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By Catherine Gordon, Toolkit Staff Writer
If your birthday falls in July or a later month, don't expect to see that familiar Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement from the Social Security Administration in the mail this year. Due to the current budget situation, the SSA will no longer mail statements to workers annually.
The cost-cutting suspension applies to requests for the Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statement as well. Previously, there were two options for workers to request the statement. There were:
Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statements
Starting in October 1999, the SSA began mailing Earnings and Benefits Estimate Statements to workers age 25 and older every year about three months before their birth month. The statement showed the amount of annual wages and self-employment income credited to a person's account through their lifetime.
Perhaps even more important for various planning purposes, workers also received an estimate of their Social Security retirement benefits. Estimated payment amounts were provided based on retirement at various ages, (for example, age 62 and 70). Also included was the approximate monthly payment one would receive if they became disabled, and how much an individual's family would receive if the person died.
So, what information is available from the SSA regarding your retirement benefits? The website now provides only that you may be able to estimate your retirement benefit using the online Retirement Estimator.
While this option sounds promising, the estimator requires you to know how much you earned in covered employment during prior years. If you've kept the statement from the preceding SSA mailing, you have that information. However, even more troubling, the estimator doesn't show the amount of income that has actually been credited to your account. Therefore, it's no longer possible to check your earnings record for correctness.
What If You Need Your Earnings and Benefit Information?
Is there any way to get your earnings and benefit information from the SSA? The answer is a qualified "yes." Under a provision in the SSA's internal operating manual, an individual who has an "urgent need" for the information can visit a Social Security field office, state that they urgently need the information, and the office should provide the information by using online resources. And, while there's no exact definition of what constitutes an "urgent need," the good news is that the field office is instructed to accept an individual's statement that he or she urgently needs the information.
The SSA is working to eventually offer online access to the statements, but no exact date has been set. The agency also plans to begin mailing statements to workers age 60 and over later in 2011.
Posted April 27, 2011.