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Social Security Online
Social Security Update
July 2009
In This Issue:

Social Security Holds Compassionate Allowance Outreach Hearing on Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias

Number of Social Security backlogged disability cases drops for 6th straight month

Retirement Estimator Celebrates One Year

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season

How Social Security’s Review of Eligibility for Extra Help Works

Spouses Entitled to Benefits, Too

Social Security Holds Compassionate Allowance Outreach Hearing on Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias

Social Security Holds Compassionate Allowance Outreach Hearing on Alzheimer’s and Related DementiasOn July 29, Social Security hosted an outreach hearing on early-onset Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. It was the fourth public hearing on Compassionate Allowances, the agency's expedited processing of disability claims for applicants with medical conditions so severe that their conditions, by definition, meet Social Security's standards.

“This year, through Compassionate Allowances and our Quick Disability Determination process, over 100,000 Americans with severe disabilities will be approved for Social Security disability benefits in a matter of days rather than the months and years it can sometimes take,” said Commissioner Michael J. Astrue. “With this hearing, we are expanding our focus from specific rare diseases and cancers to look at subgroups of much broader conditions. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a rapidly progressive and debilitating disease of the brain that affects individuals between the ages of 50 and 65 and clearly deserves our consideration.” 

Learn more about the hearing or view the webcast at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances/hearings0729alt.htm.

 

Number of Social Security backlogged disability cases drops for 6th straight month

disability filesSocial Security is making progress in one of its top priorities -- eliminating the hearings backlog for disability claims. The disability backlog has now gone down six months in a row. SSA began the year with 760,813 cases pending and ended June with 746,398 – a drop of 14,415 cases for the year and 4,203 cases for the most recent month.  “We have moved quickly to utilize new technologies, improve our business processes, and add new staff," said Commissioner Astrue.  "Combined with the hard work of our employees and the support of Congress, we are clearly on the right track to providing Americans with disabilities the prompt service they deserve.”

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/appeals and check out the "What's New" section.

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Retirement Estimator Celebrates One Year

Estimate your retirement benefitsIt’s been only a year since Social Security’s Retirement Estimator went online, but you’d never know it based on its success. It was rated the best online service in government by the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) for Federal Websites in February 2009. In the most recent ACSI report, the Retirement Estimator tied for first place with Social Security’s online application. The Retirement Estimator is so popular, in fact, that people have visited the website more than three million times in the past year. You can visit it yourself online at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

The online Retirement Estimator is a convenient, secure, and quick financial planning tool that lets workers calculate how much they might expect to receive in Social Security benefits when they retire. Experience the best online service in government now by visiting Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Then, once you’ve fleshed out your retirement plans, please come back to www.socialsecurity.gov to apply for benefits. It's so easy!

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season

Be Prepared for Hurricane SeasonWith hurricane season upon us, the last thing people need is for their monthly benefit payments to be undeliverable due to an evacuation. This is yet another reason to “go direct.”

For years, Direct Deposit has been the safest, fastest, and easiest way for people to receive their payments — and it still is the best way to get benefit payments for people who have a bank account. To learn more or to sign up for Direct Deposit, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/deposit.

For those who don’t have a bank account, there’s another way to go direct: Direct Express. Direct Express automatically deposits benefit payments to a person’s Direct Express card account. The card can be used to make purchases, pay bills or get cash at thousands of locations, and most services are free.

To learn more or to sign up for Direct Express, visit www.fms.treas.gov/directexpresscard

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How Social Security’s Review of Eligibility for Extra Help Works

Medicare Extra Help posterThe law requires Social Security to review periodically a beneficiary’s eligibility for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. We review the beneficiary’s resources, income, and household composition to see if they have changed. Many times, there will be no change in the amount of Extra Help people receive. Other times, the Extra Help could increase because beneficiaries have less income, fewer resources, or more people dependent on them for care. It’s also possible the amount of Extra Help could be decreased or ended altogether if resources, income, or both have increased.

Generally, new recipients of Extra Help will be selected for review in August after their eligibility begins. For these initial reviews, we compare the information provided by beneficiaries in their initial applications to current information we have in our records. If this comparison points to a change in the level of Extra Help received, we will send the beneficiary a form called Social Security Administration Review of Your Eligibility for Extra Help (SSA 1026).  Beneficiaries have 30 days to complete the review form. Any necessary adjustments to the Extra Help will be effective in January of the following year—2010 if the review is done in August 2009.

To learn more about the Extra Help redetermination process, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10111.html. To learn more about Extra Help, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

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Spouses Entitled to Benefits, Too

photo of husband and wifeDo some of your clients worry about retirement because their spouses are the primary wage-earners? Let them know that they may be eligible for spouse’s benefits based on the work record of their husband or wife. Even people who are divorced may be eligible for spouse’s benefits. And there’s no extra application to complete — when a married or divorced person applies for retirement benefits, the one application takes care of everything. About 700,000 people apply for spouse’s benefits each year. If you know someone who should apply, the best and most convenient way for them to do so is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.
 
Read more about Social Security retirement benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10035.html.

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