, and we want your help.

For additional information regarding Vision 2025, please visit our website:  www.socialsecurity.gov/agency/asp/Vision2025.html

Faces and Facts of Disability

Social Security touches the lives of millions of Americans, often during times of hardship, transition, or uncertainty. Our benefit programs—retirement, survivors, and disability—offer financial protection for people and families in need. Today, 56 million Americans live with the challenge of disabilities—that’s one-in-five Americans. But it’s when we get to see the story of an individual that we come to understand the true face of disability.

Meet Jamey, a woman who was born with progressive nerve damage and was unable to find a good job until she was 35. “Social Security kept me from being homeless, and it motivated me to keep fighting harder to live the life I wanted to live,” Jamey said. She now works at a job where she helps empower people with disabilities. Learn more about Jamey and how Social Security helped her live a better life of helping others, at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts/spotlight.html.

Jamey is just one of the real people you can meet at our website, the Faces and Facts of Disability. The website dispels the misconceptions about the Social Security disability insurance, or SSDI, program and tells the personal stories of the people who disability benefits have helped. The numbers and facts are important. But the inspiring stories of real people—our neighbors and family and friends—give the real picture of what disability benefits are all about. You can help us spread the word by submitting your own personal stories. Find out for yourself with a visit to www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

June 2014

Social Security Defines Policy for Same-Sex Married Couples

Social Security has published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship. These instructions come in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision in United States vs. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. This latest policy development lets the agency recognize some non-marital legal relationships as marriages for determining entitlement to benefits.

These instructions also allow Social Security to begin processing many claims in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or non-marital legal relationships. We have consulted with the Department of Justice and determined that the Social Security Act requires the agency to follow state law in Social Security cases. The new policy also addresses Supplemental Security Income claims based on same-sex relationships.

“As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “We are bound by the law within the Social Security Act, and we have to respect state laws. We remain committed to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity, and respect.”

If a person believes he or she may be entitled to or eligible for benefits, they are encouraged to apply now. To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

Social Security Disability Insurance Program Briefing

Social Security’s disability program provides income protection for American workers and their families when they need it most. Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner, wants to ensure the public has the facts about the disability program and dispel some of the current misinformation about the program.

On May 7, Acting Commissioner Colvin served as the keynote speaker at a Capitol Hill briefing on the Social Security disability program. The briefing took place in a packed room at the U.S Capitol, and provided an opportunity for key Congressional staff to learn the facts about the program. Attendees included Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and ranking member Orrin Hatch, and the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson and ranking member Xavier Becerra. Watch the Capitol Hill briefing.

The event was just one facet of the agency’s larger effort to educate the public on how the disability program has served some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. Our new interactive educational program, the Faces and Facts of Disability, is another means of providing the American public information about disability. This program tells the disability story by highlighting real people helped by Social Security disability benefits. It includes program facts, explains Social Security’s commitment to preventing, detecting, and prosecuting fraud, and much more. Visit the Faces and Facts of Disability at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Supplemental Security Income Helps People for 40 Years

The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program may seem like Social Security’s kid brother, but—believe it or not—it’s been providing benefits for those who need it for 40 years.

SSI provides income support to eligible people who are aged 65 or older, blind or disabled adults, and blind or disabled children who have low income and few resources. Eligibility requirements and federal payment standards are nationally uniform, although some states add a supplement to the federal payment. SSI replaced the former federal/state adult assistance programs in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

When SSI began in January 1974, about 3.2 million people received much-needed help from the new program. By December 1974, we were assisting nearly 4 million people who otherwise had nowhere to turn. As of December 2012, more than 8 million people are receiving much needed benefits thanks to SSI—often meaning the difference between survival and homelessness.

SSI is a lifeline for people who need it. If you know someone who might benefit from SSI, have them visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.

