Woodward, Okla. —
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has recently expanded the number and types of services available through the SSA personalized online "my Social Security" accounts.
According to an SSA press release, the website expansion means that 60 million Social Security beneficiaries and supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) recipients have the opportunity to access their benefit verification letter, payment history, and earning records instantly using their online account. SSA beneficiaries can also use the website to edit their address or deposit information.
SSA Public Affairs Specialist Jose Olivero explained, "The goal is to provide our customers with the ability to do business with us at their convenience. The website is available 24/7 and so the will not have to travel to a local office that is both time consuming and costly."
In addition, according to Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue, SSA beneficiaries and SSI recipients won't have to wait for verification letters to arrive in the mail anymore. These letters can now be instantly printed, which is important for some recipients who might require the letters as proof of income to secure loans, mortgages, housing or other benefits, as well as to prove insurance coverage, retirement, or disability status.
Not only is this new expansion expected to aid beneficiaries, but also the Social Security Administration as well.
"By decreasing the number of people who come into the offices to do things that can easily be done online, our employees will be freed to work on other workload and process other claims," Olivero said.
This increase in automation is much needed at this time when manpower at the Social Security Administration is a valuable commodity, he said.
"Due to fiscal constraints, we have no hiring authority, so we have lost a lot of employees in the last few years who cannot be replaced," he said.
These financial constraints and a desire to be "a good steward of the trust funds," has meant that the SSA has cut back its hours of operations, Olivero said. That is what makes the recent expansion of online services even more important, so that SSA beneficiaries still have access to the services they need despite a reduction in office hours.
For those who may be concerned about the threat of identity fraud through use of the new online services, Olivero tried to ease their concerns.
"We have done our homework," he said. "We've partnered with the Experian credit report agency so people signing up to do business with us online will have to provide a number of security answers similar to the ones they need to answer when they ask for their consumer credit reports in addition to the personal ID questions that we have on file. It's also important to know that our website is a totally secure government site."
Olivero said that millions of Americans already use the online SSA services.
"As of today, over 3 million people have registered for my Social Security accounts. My Social Security is a valuable tool not just for those receiving benefits from us, but to every person 18 and older. Using our website they can look at their earnings, plan their retirement, learn about Disability and Survivors benefits, as well as Medicare information."
For more information about my Social Security accounts, Olivero encourages those interested to visit socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.