published Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Social Security: Personalized online accounts expand for Social Security

By Gregory Holmes
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    Gregory Holmes, district manager for Social Security

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

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

Social Security beneficiaries and SSI recipients with a my Social Security account can go online and get an official benefit verification letter instantly. The benefit verification letter serves as proof of income to secure loans,

mortgages and other housing, and state or local benefits. Additionally, people use the letter to prove current Medicare health insurance coverage, retirement or disability status, and age. People can print or save a customized letter.

Social Security processed nearly 9 million requests for benefit verification letters in the past year. This new online service allows people to conduct business with Social Security without having to visit an office or make a phone call, and very often wait for a letter to arrive in the mail. It also will reduce the time spent by employees completing these requests and free them to focus on other workloads.

People age 18 and older can sign up for an account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Once there, they must be able to provide information about themselves and answers to questions that only they are likely to know. After completing the secure verification process, people can create a my Social Security account with a unique user name and password to access their information.

People age 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can sign up for a my Social Security account to get a personalized online Social Security Statement. The online Statement provides eligible workers with secure and convenient access to their Social Security earnings and benefit information, and estimates of future benefits they can use to plan for their retirement. In addition, the portal also includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability and Medicare.

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

Submit questions to local Social Security Director Gregory Holmes by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@timesfreepress.com.

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