You Know What I Mean

plain-language blogWe want our friends, family, and even business partners to know exactly what we’re saying when we say it.

As a government agency that takes pride in serving our customers, we want you to understand our answers to your questions the first time, too.

At Social Security, we understand that clear and effective communication means more than just promptly taking a customer’s phone call or directing them to a helpful website. We want to provide useful information in a clear and easy-to-understand way, in writing, on the web, and over the phone. June was National Effective Communications Month, but at Social Security, we’re at the forefront of clear, concise communications all year round.

Our efforts to communicate clearly with the American public earned us high ratings in customer satisfaction and usability. We scored an “A” on the 2014 Federal Plain Language Report Card from the Center for Plain Language. This grade means we’re exceeding the standards of the Plain Writing Act of 2010, which requires federal agencies to communicate clearly with the public. We’re the only federal agency to earn this honor for two consecutive years!

Not only is our website easy to navigate and understand, our publications and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are easy to read and understand, as well. You can browse through our collection of publications at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs to learn about Social Security, about our programs, and about what they mean to you and your family. Many publications are available in up to 17 languages, and they’re written in plain language. If you prefer a printed copy of a publication, you can call us at 410-965-2039, and we’ll mail a copy to you.

You can visit our FAQs and publications for accurate information at your convenience. Nothing is more important to us than meeting the needs of those we serve. We thank you, our customers, for your valuable feedback and vote of confidence!

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81 thoughts on “You Know What I Mean

  1. You don’t take emails. You make people wait on the phone forever. Your offices close early. And in our case nobody could tell us where a check we sent to Social Security was for months on end.

    Good communication implies answering the customer with a minimum of inconvenience.

    • Our office in Naperville IL will call you back if you don’t want to wait on the phone. And they do just that! within about 15 min. I think that is just awesome especially for a very large organization. And they answered all my questions and set up an appointment for me at their office and they were right on time. I don’t know–maybe Naperville IL is special is some way.

      • This is unfortunately indicative of posters who don’t have the necessary facts. The Washington Post had an informative article recently where they squarely put the blame on Congress. Posters (as citizens) should know very basic facts such as Congress controls the purse strings. That would have been given to everyone during their junior HS civics classes. You have the government Congress is willing to pay for after they cut taxes largely for the very well off while more of the tax burden shifts to you. You paid for the best service, yet the people you elect to Congress refuse to provide it. Perhaps you should get a lobbyist to represent you or write a big campaign contribution check. Until that changes you will be led to believe that the agencies that Congress has vowed to shrink are simply choosing not to serve you. Then you get angry and re-elect the anti-government candidate vowing to get government off your backs. Folks, you are making things worse for yourselves. You have the gift of the greatest democracy the world has ever known and yet facts like Congress determines the COLA formula elude you. If you want the problems fixed, give the guys who are creating them your attention rather than doing their bidding by chasing after the agency mentioned in their talking points when they are “on message” protecting those who are better off and getting more from the government at the same time you are getting less.

        • I am we are past the point of a peaceful revolt we have no say any longer we allowed it to continue for decades and now we want change. The only way is a revolt. And I believe ppl would rather follow a world dictator. Thank fight for there freedoms they just don’t care anymore. They refuse to get up and oppose the wrong being done so till that changes we will continue down the road of destruction.

          • they say there here to help us but when u ask for help they give u a number then u talk to that person at window A then they tell u ok have a seat and someone will be with u shortly then they call your number and all to find out the only person trained to help u do what u need done is out sick for 3 weeks and all u wanted was to get your widows pension so we have left him a message and when he getts back from his vaction he will give u a call yea i beat he dont

  2. Every time I called I received courteous service. I think you deserve an ‘A+’. However, the summaries I get as a disabled person are hard to read and comprehend and I had 6 years of college and retired as a publisher in 2009. A little more simple language for the average person would be a lot better. Most people who read your information are either a C student or over 60 and don’t comprehend information as well. That’s why you only get an ‘A’. Try reading what you write or better yet have a C student read it just once and see if they understand it.

  3. The only issue I have; is trying to help my dad. He confuses easily and we both have to be on the phone. Which is difficult because I work full time and can’t use work time to be on hold. Dad easily answers the questions about his personal information, to give verbal approval that you can talk to me. BUT what if he becomes unable to do that? How do I assist him? The nearest location to one of your offices is a two hour drive and the wait time is very long. It is also harder to get him to the location.

      • There are 2 types of “power of attorney” one is financial, and the other is pertaining to Healthcare- he would need only the financial for now… am I correct on this?

