published Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Social Security: March madness at Social Security

By Gregory Holmes
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    Gregory Holmes, district manager for Social Security

College basketball fans are in the midst of March Madness — a time when the final four teams in the NCAA fight for the title of national champion. While basketball fans are excited about March Madness, Social Security already has a winning "final four" of online services to cheer about: our new my Social Security service, the Retirement Estimator, online Benefit Application, and online Extra Help application.

Let's take a look at the lineup.

1. My Social Security is an online account that allows you quick access to your personal Social Security information. During your working years, once you create your online account, you can use my Social Security to obtain a copy of your Social Security Statement to check your earnings record and see estimates of the future retirement, disability, and survivor benefits you and your family may receive. If you already receive Social Security benefits, you can now sign into your account to view, save, and print your benefit verification letter, check your benefit payment information, and even change your address and phone number in our records. You also can start or change your direct deposit information. Check it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

2. The Retirement Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits. Just key in some basic information and the Estimator will use information on your Social Security record, along with what you input, to give you a benefit estimate on the spot. You even can experiment with different scenarios, such as changing your future earnings and retirement date. Check it out in English at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator or in Spanish at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador.

3. The online Benefit Application is the most convenient way to apply for Social Security retirement benefits. You can apply from the comfort of your home -- it's fast, easy, and secure. It's so easy, in fact, it can take you as little as 15 minutes to apply online. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. Try it out when you're ready to retire at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

4. The online Extra Help application is an easy way to save about $4,000 a year on your Medicare prescription drug costs. To qualify for the Extra Help, you must be on Medicare, have limited income and resources, and live in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Learn more about it at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

Social Security's online services continue to hold the top spots for customer satisfaction. In the recent American Customer Satisfaction Index quarterly report, Social Security continued to score higher than the best private online services, including Amazon.

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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