BELLEVILLE, IL--(Marketwire - May 15, 2012) - The Social Security Administration (SSA) suspended mailing most Social Security statements last year, but is making statements available online starting this month. Many people are reluctant to enter personal information online, however, which could leave them in the dark about their Social Security benefits, according to Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security disability representation and Medicare plan selection services.
"It's essential people regularly access their Social Security statements and track their benefits as part of sound financial planning," said Tricia Blazier, senior specialist for the Allsup Disability Life Planning Center®.
This is particularly the case for Social Security disability benefits, which people may need well before retirement benefits. During Disability Insurance Awareness Month in May, it's important to highlight that more than 153 million workers are covered by Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in the event they experience a long-term disability. Each year more than 2 million workers have disabilities so severe that they apply for SSDI benefits.
Steps people can take to securely access their Social Security statements online include:
1. Avoid using a public computer.
2. Go directly to the SSA site (socialsecurity.gov).
3. Create a secure password and do not share it with anyone else.
4. Do not respond to any email inquiries that appear to be from the SSA asking for personal information.
"The SSA will never ask you to verify your Social Security number, banking information or other financial or personal information via email," Blazier said. "These are scam emails and should be deleted immediately."
How To Get Your Social Security Statement
To access Social Security statements online, a person must first create an account on a security-enabled page on the SSA website. The online form asks for their name, email address, Social Security number, birthdate, phone number and a U.S. mailing address.
Another option is to visit the local Social Security office in person to sign up for a Social Security account login. The SSA uses Experian, an outside authentication provider, to verify each person's identity.
For added security, recipients can sign up to receive a unique entry code the SSA will send to their text-enabled cellphone each time they want to sign in. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov for information.
"Some people are uncomfortable sharing their personal information online, no matter how secure it may be," Blazier said. These individuals and those without online access can request a printed statement from their local Social Security office, she added.
The SSA also will mail paper statements to people age 60 and older who have yet to receive benefits, and will provide one-time mailed statements to 25-year-olds.
Online or Print: Check Statements Annually
According to Blazier, whether people receive their statements online or in print, it's essential to review the Social Security statement annually. She noted three tips when reviewing disability-related information:
1. Ensure accuracy of stated income amounts. The third page of the statement lists "Your Earnings Record." Disability and retirement benefits are based largely on the number of years someone worked and the amount of Social Security taxes they paid. Employers are required to send the SSA a copy of employees' W-2 forms each year, showing the Social Security taxes paid. However, the SSA may not receive the information or may enter it incorrectly. People should verify accuracy by comparing the statement to their own W-2 copy.
The SSA should be notified immediately of any mistakes. Otherwise, workers may not receive all the Social Security benefits they have earned.
2. Understand SSDI requirements and eligibility. The second page of the statement details "Your Estimated Benefits," including whether the worker has earned enough credits to qualify for disability benefits and the estimated payment amount.
Every worker can earn up to four credits annually. Most workers must have earned 40 credits during the past 10 years to be eligible for SSDI benefits. Workers under age 31 may be eligible for disability coverage with as few as six credits in three years. The monthly payment amount shows the estimated amount the worker would qualify for if he or she became disabled. However, having a disability does not automatically qualify someone for benefits.
To be eligible for SSDI benefits, a person must be under retirement age and have a physical or mental impairment expected to prevent him or her from doing substantial work for a year or more, or result in death. Allsup's online Disability Guidelines provides additional information.
3. Understand exceptions that can reduce SSDI benefits. Exceptions such as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) can reduce the estimated benefits listed. WEP is applied if a person also receives a pension from work and Social Security taxes were not deducted from pay. This applies most often to former government workers whose income was not subject to Social Security tax. In 2012, the WEP can reduce someone's maximum monthly disability benefits by $383.50.
Anyone with questions about eligibility for Social Security disability benefits can contact the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276 for a free disability evaluation.
Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to http://www.Allsup.com or visit Allsup on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Allsupinc.
The information provided is not intended as a substitute for legal or other professional services. Legal or other expert assistance should be sought before making any decision that may affect your situation.