COLUMN: Women and Social Security

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By KEN CORDER, Guest Columnist

While the Social Security program treats all workers – men and women – exactly the same in terms of benefits they can receive, women need to know what the program means to them in their particular circumstances. Understanding the benefits to which they may be entitled may mean the difference between living more comfortably versus just getting by in their retirement years.

One of the most significant things women need to remember in terms of Social Security is the importance of promptly reporting a name change. If you haven’t told us of a name change, your earnings may not be recorded properly and you may not receive all the Social Security benefits you are due. Not changing your name with Social Security also can delay federal income-tax refunds. To report a name change, fill out an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5). Forms can be obtained by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov, visiting any Social Security office or card center, or by calling Social Security’s toll-free number, (800) 772-1213 (TTY: (800) 325-0778). You must show us a recently issued document as proof of your legal name change.

If building a family is in your plans, it’s a good idea to apply for a Social Security number for your baby in the hospital, at the same time that you apply for your baby’s birth certificate. Social Security will mail the card to you. Or, you can elect to wait and apply in person at any Social Security office. However, if you wait, you must provide evidence of your child’s age, identity and U.S. citizenship status, as well as proof of your identity. Then, we must verify your child’s birth record, which can add 12 weeks to the time it takes to issue a card.

When women start receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, other family members may be eligible for payments as well.

For example, benefits can be paid to a husband:
If he is age 62 or older; or
At any age if he is caring for your child (the child must be younger than 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits on your record).

Benefits also can be paid to unmarried children if they are:
• Younger than 18.
• Between 18 and 19 years old, but in elementary or secondary school as full-time students.
• Age 18 or older and severely disabled – the disability must have started before age 22.

The family of a woman who dies may be eligible for survivors benefits based on her work.

For more information about women and Social Security, ask for the publication, “What Every Woman Should Know” (SSA Publication No. 05-10127) or visit our special women’s page online at www.socialsecurity.gov/women.

Corder is a Social Security district manager in New Albany.