What Does My Social Security Statement Tell Me
- Heres how to find and read your Social Security statement for estimated retirement, disability and survivor benefits, and how to correct mistakes in your statement.
Planning for retirement takes some work. You need to track your assets and figure out how much you will need to live comfortably once you stop working. A critical part of this plan is knowing what your Social Security benefits will be.
The best way to know what your Social Security benefits are likely to be when you retire is by reviewing your Social Security statement.
Using Page One Of The Social Security Statement As A Conversation Starter
Page 1 of the Social Security statement indicates that Social Security benefits are meant to be a supplementary source of income in retirement and should not be ones only source of income in retirement. The statement says :
Social Security benefits are not intended to be your only source of income when you retire. On average, Social Security will replace about 40 percent of your annual pre-retirement earnings. You will need other savings, investments, pensions, or retirement accounts to make sure you have enough money to live comfortably when you retire.
To the extent advisors have not already had such a discussion with the client, this can be an opportune time to discuss how much of a clients retirement income needs are anticipated to be covered by Social Security benefits.
Notably, while the Social Security statement states that, on average, 40% of pre-retirement earnings are replaced by Social Security benefits, this number is often dramatically lower for the high-income and/or high-net-worth individuals with whom many advisors work.
In some cases, clients may wish to see more of their future income needs covered by guaranteed sources. This can, in turn, lead to discussions about pension options, Qualifying Longevity Annuity Contracts and other Deferred Income Annuities , Single Premium Immediate Annuities , and other ways clients may wish to generate guaranteed income to cover a higher percentage of their desired/necessary retirement income.
Review Your Social Security Statement
- Your estimated retirement benefits at age 62, full retirement age for Social Security purposes, and age 70. These benefits are stated in current dollars and do not reflect any cost-of-living adjustments that may apply before you retire.
- Estimated disability benefits if you become disabled immediately.
- Estimated survivors benefits for your children and spouse if you die in the current year.
- Your Social Security and Medicare earnings since you started working.
- Check your earnings record carefully. Your benefits are based on your reported earnings, so check all your earnings carefully. Any errors should be reported to the Social Security Administration.
- Use this estimate when planning your retirement. The statement provides the Social Security Administration’s best current estimate of your benefits when you retire. This is one factor you should consider when planning for retirement.
- File the statement with other important documents. If something happens to you, this statement will give your family a good estimate of the benefits they can expect.
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How To Correct An Error On Your Social Security Statement
If you have evidence of your covered earnings in the year or years for which you think Social Security has made an error, call Social Security’s helpline at 800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. This is the line that takes all kinds of Social Security questions, and it is often swamped, so be patient. It is best to call early in the morning or late in the afternoon, late in the week, or late in the month. Have all your documents handy when you speak with a representative.
If you would rather speak with someone in person, call your local Social Security office and make an appointment to see someone there, or drop into the office during regular business hours. If you drop in, be prepared to wait, perhaps as long as an hour or two, before you get to see a representative. Bring with you two copies of your benefits statement and the evidence that supports your claim of higher income. That way, you can leave one copy with the Social Security worker. Write down the name of the person with whom you speak so that you can reach the same person when you follow up.
The process to correct errors is slow. It may take several months to have the changes made in your record. After Social Security confirms that it has corrected your record, request another benefits statement to make sure the correct information made it to your file.
Reviewing Your File For A Mental Disability Claim
If you were denied benefits for a mental disability claim, there are two other forms you’ll want to review carefully: the mental RFC and the PRTF.
The mental RFC form is Form SSA- 4734-F4-SUP: Mental Residual Functional Capacity Assessment. Ask the following questions as you review your mental RFC.
- Did the medical consultant ignore symptoms and limitations for the type of mental disorder you have?
- Did the MC attribute to you mental abilities you do not haveâsuch as the ability to complete tasks in a timely manner?
- Did the MC agree with your treating doctor’s evaluation? If not, the MC should provide an explanation on the RFC form explaining why your doctor’s recommendations were not used.
Psychiatric Review Technique Form
- incorrect dates
- incorrect diagnosis of your mental condition, and
- statements that contradict those of your treating psychiatrist or psychologist.
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How To Review Your Disability File
Your disability file should come with an “exhibit list,” which is like a table of contents for everything in your file. They allow the administrative law judge and you or your lawyer to be able to quickly tell what is in the file and to refer to a piece of medical evidence by its assigned number on the list. Exhibit lists are compiled by the Office of Hearings Operations . After OHO creates your exhibit list, a copy is sent to you and your lawyer. The completion of an exhibit list usually signals that a case is close to being scheduled for a hearing before a judge.
