March is Women's History Month.
The Social Security program treats all workers - men and women - exactly the same in terms of the benefits they can receive. But women may want to familiarize themselves with what the program means to them in their particular circumstances. Understanding the benefits may mean the difference between living more comfortably versus just getting by in retirement.
One of the most significant things women need to remember about Social Security is the importance of promptly reporting a name change. If you haven't told us of a name change, your W-2 may not match the information in Social Security's records and this could affect the amount of your future benefits. Not changing your name with Social Security also can delay your federal income tax refund. To report a name change, please fill out an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5). You can get the form by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov, or any Social Security office or card center, or by calling Social Security's toll-free number, (800) 772-1213 or TTY (800) 325-0778. You must show us certain identity documents, including one recently issued to prove your legal name change.
If expanding your 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. If you wait, you must then separately 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 age 18;
Between 18 and 19 years old, but in elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or
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.
(Reynolds is the Social Security manager in Steubenville.)