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Social Security Online

Basic Facts About Social Security




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Social Security Branch Offices




The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA), an independent agency of the U.S. federal government, is tasked with administering the federal social insurance programs with which we are so familiar: retirement benefits and disability benefits. Almost every American citizen receives a social security number at an early age and, when that citizen begins working, pays into the system in the form of payroll taxes. And by paying into the system, workers become eligible to receive benefits.

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Monthly social security checks are a lifeline for millions of Americans, and disability payments have provided support to millions more who have had to stop working for lengthy periods of time because of illness or disability.

Because the SSA is so important to so many Americans, most of us have to contact the agency at some point in our lives, often on a regular basis. The agency maintains various phone lines, so you can talk with a representative in real time during regular office hours. Also, the agency maintains a large nationwide staff (62,000 employees), 10 regional offices, and 1,300 field offices across the United States. So it’s not hard to contact the SSA.

And many routine tasks can be accomplished online, at the agency’s website. Many of us still might prefer the personal touch of talking directly with a staff member, either over the phone or directly at a field office, but for those of us who are comfortable using the Internet and sending certain private information electronically, the agency’s online services can help us avoid wait times over the telephone, or drives across town to a field office.

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Social Security Online

Tasks You Perform Online

What can you do online? First of all, you can apply for benefits, whether your own retirement benefits, spouse’s benefits, or disability benefits. The online application forms are clearly presented and follow a step-by-step format. Depending on your individual circumstances, it may take from 10 to 30 minutes to complete an online application; if you begin but have to cut short, you can save your work and return at a later time. All information sent to the SSA via this online application process is secure.

If you are not yet ready to apply for benefits but would like to project how big your social security checks will be, or to simply find out whether you qualify, there are screening tools and online calculators to help you gather this information. You can also request that a paper statement be mailed to you, projecting your future benefits. These statements are prepared annually, and you can request that they be mailed to you automatically.

Applying for disability payments is a long and sometimes cumbersome procedure; you can begin this process at the SSA’s website, and you can also follow up there. Many applications for disability are initially rejected, but you have the right to initiate an appeals process, and a great many initial rejections are later accepted at some stage along this appeals process. You can read online statements detailing what your rights are, and you can fill out online forms beginning the appeals process, and track your appeal as it moves through the system. However, this process can be a long one — sometimes lasting a year or longer — so it probably makes sense visiting your local field office directly at some point and discussing your options face-to-face with a staff member there.

If you are already receiving retirement or disability insurance, there are a number of routine tasks you can fulfill online, such as changing your address and phone number, getting replacement cards, requesting a proof-of-income statement, requesting a Form 1099/1042S (benefit statement), and other housekeeping chores.

Businesses, too, can complete many Social Security-related chores online. The SSA’s “Business Services Online” pages enable business owners to report employee wages, verify social security numbers, and other tasks; business owners must complete a registration process before accessing these tools, but once that process is complete, owners can save a great deal of time by taking advantage of Business Services Online.

Call or Visit Your Nearest Social Security Office For More Information

If you can’t find the information you need, or would feel more comfortable following up with your inquiry with a Social Security staff member, the SSA’s website includes various contact information, both toll-free numbers that you can call with your questions and an “office locator” that pinpoints the Social Security office nearest you, which is determined by your providing your zip code. If you decide to visit a field office, you do not have to go to the office identified by your zip code — the staff at any field office will assist you regardless.

If you contact the Social Security Administration often, about simple or not-so-simple matters, it will save you a great deal of time and effort to first go online and see what you can get done there. You might not need to wait on the phone on hold, or drive across town to a field office, ever again.