Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2015

FastFacts2015-2 The new Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2015 booklet is now available.

I like this booklet. Perhaps you will too.

Issued annually, this short booklet answers frequently asked questions about the programs administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). It highlights basic program data for the Social Security retirement, survivors, and disability (OASDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.

Tables and charts illustrate the range of program beneficiaries, from the country’s oldest to its youngest citizens. In all, about 64.2 million people received some type of Social Security benefit or SSI assistance in 2014.

Different topics are easily tabbed for your interest. All are worth your time. In particular, see the “Relative Importance of Social Security” chart in the “Income of the Aged Population” section.




Does Social Security send emails? Replace your Medicare card online.

Q: Does Social Security send emails?

A: Yes, but not routinely and not to ask you for information. These emails contain general information. Do not send personal information such as your birthdate or Social Security number by email.

Social Security representatives can email general information when you phone with a question. When you call to make an appointment to file for benefits, you might receive an email containing general information to help you file your application or providing the option to file online. Other than your email address, personal information is not shown. For security and to prevent phishing scams, you cannot reply to these messages. You contacted Social Security and provided your email address before getting these emails.

You provide an email address as part of creating a my Social Security account. This is used by Social Security to send occasional messages. For example, in September an email went to about 16 million people reminding them that a Medicare replacement card could be ordered online through their my Social Security account.

A copy of this message follows.


We are excited to offer another convenient online service that you can use with your my Social Security account.  If you are a Medicare beneficiary and you have lost, damaged, or need to replace your Medicare card, you can now easily order a replacement Medicare card using your online my Social Security account.  Even if you are not currently a Medicare beneficiary, please share this news with family and friends who might benefit from this new service.  If you are still working, don’t forget to use your my Social Security account to view your yearly Social Security Statement and verify the accuracy of your earnings record and obtain updated estimates of your future Social Security benefits.

Getting a Medicare replacement card is another convenient service that is only a few minutes away with your my Social Security account.  Help us spread the word about the many benefits available with a my Social Security account at



Social Security & SSI payment dates for 2016

Payment dates for Social Security benefits and the separate Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program have been a very popular topic ever since I started these posts.

The 2016 schedule of payment dates is now available for viewing or downloading as a pdf file at

Most people starting Social Security since 1997 receive routine benefits on one of four days throughout the month: on the third of the month and on the second, third and fourth Wednesdays of the month. What day will yours arrive?

With several exceptions, Social Security payment dates now depend on the number holder’s (NH) date of birth. You are the NH if receiving Social Security on your own work record. If receiving based on the work of someone else, that person is the NH.

Therefore, if you receive Social Security retirement or disability through your own work, the payment date is based on your birth date. A child or spouse receiving benefits on your record will also have a payment date based on your birth date.

A couple can receive Social Security payment on different days if each person is receiving his or her own retirement benefit.

Social Security benefits are generally paid on the second Wednesday if the number holder was born within the first 10 days of a month, the third Wednesday if born within the 11-20th days and on the fourth Wednesday if born within the 21-31st days.  

Not all Social Security payment dates are birth date based. If you received Social Security before May 1997, your payment date is usually the third of the month. People eligible for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) generally receive SSI on the first and their Social Security on the third of the month.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) funds are usually paid on the first of a month.

As noted on the 2016 schedule, regular payment dates for both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are advanced if the usual date falls on a day when financial institutions such as banks or credit unions are closed.

One more item about payments: routine Social Security retirement, disability and survivors benefits are paid in the following month, meaning the benefit for October arrives in November. Routine Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are for the month paid so SSI arriving in October is for October.

 A link to the 2016 calendar has been added to my Areavoices homepage blogroll.


Are any illnesses automatically approved for Social Security disability?

Q: Are any illnesses automatically approved for Social Security disability?

A: Not automatically approved, but several ways are used to speed up the medical decision for certain medical circumstances. 

Social Security disability has both work and medical requirements. The separate, need based, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has financial limits and the same adult medical requirements.  

Social Security disability work requirements and SSI financial limits must be met before medical requirements are considered. For purposes of this answer, assume that these nonmedical requirements are met. 

Social Security has a strict definition of disability based on inability to work, with no provision for partial or temporary disability. In summary, you cannot do the work you did before, cannot be expected to adjust to other work because of your health, and your injury or illness has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death.  

An official medical decision is always required but some medical conditions are so serious that their conditions obviously meet disability standards. For these, the Compassionate Allowances (CAL) initiative is a way to expedite the processing of Social Security and SSI disability claims.  

