This fall ease into retirement online

— September 23 marks the first day of fall. During this season, many people reflect on the gradual passing of time as green leaves turn gold and pine needles blanket lawns. You are also slowly changing, and those golden years of retirement are one season closer.

We want you to be as prepared as possible, and making applying for retirement easy is one of Social Security’s top priorities. In fact, applying for retirement benefits has never been easier. You can do it all online. Unlike the leaves that take many weeks to change, you can complete Social Security’s online retirement application in as little as 15 minutes. Better yet, you can apply from the comfort of your home or office. There’s no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. Simply go to

Most of the time, after your online application is submitted, you’re done. There are no forms to sign, and we usually require no additional documentation. Social Security will process your application and contact you if we need further information.

Planning for retirement is much like preparing for colder weather— you want to protect yourself and your loved ones as best you can with the best resources possible.

One important, but easy way to do this is to check your Social Security Statement using your secure online my Social Security account. Set up your account easily by answering a few questions to prove your identity. After you have an account, you can check your Statement anytime, day or night. Your Social Security Statement shows your lifetime earnings so you can make sure those records are correct. This way, you’ll know your retirement benefit will be accurate.

In addition, there are some useful things you can do with your personal my Social Security account, such as:

•Get an estimate of your future benefits if you’re still working;

•Print a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and

•Manage your benefits:

  • Change your address;
  • Start or change your direct deposit;
  • Get a replacement Medicare card; and
  • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

Beginning the season of retirement can be exciting and scary at the same time. At Social Security, we make it easier by providing the tools and information you can use to help you make the best decision for you and then apply for benefits online. And, when you’re done, you’ll have more time to rake up those pine needles and leaves! Go to to start that new season in your life today.

Fontaine Joynes is a Social Security district manager in Baltimore

Hispanic heritage at heart of Social Security mission

— From September 15 to October 15, 2015, people across the country will join in celebrating the many contributions of Hispanic Americans during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Social Security is no stranger to celebrating Hispanic heritage and culture.

Social Security’s website is a trailblazer when it comes to providing information and services in Spanish. Our site offers the same great service in Spanish on your tablet or laptop when you’re on the go. Try it out at There, you can learn all about our programs and online services and view more than 100 Spanish-language public information pamphlets, leaflets, and fact sheets.

We offer several of our most popular online services in Spanish, as well. One of the most personalized features of the site is the Spanish-language Retirement Estimator at The Retirement Estimator allows visitors to receive an instant estimate of future retirement benefits. Try out different scenarios, like changing your future wage estimates or retirement dates, and see how your future benefits could change. The Retirement Estimator is an indispensable, personalized tool for planning your financial future, and you won’t find it anywhere else.

When you’re ready to retire, you can apply online for retirement benefits— all in Spanish— and in as little as 15 minutes! Once you complete the online application for benefits, in most cases, that’s all there is to it. There are no papers to sign or documents to provide. Give it a try when you’re ready to retire at

If you need to visit an office and speak with someone in Spanish, we have free

interpreter services available if there is not a Spanish-speaking representative working in the office. To learn about our interpreter services, visit

In addition, our national toll-free number (1-800-772-1213) provides automated prompts in Spanish. Toward the beginning of the call, you’ll be asked to continue in English or Spanish to get service in your language of choice.

So, whether you’re on a computer or tablet, calling us on our national toll free number, or visiting one of our offices, Social Security remains committed to providing quality service to you and all of our customers.

This National Hispanic Heritage Month, visit to learn about Social Security’s resources for Spanish speakers.

Fontaine Joynes is a Social Security district manager in Baltimore

Eighty years of Social Security

— Social Security has provided critical financial help to people of all ages for the last 80 years, and despite our age, we’re far from retiring! As the Social Security program celebrates its historic birthday this August, we’re reflecting on our diverse history, our current strengths, and ways we can continue to improve our services to you.

On August 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. In doing so, he promised the law would protect “the average citizen and his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.” Today, we continue to provide financial security for our country’s most vulnerable citizens. In fact, Social Security provides world-class service to millions of people every day — online, on the phone, and in our network of field offices across the country.

As we celebrate 80 years, we’re proud to present our “Celebrating the Past and Building the Future” anniversary website. There, you can read 80 interesting facts about an agency that touches everyone’s life at some point or another! For example, did you know the original name of the Social Security Act was the Economic Security Act?

The anniversary website also includes a timeline of our history. It begins with the signing of the Act in 1935 and ends with this year’s announcement of Vision 2025, our bold vision that will guide the agency as we work to meet the future customer service needs of the public. A memorable spot on the timeline is November 2, 2000, the date when we started taking retirement claims online.

