Written By: Stephanie Smith
Social Security Consultant
Ever wondered, “Hey, what happened to that Benefit Statement from Social Security I used to get in the mail each year?”
I have seen a lot of changes with Social Security during my 27-year career with the agency. One change is the mailing of the Social Security Statement. The agency used to mail out yearly earnings statements in an effort to get the public to review earning records and correct mistakes on a timelier basis. The statements were mailed out 3 months prior to your birthday, and they were a useful tool for the public as well as the agency.
So why does the Social Security Administration no longer mail the statements?
One simple word, BUDGET. When Social Security faced budget cuts, they saved millions by no longer mailing these statements. The alternative way to access your statement is via the Social Security’s website. To ensure your privacy, you must set up an account with Social Security. To do so, you will be asked some credit-type questions as well as basic identifying information. By setting up what Social Security calls a “My Social Security Account”, you gain access to your benefit earnings statement. If you have difficulty setting up the account at home, you can visit your local Social Security office and let them assist you in setting up the account.
Why take the time to access your benefit earnings statement anyway?
YOUR BENEFIT AMOUNT IS BASED ON YOUR EARNINGS. Sometimes a year or two of earnings may be missing from your statement. What?! How does that happen? It isn’t a typical error, but it can occur. I personally had this happen. I worked at a bookstore while I was in college prior to my job at Social Security. When my earnings were pulled for Social Security, two of the four years I worked at the bookstore were missing from my statement. I had filed my taxes correctly, and my employer had filed their reports, but those years were missing. I submitted copies of my W-2 to Social Security, and those years were added to correct the error. Now mind you, my $3,000 earned back in 1990 will probably not be one of my highest 35 years of earnings, but it’s still on my earnings record.
A couple of other things to consider when reviewing the statement:
If just one year is missing, Social Security considers that a “Gap Year”. If you do not have your W-2, then there are provisions for Social Security to sometimes credit your earnings for that year.
If you’ve been self-employed a number of years and ever had to report a year as a loss, you may notice a $0.00 amount of earnings on your Benefit Earnings Statement. This is simply how the reported loss is shown on the statement, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you were unemployed that year.
So even though the government no longer mails your benefit earnings statement each year, every individual can access their own by creating a profile on the Social Security Administration’s website. I would encourage you to explore the website at www.ssa.gov, set up a “My Social Security” account, and you can have access to your statement at any time!
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.