Necessity continues to be the mother of invention. The Social Security Administration used to mail workers an annual earnings statement, but suspended those mailings last year to save money. Out of that need, the agency has launched a new online tool that makes statement information available to workers online.
The new feature, available on the agency's website, allows workers to view their Social Security earnings and benefits statements online. The online program also lets workers approximate their retirement, disability and survivor benefits and provides three estimates for monthly payments: at age 62, at full retirement age (which varies, depending on when you were born) or when you turn 70.
The online tool may help Americans to make smarter decisions about receiving all of the benefits to which they may be eligible. Yet having access to online information is not the same as receiving advice from a professional about the various Social Security programs that may be available to you. Many low-income seniors simply don't know that they're eligible for federal assistance. Even for seniors already receiving benefits, most file for Social Security at age 62 instead of waiting for retirement age, which may result in permanently reduced benefits as much as a third lower.
Whether you are starting a new application for Social Security programs, appealing a denial of certain benefits, or seeking other federal income supplements, having legal representation will help you navigate the complex laws and regulations that apply to many federal assistance programs. That process, difficult in itself, may prove impossible if you are already struggling with an illness or disability. If you are unsure whether you might qualify for federal assistance, an attorney can also help answer any questions you might have.
Source: USA Today, "New online tool helps you estimate Social Security benefits," Sandra Block, May 14, 2012