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Social Security Online
Social Security Update
January 2009

In This Issue:

The Cousins Are Back and They're Filing Online for Social Security Benefits

Social Security Expands Fast-Track Disability Processes

Statement Looks To Young People

Social Security Shares Strategic Accomplishments Of 2008

Social Security Uses New Technologies To Speed Receipt Of Medical Information

Government Gives Retirement Funds Room To Recover

Social Security Helps Americans Save

The Cousins Are Back and They're Filing Online for Social Security Benefits

Patty DukeSocial Security has a new online retirement application and a new celebrity spokesperson to help spread the word.

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, and Academy Award winning actress, Patty Duke, unveiled Social Security’s new online retirement application and launched the agency’s Retire Online campaign, featuring cousins Patty and Cathy Lane from the hit 1960’s sitcom, "The Patty Duke Show."

“Social Security’s new online retirement application can be completed in as little as 15 minutes from the comfort of your home or office,” Commissioner Astrue said.  “Filing online means there’s no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. I’m thrilled that Patty Duke has volunteered to help us promote retiring online.”

“Like millions of other baby boomers, I like to spend time with my grandchildren, travel or just relax with a good book. And I love the convenience of doing things online,” Ms. Duke said. “Social Security has made applying for retirement benefits online easier than ever before.  So when you decide to retire, apply online for Social Security benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov. It’s so easy!”

To see a demonstration of Social Security’s online retirement application and to view the new public service announcements starring Patty Duke as cousins Patty and Cathy Lane, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/pattyduke.

 

 

Social Security Expands Fast-Track Disability Processes

Webinar Commissioner Astrue recently announced that improvements to the agency’s computer modeling system have increased the number of claimants receiving expedited approvals for disability benefits.  Social Security’s two-track system -- the Quick Disability Determination (QDD) process and Compassionate Allowances -- is now fast-tracking about 4 percent of all disability cases, a sharp increase from the 2.7 percent of cases fast-tracked last year.  This means that this year 100,000 to 125,000 disabled Americans will be approved for benefits in about 10 days instead of waiting the three to four months it typically takes for an initial decision. 

To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/disability-fast-track-pr.html.

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Statement Looks To Young People

Social Security StatmentBeginning in February 2009, workers age 25-35 who receive a Social Security Statement also will get an insert called What young workers should know about Social Security and saving. This new supplement provides additional information that pertains to young workers and includes a chart showing how much difference a little bit of saving can make.

For all workers 25 and older not yet receiving benefits, the Statement includes a person’s estimated benefit for different retirement ages, and for disability and survivors benefits, as well as a person’s annual earnings and amount paid into Social Security. In 2000, Social Security began including an insert with the Statement for all workers age 55 and older who were not receiving benefits. The agency recently revised the supplement, called Thinking of Retiring?, to add more information, make it more appealing visually and include a chart to show how much benefits can be worth at different ages.

For more information about the Statement, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement.

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Social Security Shares Strategic Accomplishments Of 2008

Strategic AccomplishmentsSocial Security has just published a new leaflet outlining the agency’s major strategic accomplishments in 2008. The purpose of the document is “to let the American people know how the agency is working to improve public service and to provide accountability for the tax dollars that we spend,” said Commissioner Astrue.

For example, in 2008, Social Security worked toward eliminating the hearings backlog and preventing its recurrence, processing about 575,000 hearings requests and 83,400 Appeals Council Reviews.  Social Security also improved retiree and core services, processing about 4.24 million retirement and survivors applications and more than 18 million Social Security number requests.

Social Security helped preserve the public’s trust by issuing the Agency Strategic Plan that lays out the agency's vision for the future and by winning the Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting for our Performance and Accountability Report

This is just a brief sampling of Social Security’s accomplishments in 2008.  Find out more reasons why Social Security is a good investment in America by reading our new publication, Major Strategic Accomplishments — Fiscal Year 2008.

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Social Security Uses New Technologies To Speed Receipt Of Medical Information

Medical SymbolSocial Security will soon become the first government agency to use the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). This will cut the time it takes Social Security to get medical records — from weeks or months to only minutes. 

Social Security handles about 2.6 million disability applications a year and makes over 15 million requests for medical records from over 900,000 medical providers. 

When an applicant lists certain medical facilities as treating sources, Social Security’s system automatically sends an electronic message to the hospital’s system requesting the medical record and providing the patient’s authorization. The hospital’s system automatically responds.  Within minutes, the medical evidence is available for evaluation.

In addition, the agency has identified medical codes that match portions of 43 of the conditions in their medical listings. The agency’s computer system analyzes the data for these codes after receiving hospital records and alerts the medical examiner so the case can be processed more quickly. 

To learn more, visit www.hhs.gov/healthit/healthnetwork/background.

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Government Gives Retirement Funds Room To Recover

IRS logoA new law may make it easier for some Americans to allow their retirement funds to recoup losses. That’s because mandatory withdrawals from certain retirement accounts have been waived for tax year 2009.

Usually, anyone age 70 1/2 or older is required to withdraw funds from their retirement plans each year, even if the money isn’t needed. These plans include 401(k)s, 403(b)s, some 457(b)s as well as IRAs and IRA-based plans such as Simple IRAs and SEPs.

However, The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 waives the requirement to withdraw funds in 2009. To learn more, visit www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-09-09.pdf.


Social Security Helps Americans Save

piggybankMore than 100 national groups and hundreds of local organizations are participating in America Saves Week, which takes place from February 22 to March 1, 2009.  Social Security is proud to be one of them. 

For people who want to save, Social Security offers online planning tools such as the Retirement Estimator.  The Estimator allows people to try out different retirement scenarios.  Just plug in some quick information and you’ll get estimates of your future benefits based on your personal earnings record.  Try it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Another great resource for planning and saving for your future is Social Security’s Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2.  There, you’ll find benefit calculators, information about eligibility, a link to our online application and other useful resources.

One of those resources is the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s Ballpark Estimator.  This online tool includes an easy-to-use, two-page worksheet that helps identify how much you need to save for a comfortable retirement. 

Join Social Security in celebrating America Saves Week at www.americasaves.org.

 

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