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Gold Conversationalist

Reliability of Information from SSA local offices?

This is a question that concerns me but at the moment is somewhat hypothetical. And I realize that the current conditions with covid may affect local office availability; I really don't want to get into that. I just want to know if I can fully trust the SSA as described below.

 

So, say I apply for Social Security retirement benefits at a local office and they tell me something. They might say the benefits will be $xxx per month. And I might believe that the benefit should be a different amount. And I might or might not say anything at the local office at that time or raise a question. 

 

My Question:   Is there some form of SSA "back office" where they put all the data into a computer program and determine the benefit per all applicable rules? Or is there no double-check of what the local office has done?

 

Why I Ask:   I ask because over time I have read of a number of situations where someone goes to their local SSA office to apply for some form of benefit.  But then things go awry and there is some ugly situation. My real concern is for the possible eventuality of my wife becoming my widow. I would not want her to be a victim of actions of the SSA that might be incorrect per the relevant laws and SSA rules. Certainly there can be miscommunications and misunderstandings between the beneficiary and the SS representatives. But the question still pertains, is there a double-check of what is stated by the local office? And I suppose this might be a moot point if applying via the website (can widows do that?)

 

 

Gold Conversationalist

@fffred 

Have you created a Social Security account? The United States Social Security Administration (ssa.gov)

 

After applying for SS once everything is figured out you will be sent paperwork showing what your amount will be and when you can expect your first check. 

Gold Conversationalist

@cat0w 

 

Thank you cat0w. Yes, I have the "My Social Security" account. Really, everyone who has an SSN should have this account (well, perhaps not young babies, I think they give out the SSN at birth these days).

 

thanks!

 

 

edit to add:   I've seen it recommended that people register for this (their) account ...before someone else does! (and that would be an identity thief)

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Honored Social Butterfly

@fffred 

Your Question:  Is there some form of SSA "back office" where they put all the data into a computer program and determine the benefit per all applicable rules? Or is there no double-check of what the local office has done?

 

Their computer does the walking and calculating BUT a computer program is only as good as the relevant information feed into it.  That includes the time of and amount of contributions (based on salary at the time) thru the years.  So if the W-2 or form SE are wrong - the benefits are wrongly computed.

Same with the type of benefit to which one is applying - The questions asked and/or proof presented by and to the SS interviewer makes all the difference in correct computation. 

 

However, I have found that if one is persistent and seeks out possibly someone with lots of (or more than others) knowledge then most situations that could come up are finally remedied within the local office -

Now I am talking about SS Old Age Retirement Benefits and related ones here - SSDI is a whole different ballgame unless one is terminal or has one of the Compassionate Allowances of diseases on their list.  In fact in these types of situations an SSDI application can be filed online and the results are pretty immediate with supporting (medical) docs.

 

You can file a "Reconsideration" for several different SS things - and it will go up the hierarchy of decision making authority -

https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/ssa-dispute-benefit-calculation.ht... 

Kind of like a property tax or property valuation dispute at your local level.

Personally, I think you at least need some type of proof on which to base the claim before getting into this type of dispute.

 

Unless a spouse is already getting spousal benefits before the worker dies, then a widow does have to actually do a survivors benefit claim because a comparison to their own benefits has to be made.  And even if they are receiving spousal benefits at the time the worker dies - they need to follow up ASAP to make sure the benefits are changed over unless their own benefit is higher and they know it.

https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/forms/   (See heading of:  Survivors Benefits)

 

Personally, I don't think a lot of people keep up with their wages and/or SE tax forms through their working years and thus may have a difficult time of any dispute claim filing when they reach retirement (or an approved disability).  It is easy to do and it is THEIR money - 35 years +/- of them could be kept in just one small file box along with a copy of their SS earnings record.  Course some people keep nothing and don't even balance their checkbook either !  😋

 

Kind of knowing you from this forum - I think your wife should be fine, if or when she becomes a widow.  You will have it set up as easy-peasy, I am sure.

 

 

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
Gold Conversationalist

@GailL1 

 

Thank you GailL for the comments (and thinking I am smarter than I may be, haha).

 

Perhaps I am being too harsh with the SSA in my concern. I do think they must have a lot of smart, dedicated people working there. But I have heard those published anecdotes of problems.

 

Now it occurs to me that these issues probably arise from a combination of mutual misunderstanding and miscommunication, and then misremembering on the part of the person who was asking the questions of the SSA. Though I know from some of the "Ask Larry" columns that the SSA people have not fully understand relevant rules when dispensing information for some issues.

 

And that's the thing, this may all come about when the SSA is "dispensing information". At that point in time there is no application that has been acted upon. Perhaps once the application is made and all relevant facts are considered, and their software is utilized, the correct solution is determined and reported.

 

I mention "their software". They publish the Anypia32.exe program for general use outside the SSA. It is a very powerful tool. But I found recently that even it does not consider all situations that SS benefits cover. This was confirmed by their (very helpful) program support team when I asked about a particular issue recently. The "Welcome" page in the Anypia32.exe "Help" also describes how it is a simplified version of the software used for official applications.

 

I will try to remain calm and peaceful on this issue and, once I do apply for my retirement benefit, simply ask them how this is done (not the rules but the mechanics) and who does it.

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Honored Social Butterfly

@fffred 

Also keep up with any legislative changes that could affect someone's (whatever) benefit - is another facet of the system that isn't kept up with by most people -  Like the 2015 law change on deemed filing.  I am sure that this change probably made some (affected) people change their long term planning.

 

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
Anonymous
Not applicable

Hmmm, complicated @fffred . Lol, I will let our resident EXPERT Gail respond. She really knows her stuff 🙂

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Honored Social Butterfly

@Anonymous 

Thank you - you are too kind cause I am not right some of the time but do try to learn from my mistakes.

It's Always Something . . . . Roseanna Roseannadanna
Anonymous
Not applicable

Lol @GailL1 you know more than I do 😂🤣 We APPRECIATE your helpl!!!!

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