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Social Security benefits can be verified online

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Q: I need something from Social Security to verify the amount of my monthly benefit. How do I do that?

A: You already might have verification of the amount right now such as a bank statement showing direct deposit of your benefit or a previous SSA letter showing your benefit amount. However, you can easily get written verification online through the SSA website, www.socialsecurity.gov. Go to "What you can do online" and select the "Request a Proof of Income letter" link. It can be used as proof of your SSA income for any third party.

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Verifications requested online are sent to your SSA address of record so update your address first if you have moved. It takes about 10 days to receive a proof of income letter requested online. Other ways to request a verification letter are by calling the SSA national toll-free number, 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778), or contacting your local office. Again, you might already have all the proof you need right now.

Q: Are Social Security benefits computed the same for men and women?

A: Yes. Social Security is neutral with respect to gender. People with identical earnings histories are treated the same in terms of benefits. Demographic differences of lifetime earnings and life expectancies do have effects. For example, Social Security returns a greater percentage of pre-retirement earnings to a lower-wage worker than to a higher-wage one.

Women, and men, with low wages receive more retirement benefits in relation to past earnings than do higher wage earners. In 2006, the median earnings of women working full-time were $33,000, compared to $42,000 for men. In 2006, the average annual SSA received by women 65 years and older was $10,303, compared to $13,644 for men. Women reaching age 65 in 2006 are expected to live, on average, an additional 19.7 years compared with 17.2 years for men.

Women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 70 percent of beneficiaries age 85 and older.

Q: I understand there are limits to how many Social Security cards can be issued to a person. Do card requests by parents for a child apply to these limits?

A: Yes. To be clear, this question is not about having multiple Social Security numbers (SSN's). Except in rare situations, a person only receives one SSN. This is about replacing a lost Social Security card. You are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and changes in noncitizen status that require card updates may not count toward these limits.

Yes, replacement card requests by parents for a child do count toward the yearly and lifetime limits of the child. Do not routinely carry your card. It is not ID. Keep it safe. For more information, see www.socialsecurity.gov.

Howard Kossover is a public affairs specialist with the Social Security Administration office in Grand Forks, N.D. You can reach him by e-mail at howard.kossover@ssa.gov.

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