Addressing the Senate on Service to the Public

On June 18, Nancy Berryhill, Social Security’s Deputy Commissioner for Operations, testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging about Social Security’s service delivery. While promoting the convenience of self-service options, she reinforced our commitment to continuing to provide face-to-face service in field offices and stressed that Social Security’s ability to deliver its services to the public is dependent on Congress providing adequate, sustained funding.

Ms. Berryhill said, when making decisions about changes to offices, we analyze many factors. These include impact on the public and employees, demographics of the service area, proximity of other Social Security offices, staffing, geography, and lease expiration.

Our three other service delivery options—phone, online, and video services—are convenient alternatives to visiting a field office. In 2013, our Teleservice Centers answered 54 million calls. Nearly half of all retirement and disability applications were completed online. We conducted more than 180 thousand video interviews. Providing self-service options like these frees up time for front line staff to handle those individuals who have complex issues and need more personal assistance.

To read a transcript of Nancy Berryhill’s testimony before the Senate, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_061814.html.

Helen Keller Would Have Appreciated Our Services

June 27 is Helen Keller Day, a commemorative holiday established by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 on her 100th birthday. The first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor of arts degree, Helen Keller was a world-famous speaker, author and advocate for people with disabilities. She undoubtedly would have appreciated all that Social Security does for the disabled community and their families.

Not only does Social Security provide disability benefits for people who qualify, but we make great efforts to communicate with people in alternative formats to make our resources and services accessible to everybody. All of the pages on our website, www.socialsecurity.gov, are easy to access for people with disabilities.

We are pleased to introduce our new Center for Section 504 Compliance. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act prohibits federal agencies and programs that receive federal funding from discriminating against individuals with disabilities. The 504 Center provides guidance to Social Security offices nationwide to ensure that our customers with disabilities have meaningful access when conducting business with us. You’ll find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/accessibility/504_overview.html.

Social Security Plays Ball Well

Have you seen our baseball stadium video? The judges have, and they gave it a home run!

On June 12, the National Association of Government Communicators, or NAGC, recognized Social Security for outstanding communications. We received first place for the “Hit A Home Run With Our Online Application” video, making it the year’s best public service announcement in government. Also, we received Awards of Excellence in three additional categories: website, display, and webcast.

So, how many baseball stadiums can you fill with the number of people who have applied online for Social Security benefits? Watch the short PSA to find out at Social Security’s YouTube page. You’ll find it at www.youtube.com/SocialSecurityOnline.

May 2014

Social Security Website Turns 20

For most of us, it's hard to imagine a world that doesn't include the Internet. But twenty years ago, the world wide web was a strange new world for most people. Morning talk show hosts and news anchors mentioned"this Internet thing" as though they didn't quite understand what it was. Time Magazine did a cover story about"the world's largest computer network" as the next big thing.

On May 17, 1994 -- pre-Google, pre-Facebook -- Social Security launched Social Security Online. The humble website included 20 pages and received 17,000 visits in its first month.

Now, in 2014, we average more than 17 million visits a month to our more than 45,000 pages. Last year alone, our website had 83 million visits. We offer 20 online services and more than half of the nation's new retirees complete their applications online. Plus, it's easy to navigate, read, and understand our website. Just this year, Social Security won the ClearMark Award of Distinction from the Center for Plain Language for our Internet website redesign.

Visit our award-winning website at www.socialsecurity.gov.

New King of Baby Names

There's a new king in town. Noah is the most popular name for boys, unseating Jacob and becoming the first new name to top the list for boys since 1960 (with the exception of Jacob and Michael).

Sophia remains at the top of the list for most popular baby name for girls, where it has reigned for three years.

Each year, Social Security releases the top baby names based on Social Security card applications for newborns. Learn more about the most popular names and see where you and the children in your life fit in the top 10—or the top 1,000—by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/5-2014-1.

Faces and Facts of Disability

Social Security touches the lives of many Americans, often during times of hardship, transition, or uncertainty. Our benefit programs—retirement, survivors, and disability—offer financial protection for people and families when they need it most.

