Q: For most of my life I’ve used a nickname rather than my actual birth name. Will this be a problem when I file for SSA retirement?
A: Using a nickname when filing for Social Security retirement or other SSA benefits will probably not be a problem but it might not be a good idea. This depends on the name used for your other official records as an adult.
The primary purpose of your Social Security number (SSN) is to keep accurate track of your earnings to ensure that you and your family get all the Social Security retirement, disability, and survivors coverage you are entitled to. The agency recommends that the name on your Social Security number card be the same as the name you officially use at work for payroll purposes. Usually this is your given name even if your family, friends and co-workers routinely use a nickname.
When filing for Social Security retirement, whether by online retirement application or directly with a SSA representative, a computer comparison matches information on the application with your SSN record, including any spelling variations or actual name changes over the years. As long as the comparison matches, application processing continues.
Usual practice when issuing an original Social Security number is to use the legal name shown on the presented evidence. While not recommended, having your legal name on your birth certificate and nickname on the SSN card need not create a future problem if the record clearly shows that both names are you. Many nicknames are commonly associated with given names and are not a concern. Easy examples are William / Bill and Elizabeth / Beth / Liz. Using a middle name instead of the first name is also routine. Some nicknames have no connection to your actual name. Even if most people have called you “Runner” since high school, I would not use it on your application for benefits.
Consistency is very important with today’s computer records. The name on your Social Security retirement will eventually be on your Medicare card. Future insurance claims can be delayed if that name does not exactly match the name used by your medical providers. Even variations of the same name, such as John and Jon, can create problems. This is not a Social Security issue but is important.
Should you need to, correcting your name with Social Security is quick, easy, and free. Follow the “Get or replace a Social Security card” link from the TOP SERVICES section of www.socialsecurity.gov. A simple decision path provides instructions.
Check your personal Social Security record of earnings with your online Social Security Statement. In addition to retirement, disability and survivors estimates, the Statement shows your record of earnings. Social Security recommends that you review this annually. If there happens to be a problem, contact your local SSA office to correct it.