Make Sure Your Social Security Earnings Record is
SSA maintains an earnings record under your name and Social Security number and has the duty of posting your wages to this record every year. When you apply for benefits, the agency looks at your earnings record to decide if you have enough credits to be insured for benefits. Also, when SSA approves benefits they look at your record to calculate your benefit amount. Therefore, the record must be correct and complete or you may not receive all the benefits you have earned.
A congressional staff report estimated that 5% of earnings records are incomplete or incorrect in some important way. Also, SSA is slow to post earnings to individual records. So, check your earnings record every year as suggested below, and keep your W2s and tax returns permanently. They are useful to correct your record in case of error.
How can I check whether SSA's record of my earnings is correct? A staff member of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, advised: "To assure that your earnings record is correct, you should ask for a Personal Earnings and Benefit Statement (PEBES) from SSA. The PEBES is a statement of your lifetime earnings history. This record will show you the yearly earnings that SSA has recorded to your account and the number of credits you have earned toward being insured for benefits."
SSA currently calls the PEBES, a "Social Security Statement."
SSA says, "We provide the Statements in two ways: in automatic annual mailings to workers and former workers aged 25 and older and at any time to workers of any age who request them."
If you do not already receive a Social Security Statement every year, you should request one. If you find errors, have SSA correct them. The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 20, Section 404.822, authorizes SSA to correct errors in earnings records, even very old errors. So does Section 1424 of the Social Security Handbook.
So, if your earnings record has errors or omissions, submit proof of your earnings to SSA. Proof of earnings can include a W-2, pay slips, or a statement signed by your employer. If you have not kept the necessary information, you can request it from the IRS. IRS retains tax records for several past years.
If you wish to receive a Social Security Statement from SSA, you can request an application by calling SSA's toll free number (800) 772-1213 or TTY (800) 325-0778 or by stopping by your local Social Security office. You also can request one via the Internet. If you have already filed an SSDI claim, your local SSA office usually can give you a copy of your earnings record from your claim folder.
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© Douglas M. Smith 2002, 2003
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