Our new website and campaign, The Faces and Facts of Disability, provides facts about the Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, program, as well as personal stories about the people helped by disability benefits. The numbers and facts are important. But the inspiring stories of real people—our neighbors, family and friends—tell the real story of what Social Security disability benefits are all about. Find out for yourself at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Our Accounting is Clear According to CEAR

On May 21, the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) awarded Social Security the Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting (CEAR) for the 16th year in a row. AGA's CEAR program recognizes federal agencies that prepare clear, readable financial reports showing what the agencies have accomplished with taxpayer dollars.

See Social Security's latest Agency Financial Report for fiscal year 2013 at www.socialsecurity.gov/finance/index.html

Eldercare Abuse Awareness Day

Although Social Security serves people of all ages, the vast majority of our beneficiaries are retirees. We care about those we serve, which is why we have special interest in supporting World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15.

Started in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization (WHO), the day's purpose is to promote a better understanding of abuse and neglect of older people so that we can help prevent it.

According to WHO,"Elder abuse is a violation of human rights and a significant cause of illness, injury, loss of productivity, isolation, and despair."

Learn more about elder abuse and how to stop it at the National Center on Elder Abuse, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Aging, at www.ncea.aoa.gov.

April 2014

Fraud Protection Unit Established in New York

The Social Security Administration has established a centralized fraud prevention unit in New York City to identify potential fraud and detect fraud trends that are applicable to disability cases nationwide.  This unit consists of experienced disability examiners who are currently involved in the review of disability medical decisions.  Using their specialized experience, these examiners are collaborating with Social Security systems personnel to help build data analytics to detect and prevent fraud as early as possible in the disability decision-making process.

"Social Security strives to preserve the public's trust in our programs and we have no tolerance for fraud.  We are aggressive in our efforts to detect and prevent fraud," said Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin, noting that Social Security's anti-fraud approach has resulted in a fraud incidence rate that is a fraction of one percent. "To those who would try to cheat us:  We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to recover any money you've stolen from the American people."

Learn more by reading the press release at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/3-2014-9.

We're Accessible To Everyone

Not only does Social Security provide disability benefits for people who qualify, but we make great efforts to communicate with people in alternative formats to make our resources and services accessible to everyone.  We are committed to providing world-class customer service to everyone and to ensuring that people with disabilities have meaningful access to our programs and services.

We are pleased to build on this commitment with the Center for Section 504 Compliance. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits federal agencies and programs that receive federal funding from discriminating against individuals with disabilities.

The 504 Center's toll-free number is 1-844-881-9061 and its business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except federal holidays).

In addition, we offer our publications and notices in alternative formats for those who request them. The most popular ways for the public to read our publications is by PDF and streaming audio file at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/alt-pubs.html.

Learn about our special notice options at www.socialsecurity.gov/notices.

Visit the 504 Center online at  www.socialsecurity.gov/accessibility/504_overview.html.

A New Website for Young People

Most people tend to associate Social Security with retirement. But consider this: at the end of 2013, about 3.2 million minor children received an average monthly benefit of $534 because one or both of their parents were disabled, retired, or deceased. Social Security protects young people even if they never worked.

For young people who do work, they are a part of the Social Security story as well, paying Social Security tax and protecting their own future in the event of disability, death, or retirement.

We have a new web page devoted to youth. With sections focused on students, young workers, and saving for retirement, it is packed with information useful to young people from students to career-starters. There's even a video that explains the basics of what Social Security has to offer.

Tell the young people you know to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/people/youngpeople.

IRS Warns of Telephone Scam

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns consumers to guard against sophisticated and aggressive phone scams targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, as reported incidents of this crime continues to rise nationwide.

The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via U.S. mail. The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card, or prepaid card information over the telephone.

Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here's what you should do:

  • If you think or know you owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040.
  • If you think or know you don't taxes or never received a written notification from IRS, then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their"FTC Complaint Assistant" at www.FTC.gov. Please add"IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS and asking for your information, do not open any attachments or reply. Instead, forward the email or contact phishing@irs.gov.

