After closing offices due to the pandemic, the Social Security Administration has announced in-person services will resume. If you have a question about your Social Security benefits, it may be helpful to visit an office and speak to a representative about the matter. However, before you go, there are certain steps you can take to make the most of a visit to a Social Security office.
Follow these guidelines to set up an appointment at a Social Security office and be prepared for the visit.
Know if You Need to Visit a Social Security Office
While the Social Security offices are open, there might be other ways to address your questions. The Social Security website provides answers to frequently asked questions, which could help you clear up your issue. There are many Social Security services you can access online, including the chance to:
— Set up a My Social Security account.
— Apply for Social Security benefits.
— View your latest Social Security statement.
— Look at your earnings history.
— Change your address.
— Set up or adjust your deposit preferences.
— Print your proof of benefits.
— Print a 1099 form.
Accessing the online services or making a call could lead to an efficient solution. “While the offices are back open, where possible, meetings that don’t need to be held in person are still expected to be held online,” says Richard J. Brandenstein, an attorney and partner at FBR Law in Woodbury, New York. “This is easier for both parties as it means a scheduled appointment is not necessary.”
You can also call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and wait to speak to a representative. If you call at a different time, there are automated telephone services available.
Make a Social Security Appointment
For simple changes, such as notifying the Social Security Administration of a new address, going online might be easier. “If the reason for the visit is more complicated, then it may be best to go in person,” says Michael Ryan, a financial coach and retired financial planner in South Florida.
You can look online at ssa.gov to find your local office and its open hours. You can then call the office to ask for an appointment. However, office visits aren’t always readily available. “They’re booked out six to eight weeks in advance,” says Wilson Coffman, president of Coffman Retirement Group in Huntsville, Alabama.
If you don’t have an appointment when you make an in-person visit, the wait time could be long. Those without an appointment should expect long lines, according to the Social Security Administration. The busiest times for the offices tend to be Mondays, the first week of the month and any morning following a federal holiday.
Prepare for Your Social Security Office Visit
Before you go to the local office, set up a My Social Security account online if possible. “Once you have your account created, print off your complete earnings statement,” Coffman says. If you are thinking of applying for benefits, you can look at or print out your Social Security statement. “This will show the exact dollar amount you’ll be receiving at the age you want to turn on your Social Security benefits,” Coffman says.
When you go to the office, it can be convenient to bring important documents along. To apply for benefits, take your Social Security number, identification that shows your age, your last W-2 earnings statement and any information pertinent to marriages or divorces. If you’ve served in the military or worked for a railroad, bring along proof. Also take your banking information, including a copy of a check that shows the routing number and account number.
Understand Your Social Security Benefit
Having a basic knowledge of how Social Security benefits work might help you resolve issues and make decisions. You can start by finding out your full retirement age when you are eligible to receive your full benefit. If you were born between 1943 and 1954 the full retirement age is 66. For anyone born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is 67. Taking benefits before your full retirement age means you receive a reduced amount every month. If you take benefits after your retirement age, the amount will increase, up to age 70.
Working while you receive benefits can also impact your monthly Social Security paycheck. In 2022, if you receive benefits, are under full retirement age and have a job, you can expect to have $1 in benefits withheld for every $2 in earnings you make above $19,560. During the year you reach full retirement age, $1 will be subtracted for every $3 that is earned above $51,960. Starting with the month when you reach full retirement age, your Social Security checks will not be reduced based on your earned income. Also, the Social Security Administration will recalculate your benefit amount and credit you for the months when your benefit was reduced or withheld because of excess earnings.
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