Compassionate Allowances is an internal method to identify and speed up the medical decision. It is not a separate application and does not remove any Social Security or SSI requirements. For example, the Social Security disability waiting period still applies even when a medical allowance has been approved. 

Again not automatic medical approvals, other methods of expediting a medical decision are used for Social Security and SSI. These are different from Compassionate Allowances. 

One Social Security disability example is Wounded Warriors. Military service members can receive expedited processing of disability claims from Social Security if the disability occurred while on active duty. In addition, since March 2014, veterans who have a VA compensation rating of 100% permanent and total (P&T) may receive expedited processing of applications for Social Security disability benefits. 

One Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability example is presumptive disability. For some severe medical conditions, where medical allowance is expected, several months of payment are sometimes payable in advance of receiving the official medical decision.


Can you afford to retire?

Best wishes if you are one of the many people planning to retire soon. A secure, comfortable retirement is every worker’s dream. Since people are generally living longer, healthier lives, we can expect to spend more time in retirement than our parents and grandparents did.

Retirement can last many years. As one part of your decision, can you afford it?

Before making your final decision, keep in mind that Social Security was never intended to provide full retirement income. It goes along with your other pensions, savings and investments.

The average, national, monthly Social Security retirement amount clearly shows this. For a retiree on his or her own work record, the average benefit was $1,336.86 in August 2015. This does not include benefits paid to any other family member receiving on that same record, such as a spouse or child. You can see the August 2015 national averages for family members of a retiree and for Social Security survivors and disability related benefits in the Monthly Statistical Snapshot.

Snapshot information is updated each month. The number of beneficiaries is shown in the thousands; total amounts of benefits shown in the millions and average monthly amounts in dollars.

Use the Social Security retirement planner tools to estimate your personal Social Security retirement amount. Once you obtain a personal estimate of your monthly amount at full retirement age, use the “compute the effect of early or delayed retirement calculator,” to compare your estimated amount at different ages and for any month starting with age 62 to age 70.

When ready, complete your retirement application online. Learn how here.


Social Security by State and ZIP Code

On August 17, I wrote that the annual publication “OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County” had been released with information as of December 2014. OASDI is Social Security retirement (old-age), survivors and disability insurance benefits. With other information, that publication presents Social Security program data on the number and type of beneficiaries and the amount of benefits paid in each state and county.

Now this data is available at the postal ZIP Code level in another publication, OASDI Beneficiaries by State and ZIP Code, 2014, released this week.

It contains program data on the number and type of beneficiaries and the amount of benefits paid in each state, Social Security Administration field office, and ZIP Code. It also shows the number of men and women aged 65 or older receiving benefits. See the publication “Notes” section for more about this information.

Now you can see the importance of Social Security to your state, county and ZIP code.2014-SSA-zipcode

Can I apply for Social Security disability again?

Q: Can I apply for Social Security disability again if previously denied?

A: Yes, you can.

Before doing so, consider if your situation has changed from your original application. Social Security disability has both work and medical requirements. If the previous application was denied because you did not meet the work requirements, then your medical condition was not part of the decision. Unless your work history has changed, a new application will probably have the same results. If the prior decision was that you did not meet the medical requirements, again what has changed so that you might now meet them? You can file a new application if desired.

Social Security has a strict definition of disability based on inability to work. In summary, you cannot do the work you did before, cannot be expected to adjust to other work because of your health, and your injury or illness has lasted or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death.

The Social Security disability homepage links to a Disability Planner section for more about filing for benefits. If you file, the entire application can be completed online.

You can also file again for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a separate, income based program for disabled adults and children, or people age 65 and older, who meet financial income and resource limits. SSI financial limits must be met before other requirements are considered. There is no work requirement. For adults, SSI uses the same strict definition of disability used for Social Security. The SSI application is not online.

Before filing a new SSI application, consider if your situation has changed from the original application. If an SSI disability application was denied for financial or other non-medical reason, then your medical condition was not part of the decision. Unless there has been a change in your situation, you will probably have the same results as before. You can file a new application if desired.

Remember that both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) have an appeal process for people to question a decision that they did not agree with. If a denied application is within the appeals period stated in the decision letter, you can keep that application in progress by filing an appeal. Doing this is usually better than filing a completely new application. If you let the appeals period end, a new application can be filed.

For both programs, appeal of a medical decision can be requested online. To do this, follow the “Appeal Our Recent Medical Decision” link from the Social Security disability or SSI homepages. For appeal of other issues, contact Social Security.