Learn more at www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Reiterates-Warning-of-Pervasive-Telephone-Scam.

A Social Security Pioneer's 100th Birthday

From 1962 to 1973, Robert M. Ball served as Commissioner of Social Security. But that was just one of his many contributions to Social Security. He began working for the agency in 1939. Until his death in 2008, Bob Ball worked to promote and protect Social Security and Medicare.  If alive today, Bob Ball would celebrate his 100th birthday.

"The thing that has appealed to me most about the program is that it supplies a continuing income to groups who without it would be most susceptible to poverty," Ball said."Yet, it does this through their own effort—the protection grows out of the work they do and contributions they make. I've always been glad I made the choice of career I did."

Celebrate this Social Security pioneer's 100th birthday with a visit to our History Page at www.socialsecurity.gov/history/bobball.html.

March 2014

President's Budget Request Increases Funding for Program Integrity and Service Modernization

President Obama's fiscal year (FY) 2015 budget request allots $12.024 billion for Social Security's administrative expenses. This amount replaces some of the cuts due to sequestration and allows the agency to build on its successes.

"With the requested FY 2015 funding level, we will be able to continue to increase our cost-effective program integrity work and enhance our vigorous fraud prevention efforts, improve our service to the American public, and modernize our service delivery," said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security.

The Acting Commissioner noted that Social Security has lost more than 12 percent of its workforce—11,000 employees--since 2011, but the proposed budget supports service modernization efforts that will help the agency do its job."By investing in efforts such as implementing more online services, we can become more efficient and more responsive to the public, saving both time and money," Colvin said.

Most of the increase in our FY 2015 budget is for program integrity work, including doubling the number of Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR) we complete compared to FY 2013. CDRs are periodic reevaluations of medical eligibility factors for disability recipients and save the agency billions of dollars each year. We estimate that our FY 2015 program integrity investments will save $9 in program savings for every $1 spent on CDRs, including Medicare and Medicaid savings.

With millions of Americans counting on Social Security at the most critical points in their lives, Acting Commissioner Colvin made clear that,"It is critical that Congress enacts President Obama's budget proposal in a timely manner."

Learn more by reading Acting Commissioner Colvin's statement at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/3-2014-1.

Veterans with 100 Percent Permanent and Total Rating on Fast Track

Social Security launched a new disability process to expedite disability claims filed by veterans with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100 percent permanent & total. Under the new process, Social Security will treat these veterans' applications as high priority and issue expedited decisions, similar to the way the agency currently handles disability claims from Wounded Warriors.

"We have reached another milestone for those who have sacrificed so much for our country and this process ensures they will get the benefits they need quickly," said Acting Commissioner Colvin."While we can never fully repay them for their sacrifices, we can be sure we provide them with the quality of service that they deserve. This initiative is truly a lifeline for those who need it most."

Read our recent press release at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/3-2014-2.

Learn more about this service at www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability-pt.htm.

We Are Committed to Providing Service to Everyone

Social Security is pleased to introduce our new Center for Section 504 Compliance. The 504 Center provides guidance to Social Security offices to ensure our customers with disabilities can conduct business with us in a way that is convenient for them.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits federal agencies and programs that receive federal funding from discriminating against people with disabilities.

We seek to provide world-class service for everyone we serve. We have a long-standing commitment to ensure that members of the public with disabilities have full access to our programs and services.

The 504 Center's toll-free number is 1-844-881-9061. The business hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time (except federal holidays).

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/accessibility/504_overview.html.

Affordable Care Act Enrollment Deadline Approaches

Affordable health care is available to all Americans, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. However, the open enrollment deadline for 2014 is March 31, 2014. We encourage individuals to act now to provide peace of mind for themselves and their families and, at the same time, save money on quality health care coverage.

Learn more about the options and get health coverage at www.healthcare.gov.

