Plain Talk (About Social Security)

June 6, 2015 • By

Reading Time: 1 Minute

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

A happy family looks at a computer.The report cards are in. For the second year in a row, some of the best writing in federal government came from Social Security!

…we have made it a priority to speak to you plainly.

The Center for Plain Language issued its annual Federal Plain Language Report Card. The annual report grades federal agencies on how well they communicate with the nation’s taxpayers, and gives grades from A to F on:

  • Compliance with the requirements of the Plain Writing Act of 2010:
  • Plain writing; and
  • Information design.

This year, the Social Security Administration tied for top grades with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Homeland Security. We’re the only agency that has received top marks for two consecutive years.

Let’s face it:  There’s only so much time in the day. There are limitless distractions between your social media feeds and work emails. Do you have time to sift through confusing government jargon and paperwork that you have to read multiple times to understand?

We could explain our programs with complex legalese and confusing run-on sentences. We could add some infographics and long web links. We could even reference SPORT without actually clarifying that, in our world, it’s an acronym for Special Procedures for Overpayment Reduction.

Instead, we have made it a priority to speak to you plainly.

Our mission is to deliver world-class services and make our communications about those services as clear, concise, and easy to understand as possible. You can see our high grades, and those of other federal agencies here.

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About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. otis h.

    been trying to reach you by phone several times need a benefit letter for 2020 mail to me

  2. Maria K.

    I think I lost last e mail from When I tried to find on page ssa I had message that it is not working day.
    I am afraid it was something important. Because I still am not able to find it, please inform me what was it.
    I will come to USA by the end of march this year and may be I should come to talk.
    One is for sure: my password is not valid any more. I did forget to change.
    Thank you very much answer.
    sicerely Maria Koniarski

  3. Joanne

    My husband passed away in 2018. My tax person said I should be able to receive his benefits. Is this true and how do I go about doing this?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Joanne, thanks for using our blog. If your husband worked long enough under Social Security, there may be benefits payable to survivors. You may be eligible for reduced widows benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled) and at any age if caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving benefits on the deceased’s record. Survivor benefit amounts are based on your husband’s earnings. The more he paid into Social Security, the higher the benefits would be. The benefits will not be established automatically, you will have to contact us. For additional information, visit our Survivors Planner.

  4. Mary K.

    My wife passed away, her SS needs to be stopped.

  5. Kathleen

    When a husband passes away, a wife can draw on her husband’s SS, if it is more. Correct?
    If a wife dies, can the husband draw on his wife’s SS if it is more?

  6. robert f.

    Im looking for a copy of my reward letter for 2018

    • Ray F.

      Hello Robert, if you need proof you get Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security (SSI) Income or Medicare, you can request a benefit verification letter online by using your my Social Security account. This letter is sometimes called “proof of income letter,” or “proof of award letter.” Thanks!

  7. robert d.

    Im trying to get a copy of my 2018 reward letter.

  8. dawna s.

    I was married for 25 years he is down dead I am 60 He got disability just before he died. At one time I was told I could get 1600.00 a month because he was a accountant now I don’t know can you please tell me. his name his Kenneth F Strickland 1/15/1954
    Are do I need a appointment

    • Ray F.

      Hello! As a widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can start receiving reduced benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled). The benefit amount would be based on the earnings record of your deceased husband. The more he paid into Social Security, the higher the benefit amount would be.
      At this time, we do not offer an online application for survivors benefits. We cannot tell you how much your benefit will be until you apply for your widow’s benefits.
      If you want to apply for benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also contact your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to speak to someone.
      We hope this information helps!

  9. Kazuko K.

  10. Paul J.

    Can you tell me if my benefit amount will change if I decide to stop working at age 62, but start taking my social security benefits at age 66 years, 8 months?
    The statement that I received today estimates that I could earn a specific amount if I retire at this age. But I wish to learn if this same estimated amount will decrease if I stop working at age 62, but start collecting social security at age 66 years, 8 months. (I already have more than 40 years of work history.)

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