Your file should also include copies of all disability applications, forms, and appeals that have been filed, as well as copies of all medical records gathered by disability examiners at Disability Determination Services . It should also contain your Social Security earnings record, any letters sent by you, your family, or your employer, or medical source statements , and all notices of prior decisions by Social Security, including the rationale for why you were denied benefits.
If you’ve already attended an ALJ hearing and you’re appealing to the Appeals Council, your file should also contain a transcript of the hearing and the ALJ’s Notice of Decision.
Look at the following records and forms to see if you can spot any errors.
Residual Functional Capacity Forms
If your claim was denied because your impairments were considered not severe , or DDS said you could do your past work, your file may not include an RFC form. But if DDS said you can do other, less demanding work than your past jobs, your file should contain a physical RFC form .
Check the RFC forms to make sure that the information is actually true. Note the limitations and abilities the medical consultant from DDS gave you. Do you agree with them? Do they contradict your treating doctor? Did the medical consultant say you have more exertional ability than your treating doctor says you have? Did the medical consultant fail to give you limitations suggested by your treating doctor, such as avoiding excessive fumes or restrictions on frequent bending of your back?
As you can see, understanding the SSA’s rationale for denying you benefits and whether they made any mistakes is complicated. Disability lawyers are experienced in finding errors in the SSA’s rationale and arguments for why you should have been found disabled. But if you aren’t sure you want to hire a lawyer, then at least learn more about how the RFC analysis works.
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How To Find Your Social Security Statement
The Social Security Administration mails out statements to workers but the easiest way to get yours is to go online.
You can get your statement by creating a mySocialSecurity acount, which is free to do. To create your account, youll need to choose a user name and password. Youll also need to have:
- A valid email address
- Your Social Security numbers
- A U.S. mailing address
You have to be at least 18 to set up a mySocialSecurity account. You cant open an account for anyone else or using anyone elses personal information. Doing so can open you up to criminal and civil penalties.
Once you create a user name and password and verify your personal information, youll receive an activation code. Youll just need to enter the activation code to finalize your account. From there, you can log in and view your Social Security Statement.
- View Social Security and Medicare taxes paid
- Request a replacement Social Security card
Once you begin receiving benefits from Social Security, you can use your mySocialSecurity account to review payments. You can also make updates to personal information and request a replacement Medicare card.
Find Out Your Estimated Social Security Benefits
Periodically checking your estimated Social Security benefits serves several purposes: It helps you plan for retirement and allows you to check for and correct errors.
The Social Security Administration keeps a database of your earnings record and work credits, tracking both through your Social Security number. You can see this information on your Social Security Statement, which is available to everyone age 25 and over. The Social Security Statement also gives you an estimate of the benefits you’ll receive at retirement age, which can play an important role in your financial planning.
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Errors On Your Social Security Statement
Its important to review your earnings record carefully to make sure youre getting appropriate credit for the money youve earned from working or self-employment. Its your earnings that determine the number of credits you receive and your benefit amount. If those earnings arent being reported correctly by you or your employer, then that could shrink the benefits you receive once you retire.
If you see an error on your record, you can call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-722-1213 to have it corrected. Youll need to have your W-2 or tax returns for any years youre disputing ready to verify your income.
Time To Mail Social Security Statements Again
Other Social Security analysts, including AARP, believe the government should go back to routinely mailing all Americans 25 and older Social Security statements as it did until a decade ago.
Not happening at this time, Kijakazi said. “If we were to mail statements to all people twenty-five and older, it would increase our costs print and mail to between eighty million and ninety million dollars per year,” she noted.
Kijakazi added that she knows a bipartisan bill in Congress the Know Your Social Security Act would require a return to paper statements for workers 25 and older who aren’t getting Social Security benefits. “If the bill were to become law, we would work diligently to be mailing as fully as possible. But yet there is a substantial cost,” she said.
Meantime, check out your Social Security Statement to ensure it’s accurate and to see what you might receive in benefits one day. If you find any mistakes in your earnings record, call the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 to get things rectified.
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What Social Security Analysts Think
Gary Koenig, vice president for financial security at AARP, said the new Statement “is much better than where it was.” He’s particularly glad the Social Security Administration no longer uses the term “early retirement benefits,” a phrase he thinks is “frankly misleading.” But he wished the agency would have mentioned “a minimum benefit versus your maximum benefit.”
Phil Moeller, co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” gives the overhauled Social Security Statement “a solid B.” He’s a fan of its new graphics, though wishes there were more explanations of claiming rules.