New Agency Strategic Plan Published

Social Security has published its Agency Strategic Plan for FYs 2014 to 2018, and it is an open book for you to read. We established five strategic goals for the coming years: deliver innovative, quality services; strengthen the integrity of our programs; serve the public through a stronger, more responsive disability program; build a model workforce to deliver quality service; and ensure reliable, secure, and efficient information technology services.

Learn more about our agency plan, our goals, and the steps we will take to meet them at www.socialsecurity.gov/asp.

Celebrating Women Like Frances Perkins

Women's History Month highlights the contributions of women to history and society. We'd like to recognize the contributions of a woman who is very special to Social Security and all Americans touched by it—Frances Perkins.

When she became Secretary of Labor in March 1933, Frances Perkins was the first woman cabinet member—a position she held until June 1945. She was trained as a teacher, lectured at universities throughout her lifetime and was a published author.

As Chairman of the Committee on Economic Security, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934, Perkins recommended unemployment insurance and old-age insurance. She was instrumental in ensuring Social Security was signed into law.

"Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political party, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system," Perkins said."It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States."

Join us in celebrating Women's History Month and this extraordinary woman by reading more about Frances Perkins at www.socialsecurity.gov/history/fpbiossa.html.

February 2014

Congressional Testimony Addresses Anti-Fraud Efforts

On February 26, 2014, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, testified before Congress about Social Security's ongoing anti-fraud efforts and our partnership with the Office of the Inspector General to root out disability fraud. In stressing the agency's ongoing commitment to combatting fraud, the Acting Commissioner reinforced that while there is a low level of fraud in our disability programs — less than 1 percent — no amount of fraud is tolerable.

"We are committed to preserving the public's trust in our programs," Colvin said."We have no tolerance for fraud, and I reiterate to those who would defraud Social Security: We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to restore the money you've stolen to the American people. We have expended significant resources in our anti-fraud efforts and in support of the Inspector General, who is responsible for"provid[ing] leadership and coordination ... to prevent and detect fraud and abuse."

Read the full testimony at www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_022614.html.

Affordable Care Act Enrollment Deadline Approaches

Affordable health care is available to all Americans thanks to the Affordable Care Act. However, the open enrollment deadline for 2014 is March 31, 2014. (For those who want coverage to begin by April 1, 2014 the deadline is March 15, 2014.)

If you miss the March 31, 2014 open enrollment deadline for coverage in 2014, you may not be able to enroll in a health insurance plan through the marketplace until the next open enrollment period. There are exceptions if you qualify for a special enrollment period by having a “life event,” such as marriage, addition of a new child in the family, loss of other health coverage or moving to a new area.

Anyone who doesn’t have qualifying health coverage for three months or more out of the year could owe a penalty.  But if you enroll by March 31, 2014, you won’t have to pay the penalty, even if you were uninsured for the entire year before your coverage starts.

Learn more about the options and get health coverage at www.healthcare.gov.

Faster Benefit Decisions for Veterans

This month brought great news for veterans: beginning March 17, 2014, a new expedited disability process. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, along with Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) unveiled a new initiative to expedite disability applications from veterans with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent and Total (P&T). Under the new process, Social Security will treat these veterans’ applications as high priority and issue expedited decisions, similar to the way the agency currently handles disability claims from wounded warriors.

“Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and it is only right that we ensure they have timely access to the disability benefits they may be eligible for and deserve,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin.

Learn more by reading the press release on the subject at www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/2-2014-1.

SSI for Same-Sex Married Couples

Social Security published new instructions that allow us to process some Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications by people in same-sex marriages. These instructions come in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.

As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “With the release of these instructions, we continue our commitment to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity and respect.

If a person believes he or she may be entitled to or eligible for benefits, they are encouraged to apply now. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/same-sexcouples.

SSI Turns 40

Forty years ago, Social Security began making Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments to people who are blind, disabled or over age 65 and have limited income and resources.  SSI is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes).  Designed to help aged, blind and disabled people with little or no income, it provides cash to meet basic needs for food shelter and clothing.

