ssa.gov

ssa.gov is the official government website that provides information and support for the Social Security Administration (SSA). These services span a wide variety of topics, all pertaining to this critical resource.

Basically Social Security is a system controlled and run by the government, funded by money paid in by people who are employed. It provides benefits to older people who are typically retired. It also provides benefits to people who are unemployed or disabled along with some of their family members.

While these funds offer welcome and necessary financial aid, in most cases they do not provide a sole source of “security” for those without other income. For that and for financial reasons the system gets controversial.

Most important is to understand what social security means to you (whether you are currently receiving it or not). Also key is to understand what you can do now to help your financial future. There are lots of tools and information on this site to help you do that.

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Social Security Administration

September 2017 Update

Due to issues caused by hurricanes and flooding it’s possible you could encounter problems receiving your Social Security payment(s). If your mail delivery got paused during the storms then you should be able to pick up your check at your local post office.If you are receiving your checks by means of Direct Deposit you should not encounter any trouble. If for some reason your payment has not registered as deposited you should call you bank or other financial institution where your funds usually go. If you’re in Texas and are unable to receive your payment by any of these methods you should go to an emergency location. Since these may change you should check the SSA website for accurate locations in Houston, Dallas and Austin.

May 2017 Update As of April 2017 it is now possible for those eligible to apply online for both SSI and disability at once. In order to qualify you have to be 18-65 years of age, single and never been married, not blind, a U.S. citizen who lives in the 50 states in the U.S. or DC or the Northern Mariani Islands. You also must not have applied for SSI benefits in the past nor received any. Easier accessibility is also available for those with limited English language proficiency. They can now ask online for an unperson or telephone appointment in their language of choice.

Update January 2017 Social Security Changes in 2017 It’s a new year and changes are taking place — not because of a new administration but because adjustments are made every new year. The first and best known adjustment is called COLA, for Cost Of Living Adjustment. This figure by law is calculated based on the increase in the consumer Price Index determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2017 the COLA will result in an increase of .3 percent (or less than one third of 1%. So for every $1000 you receive monthly in Social Security benefits you will get an extra $3. Increases in deductions for Medicare payments have not yet been announced, but it’s very likely they will easily wipe out the COLA amount. A less well known and understood adjustment is based on the average national increase in wages. That increase affects how much of a worker’s earnings are subject to Social Security Taxes. For example, in 2016 all earnings up to $118,500 were subject to the tax. In essence that sets a maximum on the amount of Social Security taxes you would pay in that year. In 2017 the maximum workers will be taxed on is going up to $127,200, an increase of $8700 or a little over 7%.

SSA

Most people first encounter the Social Security Administration when they receive their Social Security Number. For those born in the U.S. that now typically happens soon after one is born. For most that will be it until they start getting interested in planning for their future — especially when they will be retired.

It’s actually a good idea to become familiar with Social Security and the benefits you are accruing by paying Social Security and Medicare taxes. Your benefits are based on your employment and earnings record (which of course the SSA has because of your taxes filed with the IRS).

To start getting informed you must first create an account called the “my Social Security account.” This account allows you to see your official Social Security Statement. That is a good way to check and be sure that the information they have about your earnings is accurate. You can also take a look at how much you have paid in so far, in the form of Social Security and Medicare taxes (always interesting…).And this is the place to make changes to your address when you move, and manage your benefits when it comes time to start receiving them. It’s easy to set up your account and you can do it online. On the home page just click on my Social Security and then “Create an Account” on the page it takes you to. You will be asked to provide information about yourself — this must only be your personal information, for your own personal use. Any misrepresentation is a serious violation of the law.

Estimating Your Benefits

In addition to being able to see the government’s record of your earnings, you can also use a handy tool to estimate how much you will receive based on those earnings. That amount depends on how much longer you work and how much money you earn during that time period. Since there are varying degrees of uncertainty involved in that (what if I earn more or less than I am earning now? how much longer will I work? when should I start receiving my Social Security benefits?) it is especially handy to be able to use the SSA’s “Retirement Estimator.” This too is easily accessible on the website by clicking the big calculator icon right on the home page.

Entering different combinations of when you retire and how much your annual income may be, you can start to figure out when you wish to start receiving Social Security benefits. You can start receiving them as early as age 62, though the amount you receive will be less than if you start at an older age. Make an estimate of how long you expect to live. Then calculate the total amount you’ll receive based on retiring at different ages like 62, 66, and 70 since you’ll receive different amounts at each age. Of course there are also lots of people who want to give you advice about that, often for a fee. Some of that may be helpful but it’s wise to do a lot of your own calculations first, and the SSA site can help you do that.

If you are a senior there are also other benefits, services, and programs that can help you. Some of these are government programs, others are run by private companies and non-profits. To discover more see this review of Grants for Seniors.

Applying for Disability

If you have been injured or have a medical condition that keeps you from working, and if this condition is expected to last for at least year - or end in death - then you could receive additional benefits from Social Security. These are called disability benefits and are available to those 18 years of age or older. You can apply for these benefits online as long as you are not currently receiving Social Security benefits. You must also have not been turned down for these benefits within the last 60 days (though you can use the online service to submit an Internet Appeal for a review of the rejection).

Note that you can get lots more information about services and support for the disabled and their caregivers on the government website on that topic. See a helpful review of and guide to using disability.gov.

You can apply online by following the easy prompts and directions on this website. Be aware that there are certain documents that you will need to provide. These include proof of your birth; proof of U.S. citizenship or, if you were not born in the U.S., proof of your legal alien status; evidence of your medical condition like your medical records, reports from your doctor along with recent results of medical tests, and legal settlement agreements or other proof of workers’ comp type of benefits you have received.

Once you have submitted your application, you wait. You will hear from the SSA if they need more information or other documentation or if they advise you that other members of your family might be able to receive benefits on your record. They will physically mail you their decision regarding your application.

Our Favorite Features

We are impressed with the overall appearance of this website and clear presentation of information and navigation help. The top half of the home page is not cluttered and can lead you to the information your are looking for. Clicking any major topic like “Apply for Retirement” or “Apply for Disability” takes you to straightforward information about how to proceed. The Retirement Estimator, described above, is a particularly powerful and useful tool. And there is a good FAQ section that can help you quickly find the information you want in very few steps.

If you are interested in lots more information you can scroll further down and get into more details. These include a blog you can check out if you’re an information junkie — and you can subscribe to keep up with news.

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