By Deborah Banikowski
District Manager, Syracuse
If you’re changing your name, it’s important to let Social Security know so we can update the information we maintain, send you an updated Social Security card and ultimately ensure we pay you accurate benefits when you retire or if you become disabled.
To change your name in our records, you must provide Social Security with documents proving your legal name change and identity. If you are a U.S. citizen, you also must provide our agency with documentation proving your U.S. citizenship. You must present original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them. We can’t accept photocopies or notarized copies.
To prove your legal name change, you must show one of the following documents: marriage document, divorce decree, certificate of naturalization showing a new name, court order for a name change.
To prove your identity, you must show an unexpired document showing your name, identifying information, and photograph, such as one of the following: U.S. driver’s license, state-issued non-driver’s identification card or U.S. passport.
If you don’t have one of those documents available, we may be able to accept your: employer identification card; school identification card; health insurance card or U.S. military identification card.
To prove your U.S. citizenship, you must show one of the following documents: U.S. birth certificate, U.S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad, U.S. passport (unexpired), certificate of naturalization, certificate of citizenship
To get started, fill out the form at www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf and carefully follow the instructions. In most cases, you can mail your signed application with your documents to any Social Security office. We will return any documents you mail to us. You can also locate your local field office at www.socialsecurity.gov/locator to show your required documents in person.
In the event you need to replace a lost Social Security card to get a job or obtain government services, but you don’t need to change your name, you can — in most states and the District of Columbia — request your replacement card replacement card online using your my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
For additional information about Social Security Numbers, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.
Q: Can I refuse to give my Social Security number to a private business?
A: Yes, you can refuse to disclose your Social Security number, and you should be careful about giving out your number. But, be aware, the person requesting your number can refuse services if you don’t give it. Businesses, banks, schools, private agencies, etc., are free to request someone’s number and use it for any purpose that doesn’t violate a federal or state law. To learn more about your Social Security number, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.
Q: I received a notice from Social Security recently. It said my name and Social Security number do not match Social Security’s records. What should I do?
A: It’s critical that your name and Social Security number, as shown on your Social Security card, match your employer’s payroll records and your W-2 form. If they don’t, here is what you need to do:
• Give your employer the correct information exactly as shown on your Social Security card or your corrected card; or
• Contact your local Social Security office (www.socialsecurity.gov/locator) or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) if your Social Security card does not show your correct name or Social Security number.
For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
Q: How do I report a lost Social Security card?
A: You do not have to report a lost Social Security card. In fact, reporting a lost or stolen card to Social Security will not prevent misuse of your Social Security number. You should let us know if someone is using your number to work, call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
If you think someone is using your Social Security number, there are several other actions you should take:
• Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online at www.ftc.gov/bcdp/edu/microsites/idtheft or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338);
• File an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov;
• Contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Identity Protection Specialized Unit by calling 1-800-908-4490, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.; and monitor your credit report.
Q: I want to make sure I have enough credits to receive Social Security retirement benefits when I need them. How can I get a record of my Social Security earnings?
A: The best way for you to check whether you have earned enough credits (40 total, equaling 10 years of work) is to open a free “my Social Security” account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to review your Social Security Statement any time you want.
Once you create an account, you can:
• Keep track of your earnings to make sure your benefit is calculated correctly. The amount of your payment is based on your lifetime earnings;
• Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;
• Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S;
• Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and
• Manage your benefits:
– Change your address; and
– Start or change your direct deposit.
Accessing “my Social Security” is quick, convenient, and secure, and you can do it from the comfort of your home.
Q: How do I apply for disability benefits? How long does it take to get a decision after I apply for disability benefits?
A: You can apply for disability benefits online at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/. To get a decision on your disability application usually takes three to five months. The time frame can vary depending on:
• The nature of your disability;
• How quickly we can get your medical evidence from your doctor or other medical source;
• Whether it’s necessary to send you for a medical examination; and
• Whether we review your application for quality purposes.
Create or sign in to your personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to check your claim status.
Q: I was turned down for disability. Do I need a lawyer to appeal?
A: You are fully entitled to hire an attorney if you wish to, but it is not necessary. In fact, you can file a Social Security appeal online without a lawyer. Our online appeal process is convenient and secure. Just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeal or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to schedule an appointment to visit your local Social Security office to appeal.
Q: I’ve read there is a five-month waiting period before my Social Security disability payments start. Are there any exceptions to this waiting period? Can I receive SSI during this waiting period?
A: While there are no exceptions to the five-month waiting period, you may be able to receive SSI payments if you have met Social Security’s strict definition of disability and meet the income and resource requirements of the SSI program. For more information regarding income and resource requirements of the SSI program, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.