What is the Social Security Administration good for? A typical first response would be “helping seniors weather the costs of retirement,” and that’s certainly true. But that’s not all it does.
As with Social Security itself, many Americans don’t understand exactly how the agency running the federal program works — or how to take full advantage of it.
Following are several services you may not have realized the SSA provides.
1. Benefits for nonretirees
If you know nothing else about the SSA, you probably know it provides retirement benefits to people of a certain age. That’s what Social Security is all about, right?
But it also provides benefits to many other individuals — widows, parents, children, the disabled and the blind.
Learn about these types of benefits and their eligibility requirements in our story, “7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking.”
2. Help with Medicare drug costs
Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors, is technically administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
However, Social Security helps keep things simple by handling enrollment in Medicare Parts A and B. It also handles applications for “Extra Help,” a program that lowers the cost of Medicare Part D for eligible seniors by about $5,100 per year, according to SSA estimates.
3. Replacement Medicare cards
If you lose your Social Security card, it makes sense you’d go to the SSA to request a replacement.
4. Proof of income
In certain situations, such as when applying for government assistance, an apartment, mortgage or some other loan, you might be required to provide proof of income.
One piece of evidence might come from the SSA, in what’s called a Social Security Benefit Verification Letter.
Contrary to what the name suggests, you don’t need to be receiving benefits to get one. In fact, as the SSA website points out, these letters can also be used as proof that you don’t receive benefits or haven’t in the past.
5. Baby name ideas
While it may never have occurred to you, the SSA naturally has a wealth of information about the names of Americans — it has to put them on all the cards, after all.
So if you’re curious about the most popular baby names in the country, the SSA has information going all the way back to 1880. You can find out the most frequently given names in a given year, decade, or over the past century, even broken down by state.
6. Calculators for many common questions
The prospect of retirement raises lots of questions: How long will I live? When should I stop working? How much money can I get from the government in various scenarios?
The SSA maintains several calculators to help with these questions and more.
7. A blast from the past
Have you ever had a “back in my day” conversation with someone about your first job?
The SSA can tell you exactly how much you earned in any given year in your online “earnings record.”
Even if you’re not interested in a little trip down memory lane, you should still regularly check your earnings record. As we explain in “9 Social Security Terms Everyone Should Know,” it can get harder to correct any possible errors over time, due to the loss of your tax records and employer information.
8. Representative payees
Sometimes people become unable to manage the money they are receiving from Social Security or Supplemental Security Income. In those cases, Social Security can appoint what is called a representative payee to manage money on their behalf.
You can designate a few people you trust to be your payee should the need arise. Or, as necessary, the SSA can choose for you among friends, family or qualified organizations.
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