Since our agency’s beginning, we’ve relied on our passionate and hard-working employees to face challenges and provide exceptional service. Throughout the 80 days leading up to our anniversary, we’ve been posting employee testimonials that answer the question, “Why do you serve?” We also invited you to share your story with us. You can tell us how Social Security has made a difference in your life and/or the lives of your family and friends. We would love to hear from you, the people we serve every day.

When the Social Security program started 80 years ago, the goal was to provide an economic lifeline for people in need. Today, Social Security continues to protect millions of people. Join us in commemorating this significant milestone! Visit

Fontaine Joynes is an employee of the Social Security Administration

Replacing your Social Security card?

— Keeping your Social Security number card in a safe place is vital to protecting you against identity theft. Never keep it in your purse or wallet — this is the most common way people lose their card. No matter how hard you try to keep track of your important documents, sometimes they get lost or even stolen.

Getting a replacement Social Security number card is free, but you will have to provide the proper documents to get a new one. Being prepared will save you time at the Social Security office or card center. If you are replacing your card, you will need original or certified copies of the required documents, which include:

  • Proof of citizenship: If you have not already established your U.S. citizenship with us, we need to see proof of U.S. citizenship. We can accept only certain documents as proof of U.S. citizenship, like your U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport.
  • Identity: We can accept only certain documents as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information (date of birth or age), and preferably, a recent photograph. For example, as proof of identity, we must see your: U.S. driver’s license; State-issued non-driver identification card; or a U.S. passport.

If you do not have one of these specific documents, or you cannot get a replacement for one of them within ten days, we will ask to see other documents, including an: Employee identification card; School identification card; Health insurance card (not Medicare card); or U.S. military identification card.

Remember, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year or ten in your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship.

What’s more important than having your card, is knowing your Social Security number. This is how we identify you, tally your wages correctly and how we eventually issue you accurate retirement benefits. You might not even need your card for identification purposes if you know and consistently use your correct number.

For more information about replacing a lost or stolen Social Security number card, visit:

Ring in the New Year with COLA!

— Happy New Year from Social Security! Put down the champagne and ring in the New Year with a COLA! And we don’t mean the soda. In 2015, nearly 64 million Americans who receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will receive a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase to their monthly benefit payments of 1.7 percent.

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2015 is $1,328 (up from $1,306 in 2014). The average monthly Social Security benefit for a disabled worker in 2015 is $1,165 (up from $1,146 in 2014).

For people who receive SSI, the maximum federal payment amount increased to $733 (up from $721 in 2014).

Other Social Security changes in 2015 are also worth noting. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase to $118,500 (up from $117,000 in 2014). A worker will earn one credit toward Social Security coverage after paying taxes on $1,220 in earnings in 2015 (up from $1,200 in 2014). As a reminder, eligibility for retirement benefits still requires 40 credits (usually about10 years of work).

Information about Medicare changes for 2015 is available at

The Social Security Act outlines how the COLA is calculated. To read more about the COLA, please visit

Fontaine Joynes is a Social Security District Manager in Baltimore, MD

Unflinching in the fight against fraud

If you’re like most people, you protect what’s valuable to you.

To protect your family financially, you buy health and life insurance. To protect your home, you get homeowner’s insurance, a security alarm, or perhaps a large dog. To protect your jewelry, you hide it in a safe place or buy insurance in case you need to replace it. To protect your money, you invest it, perhaps in a bank that offers FDIC coverage.

Social Security is much the same. We value the people we serve, our employees who work hard to provide world-class customer service, and the integrity of our programs. We protect these by using many tools to identify, prevent, and stop fraud, and we seek the maximum punishment for those who commit it.

The tools we use help us predict where fraud may occur, and, by monitoring cases closely, we identify fraud sooner rather than later. We also have stiff penalties that discourage people from committing fraud.

Social Security has a zero-tolerance policy for fraud. While we cannot prevent every instance of fraud any more than law enforcement can prevent all crime, we aggressively investigate and pursue prosecution of those who try to cheat the system. Our message to those who would defraud Social Security is clear: We will find you; we will prosecute you; we will seek the maximum punishment allowable under the law; and we will fight to restore to the American public the money you’ve stolen.

Social Security takes fraud seriously and so should you. If you suspect someone is committing Social Security fraud, report it online at or call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

Fontaine Joynes is a Social Security District Manager in Baltimore, Maryland.