A Social Security Administration staffer told him, however, that the agency is working to include benefit estimates, taxes paid and an earnings record on its sample Statement that “are more representative of a real-life scenario.”
Jim Blair, of Premier Social Security Consulting, applauds the way the new Statement gives people a better idea of benefit reductions for early claiming.
She liked its short length, layout and colored formatting “which make it easier for workers to quickly understand their benefits,” Shedden told me. And she approved of the monthly benefit estimates, the Statement’s “Retirement Ready Fact Sheet” for people and links, rather than arcane wording, to some of Social Security’s claiming rules.
For one: “I don’t like that you can’t make a PDF of your entire earnings history to check if it’s right,” he said. Shedden complained about this, too.
Statements Mostly Moved Online
The SSA introduced the statements in 1999 as a tool to help future beneficiaries incorporate anticipated Social Security income into their financial planning. They were initially mailed every year to workers ages 25 and over who were not yet receiving any form of benefit.
Starting in the early 2010s, the SSA began phasing out paper mailers and focused on providing beneficiary information and services online. Hard copies are now sent automatically only to workers age 60 and up who do not receive benefits and do not have My Social Security accounts, three months before their birthday each year.
If you are one of the more than 61 million people with a My Social Security account, you can view, save and print an up-to-date version of your statement at any time. You can also access SSA fact sheets on benefit basics, available in English or Spanish, and tailored for different age groups.
AARP has endorsed the federal Know Your Social Security Act, which would mandate a return to mass mailings of the statements.
Editors note: This article as originally published included incorrect information about when the SSA sends paper Social Security statements to some older workers. It has been updated with the correct information.
Andy Markowitz is a contributing writer and editor for AARP, covering Social Security and fraud. He is a former editor of The Prague Post and Baltimore City Paper.
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Request For A Social Security Statement
If you dont want to wait for your Social Security Statement to be mailed to you, you may sign up to get your Social Security Statement online. You also may be able to estimate your retirement benefit using our online Retirement Estimator.
If you would like to receive your Social Security Statement by mail, please print and complete a “Request For Social Security Statement” and mail it to the address provided on the form.
You should receive your paper Social Security Statement in the mail in four to six weeks.
If you were unable to create or encountered a problem with your mySocial Security account, you may visit a local office or call 1-800-772-1213 for help.
How Can I View My Social Security Statement Online
In the past, reviewing your Social Security Statement meant waiting for your annual statement to be sent to you in the mail or requesting a statement from the Social Security Administration through the U.S. Postal Service. These days, you have the much more convenient option of accessing it through Social Security online services. Simply go to the SSA website and create a My Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount/.
In order to set up your account, you must be able to verify identifying information about yourself as well as have a valid email address, Social Security number, a U.S. mailing address, and be at least 18 years of age.
Its a simple process. Once you have a username and password, you will be able to access your account at any time to review your Social Security Statement.
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Why Should I Check My Statement
A discrepancy in your earnings not only can affect your future benefits, but it can also raise a flag about possible identity theft. If earnings are much higher than your records show, it could indicate that someone has been working illegally using your Social Security number.
Statements also help you plan for retirement. You can see how much you can expect to receive in monthly benefits, and how much more you would get until your full retirement age, rather than collecting benefits at age 62. For most people born in 1960 or later, their full retirement age is 67. And if you delay taking your benefits until age 70, your monthly payments will be even higher.
Figuring Out Whether It’s Fake
Before you click on anylinkevertake a minute to check it out. These clues from the Social Security email scam will reveal whether the email can be trusted or should be tossed. Here’s how to do it:
- Hover your cursor over the address link. The URL of the fake Social Security email directs you to an unrelated .com address, not the Social Security Administrations legitimate ssa.gov or another .gov site.
- Examine the name of the sender. In the case of AAFE Act 2015, nothing seems wrong with the name. Phishing emails often use real-sounding names in order to gain credibility. But look further, and there is reason to be suspicious. While the SAFE Act was passed by the House of Representatives last November, the acronym stands for Security Against Foreign Enemies and refers to the Iraq and Syrian refugee crisis. It has nothing to do with the Social Security Administration.
- Ask yourself why this email ended up in your spam folder. Email providers use filters to prevent phishing scams and spam from infiltrating your email. If an email ends up in your spam folder, it could be a sign that it’s not legitimate.
- Contact the agency yourself. If youre unsure about a Social Security email that claims to come from the government, call or email the agency. Just be sure to look up the address on Google if you use the contact info listed in the phishing email, youll be directed back to the scammer, who’ll try to convince you that the site is authorized.
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