When SSI started in 1974, approximately 3.2 million people received benefit payments. By the end of that same year, that number had risen to almost 4 million. Today, there are more than 8 million recipients.

Inflation, of course, has increased dramatically over the past 40 years, and so have the basic SSI payment amounts. In January 1974, a person was eligible for up to $140 per month in SSI benefits. Today, the basic federal payment amount is $721 a month.

Learn more about SSI today at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.

January 2014

Compassionate Allowances Program Opens Arms to 25 New Conditions

This month, Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, announced 25 new Compassionate Allowances conditions, including a dozen cancers. This brings the total number of conditions to 225.

The Compassionate Allowances program expedites disability decisions for Americans with the most serious disabilities to ensure that they receive their benefit decisions within days instead of months or years. To date, almost 200,000 people with severe disabilities have been approved through this fast-track disability process.

"We are dedicated to providing vulnerable Americans with faster access to disability benefits through our Compassionate Allowances program," said Acting Commissioner Colvin."Social Security disability benefits are a vital lifeline for individuals who are facing severe diseases and we must ensure that they receive the benefits they rightly deserve." 

Learn more by reading the press release, where you’ll find a list of the new Compassionate Allowances conditions. www.socialsecurity.gov/news/press/releases.html/#/post/1-2014-1

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

Small Businesses Can Use BSO at Tax Time or Any Time

Business Services Online (BSO) is a suite of online services that allows organizations, businesses and authorized individuals to conduct business with Social Security. Once registered, users may request, activate and access a number of services and functions.

For example, employers and businesses can do everything from submitting wage reports and printing employee W-2s to verifying Social Security numbers and completing updated business taxpayer information forms—all right over the Internet. These online services can be especially beneficial for small businesses, so we encourage them to visit our website.

Learn more about the business services available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/bso.

We Help the Disabled by Fighting Fraud

Earlier this month, Acting Commissioner Colvin testified before Congress about Social Security’s efforts to help the disabled and to fight fraud.

"Throughout my career, I have met people from all walks of life who struggle to cope with severe disabilities. They are the true face of disability in this country," said Acting Commissioner Colvin. In her testimony, she sent a clear message to those who would defraud Social Security."We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to restore the money you’ve stolen to the American people."

Read Acting Commissioner Colvin’s full testimony before Congress to learn more about what the agency is doing to fight fraud. www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/testimony_011614.html

Completing Disability Applications is Easier

Have you heard about the latest marriage? To make it even easier and more convenient for people to apply online for disability benefits, we have joined the Social Security disability benefits application and the adult disability report in electronic matrimony. It used to be that you had to complete two documents, both an online benefit application and an online adult disability report. The new streamlined process puts it all in one place, so all you need to complete is the one application.

Note that the disability application is for Social Security disability benefits only. We do not have an online application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Learn more about applying for SSI benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/ssi.htm.

Say"yes" to the new streamlined disability application at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.

Help Us Improve Our Open Government Plan

We’re revising our Open Government Plan and we’d like your input. Social Security established the Office of Open Government to develop and implement a plan outlining the agency’s open government goals, objectives and supporting activities. We developed and published two plans (June 2010 and September 2012) based on input from the public, our employees, open government advocates and other stakeholders. Now is a good time to reflect on our current plan (available at www.socialsecurity.gov/open/plan-progress-2012.html).

We want to focus on our continuing efforts toward transparency, public participation in the policies and decisions of the agency, and collaboration with such individuals as employees, partners, advocates and the people we serve. We need your ideas about the actions that the agency should take to build greater transparency, participation and collaboration into our processes. We will be meeting with employees, partners, and advocates in the coming months. In addition to those meetings, we invite you to share your ideas and respond to ideas shared by others at our online collaboration site. You can find it at open.government@ssa.gov. We look forward to incorporating your ideas and feedback.