Questions about Social Security? Here are some answers

Question: I’m retired and the only income I have is a monthly withdrawal from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Are the IRA withdrawals considered “earnings?” Could they reduce my monthly Social Security benefits?

No. We count only the wages you earn from a job or your net profit if you’re self-employed. Non-work income such as pensions, annuities, investment income, interest, capital gains and other government benefits are not counted and will not affect your Social Security benefits. For more information, visit our website at or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: Will my military retirement affect my Social Security benefits?

No. You can get both Social Security benefits and military retirement. Generally, there is no offset of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement. You will get full benefits based on your earnings. The only way your Social Security benefit may be reduced is if you also receive a government pension based on a job in which you did not pay Social Security taxes. You can find more information in the publication Military Service and Social Security at Or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question:  I’m quite a number of years away from getting Social Security but I used to get a copy of my Social Security Benefits Statement every year around my birthday.  I haven’t seen it.  Is there a problem?

There’s no problem.  In light of the current budget situation, the Social Security Administration has eliminated the annual mailed Social Security Statement and suspended the Request a Social Security Statement by phone service.  You should visit “my Social Security” at to obtain your statement.  Don’t worry, it’s fast, it’s safe, and it’s easy.  At each stage of your life, a My Social Security account is for you.  Your personal online account is a valuable source of information beginning in your working years and continuing throughout the time you receive Social Security benefits.  If you receive benefits, you can use a My Social Security online account to get your benefit verification letter for proof of income; check your payment information; change your address; change your phone number; or change your direct deposit.  It’s much faster than calling Social Security by phone.  In addition, it helps save our tax dollars.

Question: My spouse died recently and my neighbor said my children and I might be eligible for survivors benefits. Don’t I have to be retirement age to receive benefits?

No. As a survivor, you can receive benefits at any age if you are caring for a child who is receiving Social Security benefits and who is under age 16. Your children are eligible for survivors benefits through Social Security up to age 19 if they are unmarried and attending elementary or secondary school full time. If you are not caring for minor children, you would need to wait until age 60 (age 50 if disabled) to collect survivors benefits. For more information about survivors benefits, read our publication Survivors Benefits at

Question:  Are there any big changes with Social Security in 2014? 

Yes, there is.  To meet the increasing demands for Social Security services, Social Security will make changes to how it provides some services to customers.  As of February 2014, the Social Security Administration will no longer offer Social Security number (SSN) printouts and benefit verification information in local field offices.  Social Security is making these changes to meet the increasing demands for services at the same time that the agency’s budget has been significantly cut by over $1B in each of the last three years.  During this same time, Social Security has invested in technology that offers more convenient, cost-effective, and secure options for customers to obtain certain services without visiting a local office.  If you need proof of your Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits, you can get a benefit verification letter online instantly by having a my Social Security Account.  To create your account, go to  You can also find out about the information and tasks you can complete with a my Social Security Account.

Kirk Larson, who wrote this article, is a public affairs specialist for Social Security in western Washington.