This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current policies or procedures.

Social Security Online
Social Security Update
November 2008

In This Issue:

Retirement Estimator Named Best Online Service in Government

Traumatic Brain Injuries and Stroke the Subject of Social Security’s Third Compassionate Allowances Hearing

SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees

Representative Payees Can Now File Reports Online

People Who Want Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Should Apply Now

Act Now to Avoid "Snow" on Your TV Set in February

Social Security Establishes Panel on Systems Technology

Important Notice Regarding the Visually Impaired

Retirement Estimator Named Best Online Service in Government

Estimate your retirement benefits Every quarter, the University of Michigan conducts the American Customer Satisfaction Index for Federal Websites. In the most recent study, the index showed that Social Security’s new online Retirement Estimator -- www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator-- ranked as the best in government.

The new Retirement Estimator debuted with a score of 90, the highest score in this survey. Perhaps even more impressive, it is the second-highest score ever received by any government website or online service.

Several other Social Security online services, including our online retirement application, also are rated among the government’s top performers and equal to the highest caliber private sector sites, such as Amazon and Google. But for the new Retirement Estimator to be rated best in government just two months after it was launched is a testament to how easy and useful it is.

So tell everyone to experience the best online service in government by visiting Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

 

 

 

 

 

Traumatic Brain Injuries and Stroke the Subject of Social Security’s Third Compassionate Allowances Hearing

Social Security held its third public hearing on Compassionate Allowances on November 18 at Ft. Myer in Arlington, VA.

Senior executives from the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health joined Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, to hear testimony from some of the nation’s leading experts on traumatic brain injury (the most common injury of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan) and stroke.

Compassionate Allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably qualify under Social Security’s disability standards based on minimal objective medical information. This hearing was the third of four public hearings the agency plans to hold.  Previous hearings dealt with cancers and rare diseases and resulted in the nationwide launch of the Compassionate Allowances initiative in October 2008.

For more information about Compassionate Allowances and the most recent hearing, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

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SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees

On September 30, 2008, President Bush signed into law H.R. 2608, the "SSI Extension for Elderly and Disabled Refugees Act" (Public Law 110-328). The law will increase the time-limited SSI eligibility period for certain noncitizens (e.g., refugees and asylees) from 7 to 9 years and make exceptions for individuals with naturalization applications pending. Although Social Security was given no lead time or administrative funding, we intend to implement this complicated legislation accurately and quickly. In October, Social Security executives met with a coalition of immigration and disability advocates to open the dialogue and work collegially to implement the law. Working together, we established accurate and fair implementation practices, shared our internal instructions, and gained support from the advocates to help Social Security identify refugees and asylees who can benefit from the law. In addition, the advocates offered the agency assistance reaching the many refugees and asylees who will benefit by the law.

To read more detailed information about the law, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/legislation/legis_bulletin_100108.htm.

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Representative Payees Can Now File Reports Online

Social Security appoints a relative, friend, institution or other interested party to receive benefits on behalf of more than seven million people who need help managing their money. These representative payees use the benefits on the person’s behalf and have to file a report every year showing how the funds were used. Until recently, this was done by filling out a paper report form and mailing it to Social Security.

Now representative payees can submit their annual accounting reports online at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee. After signing up for a user ID and password which can be reused year after year, payees can go to the online form and enter the necessary information. The online Representative Payee Accounting Form is easy to use and takes less time than filling out and mailing a paper form.

When payees have completed the report, they can print a copy for their records. Social Security will send a confirmation message saying the report has been received.

For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov/payee.

People Who Want Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Should Apply Now

Social Security Benefits will Increase 5.8 Percent for 2009It’s open season for the Medicare prescription drug program. Everyone who is covered under Medicare is eligible for the prescription drug coverage. From November 15 to December 31, newcomers can join a prescription drug plan and people already participating should look at their current plans.

It’s also a good time for beneficiaries to investigate whether they may be eligible for extra help paying Medicare prescription drug program costs. Social Security offers extra help to participants who have limited income and resources.

The extra help will pay for all or most of the monthly premiums and annual deductibles. It also will help with the prescription co-payments. This extra help is worth an average of $3,600 per year.  Some people with limited income and resources qualify for these big savings and don’t even know it.

Learn more about extra help and apply online by going to www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp/index.htm.

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Act Now to Avoid "Snow" on Your TV Set in February

TelevisionBy order of Congress, analog broadcasts will end by February 19, 2009, and people will have to get their over-the-air television by way of the digital system.

About 16 percent of Americans pick up analog signals for their television, instead of through cable or satellite. Viewers need to purchase a converter box that will allow old sets to receive digital broadcasts.

At Social Security, we want to let you know that the government is offering help to people who need to buy the converter boxes. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is offering help to people who need to purchase the converter boxes by issuing $40 coupons toward the converter. Every household is entitled to two coupons. More than 100 retailers will accept the coupons toward the purchase of converter boxes.

Tell your clients they can keep the snow off their sets by requesting their coupons at www.dtv2009.gov.

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Social Security Establishes Panel on Systems Technology

Panel of peopleSocial Security held its first meeting of the Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel in October. The panel is made up of leaders from various private industries and two Social Security executives, and the panel’s mission is to provide independent advice on systems technology and electronic services at Social Security for five to 10 years into the future.

During the first meeting, the panel heard presentations on the status of electronic service delivery, systems technology and customer service issues. The panel also reviewed the charter and operating procedures and discussed the agenda for future meetings.  Meetings will be held quarterly, the next one is scheduled for February 2009.

Meetings will be announced in the Federal Register at least 15 days before being held, and they are open to the public in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Visit the advisory panel website at www.socialsecurity.gov/fstap.

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Important Notice Regarding the Visually Impaired

We would like to make you aware of a notice that will be of interest to people who are visually impaired (and their representatives) and who either receive or applied for Social Security retirement, survivors or disability insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

A federal court has authorized a class action lawsuit against the Social Security Administration (SSA) on behalf of people with visual impairments who require communications from SSA to be in an accessible format in order to participate in the Social Security or SSI programs. The court has authorized two classes: If you have a visual impairment that substantially limits the major life activity of seeing and you (1) apply for or are receiving Social Security or SSI benefits, or (2) are the representative payee for a Social Security beneficiary or SSI recipient, then you are a member of at least one of the two classes. This means that the court's decision in this case may affect your rights. The case, called American Council of the Blind v. Astrue, No. C05-04696, is pending in the federal district court in San Francisco, California.

The court would like maximum input from the class members. The below number and e-mail may be used to provide class counsel with suggestions about how SSA can effectively communicate with people who have visual impairments. You should give class counsel your comments by December 31, 2008. To do so, contact this toll free number or E-mail address:

ARLENE B. MAYERSON
SILVIA YEE
DISABILITY RIGHTS EDUCATION  AND DEFENSE FUND, INC. (DREDF)
Telephone: 1-800-348-4232
E-Mail: SSAinfo@dredf.org

To listen to an audio recording of the notice in English or Spanish, call our toll- free number, 866-940-0765.

For more information about this case, American Council of the Blind v. Astrue, read our online NOTICE at www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/classaction.htm.

 

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