Widow benefit amounts

Q: If you start widow’s benefits at age 60, you get a lesser amount. Does it go up as you get older?

A: Before getting to the question, I want to clarify that Social Security survivors benefits can be received by a widow or widower much younger than age 60. People die at all ages and different Social Security survivors benefits can apply in different situations.

For example, survivors benefits can be payable to much younger widows or widowers if children are involved. Benefits can be paid at age 50 to a disabled widow or widower. Based on age, 60 is the youngest age to start Social Security survivors benefits as a widower or widow. The booklet “Survivors Benefits” provides an overview of benefits.

Always contact Social Security when there is a death in the family to discuss possible benefits for now or in the future.

A Social Security survivors benefit amount is based on the earnings of the person who died. The more he or she paid into Social Security, the higher survivors benefits would be. The monthly amount you would get is a percentage of the deceased’s basic Social Security benefit. It depends on your age and the type of survivors benefit received.

When you start Social Security survivors benefits based on age at 60, the amount is permanently reduced, other than any cost of living increases, because you are starting benefits when younger than your survivors full retirement age (FRA).

Survivors full retirement ages are different from retirement FRA but the process is similar. The percentage of benefit received depends on how many months you are away from FRA when starting benefits. Each month of delay provides a higher benefit. As with retirement, the choice is to take a smaller benefit for potentially a longer time or a higher benefit for a shorter number of years.

Using the chart for survivors full retirement age of 66, for birth years 1945 – 1956, some approximate percentages of the maximum survivors benefit for different starting ages are:

  • Age 60: 71.5% because you get benefits for 72 months before FRA.
  • Age 62: 81.0% because you get benefits for 48 months before FRA.
  • Age 65: 95.3% because you get benefits for 12 months before FRA.

The Social Security survivors homepage has more information and links to the Survivors Planner section.

Consider your options before starting benefits, especially if you will also be eligible to receive your own Social Security retirement. For example, you could start the smaller of these benefits at a reduced rate and then, when older, such as at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit type at an unreduced rate.

Survivors estimates are not available online. If you do not receive Social Security benefits now, you can estimate potential survivors benefits for your family through your work record by creating a my Social Security account and viewing your Statement.


Employers – register for Business Services Online now

The W-2 season is only a few months away.

Now is the time for employers to register to use Social Security Business Services Online (BSO).

A registered employer can verify the Social Security number (SSN) of newly hired and existing employees online or overnight, without seeing the paper SSN card.

Verifying now that you have the correct SSN prevents future reporting problems due to having a wrong SSN or name. If an employee’s name and SSN does not verify, have him or her contact Social Security to correct the problem. This is especially useful if your business has high employee turnover, such as the hospitality industry.

Another BSO service provides for electronic transmission of your W-2 information at the end of the year, with incentive to do so.

Firms providing payroll services register once to use these Business Services for all their clients.

There is no charge to use Social Security Business Services Online.

Business Service Online details are at Registration instructions and tutorials are in the Employer section as is customer support information that is dedicated to BSO related questions. Local Social Security office staff generally cannot answer BSO questions.

Note that the employee registering to use these Business Services on behalf of an employer is asked for some personal information as a security feature. Before allowing the registration to be completed, the employee work record is checked to verify employment with the employer. Newly hired employees can register for Business Services Online through customer support.



Do all Social Security offices have the same public hours?

Q: Do all Social Security offices have the same public hours?

A: Most do but not all.

Social Security local offices across the nation expanded their public hours in March 2015.

Routine public hours nationally are 9:00am – 4:00pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday and from 9:00am – noon on Wednesday. Offices close at noon every Wednesday so employees have time to work on existing workloads and other assignments.

Including in North Dakota, some very small offices have different hours that vary with location.

Specific office information is in the Contact Us section of the Social Security website, From the “Contact Us” page, click on the “Find an Office” link and input the local ZIP Code. The reply shows the local Social Security office address, hours, map and related information.

A local office visit is not needed for most Social Security work. Including completion of retirement and disability applications, most Social Security business can be conducted by telephone or online at, without visiting the office. Here is a list of services available online.

The Social Security national toll-free numbers, 800-772-1213 and TTY 800-325-0778, are staffed by SSA employees from 7:00am – 7:00pm, local time, Monday – Friday, standard business days. These representatives use the same computer system as in local offices to answer questions, make appointments and update your benefits. Automated services are also available through the national numbers.

Including changing your mailing address and direct deposit bank account information, you can update your benefits online yourself if you have created a personal, pin and password protected, my Social Security account at

Use the contact option best for you.