      • A Power of Attorney is a State document not recognized by SSA or any other Federal Agency. SSA has a form Dad could sign giving one permission to talk in his behalf. Also, once he can no longer manage his financial affairs you can apply to be his Representative Payee. Wrong answers are worse than no answer at all.

    • SSA can not recognize power of attorney. You must complete an application to become a beneficiary’s ” representative payee”. You will need to obtain a statement from a medical source indicating the beneficiary is unable to handle their affairs due to a mental, cognitive or physical impairment. You will then be able to conduct social security business and received the beneficiaries monthly benefits.

    • Victoria,
      Yes, to those who suggested you obtain your parent’s permission for Representative Payee (this will satisfy Medicare and SSA for you to represent your parent’s interests.) IT IS POSSIBLE to obtain a PHONE APPOINTMENT if traveling to the SSA office is inconvenient. Just call 1800-772-1213, wait for your parent to give permission for SSA to talk to you, they will explain to you the process, you suggest time/travel is inconvenient and request a phone interview, they will set up a phone interview likely 2 days out, and you be there for that call. If you wait for your parent to be dementia prone, then you must get doctor involved or court involved. Be progressive, let your parent understand the process, either they approve you or not.
      The POA, Power of Attorney works well for contracting and handling business in your community while parent is alive, but stops at the parent’s death. POA does not meet Gov’t standards, so you need that Representative Payee to deal with Medicare health benefits or SSA income benefits. You also need a Health Care Surrogate to speak with doctors/hospitals when you can not speak for yourself. Hope this helps.

  4. Let me tell you me and my 97 year old sick mother , din’d get one penny for Cost of living adjustment for 2015.

  5. Is it true that our portion of Medicare will go up next year? I don ‘t take any medicine and have not needed to go to a physician in over two years. I worked until December of the year in which I turned 66.

  6. All my bills have increased but we did not get a raise this year. Social security is my only income. I paid into this all my working life so that I would have money to live on when I could not longer work. Congress robs the money for special interest. Why are we keeping up all these aliens and turning our backs on the elderly and our military? At least a 3% raise every year should be guaranteed. We didn’t get it this year, should get 6% next year.

    • I believe the reason that we didn’t get an increase was because oil prices where VERY LOW, Humm!!! is funny because we, seniors don’t drive that much, it will not affect our expenses, but at the same time our medicine, food, rent, taxes, clothing when up like crazy, it doesn’t make any sense, is any body up-there that would like to respond to this?

      • Meanwhile, food costs and medical copays increase far beyond the CPI we are tied to. Get Congress to shift to a CPI that reflects senior living, not urban workers in the prime of life.

        • That is exactly what we need. The COLA is computer by counting only THOSE WHO WORK! All others are ignored! Good luck!

  7. We need a cola in 2017 and more than a 2%. Cost of living I.e. good, medical and rent just to name a few, are out of reach. Instead of letting govnmt politician’s Rob as, give it to those who need it and have earned it.

  8. How can we convince Congress to drop the coverage gap? What part of incredibly ill do they not understand? I set aside money every year to mitigate the high costs and still be able to pay rent, et al, but my meds are changed to generic and the price is high anyway. Are we being punished for being ill?

  9. This govt. is only busy in helping blacks.
    After working the whole life paying all your obligations, now come the moment when they dump you.
    Socialism at its best.
    This is the famous change & hope that we were going to have……….

    • Our government is paying for all the illegal immigrants that flow in and out
      of our country. They get free everything which includes mostly anything to do with healthcare. If they
      had green cards it would be more acceptable. The rate we are going all the rest of the states will become bankrupt like California where the ratio is 60% illegal immigrants living there. We can’t afford amnesty for millions of illegals like Obama wants to pass. They even want to be able to
      collect Social Security even as an illegal. AND!!!! they should not be allowed to vote as an illegal. Our country is going to hell in a hand basket, we have no backbone to clear
      out this mess that has allowed to go on for so long. God help us if it doesn’t change.

    • Blacks are only 12% of the population. I went into the system at 22 and retired at 64.11 years. When my paperwork came in this January it had no medical benefits to be deducted. I am overseas guest I have to go to the embassy. No medical coverage if u are living over seas

  10. Good communication – not in my case. I applied for part B as I retired – I was told to wait til a month before my employee benefits stopped — Anand re- apply then. I applied as directed . I was told they could not find my records.. And was told to re apply – I asked – am I going to be penalized if all this runs late !! I was told not to worry there would be no problem. So I reapplied… I also went to the United Health new enrollment seminar and tried to get my Medicare advantage done with the state.. They said you don’t have part B … I called Social Security again and wrote a letter informing them of all the trials I was going through!!
    I also sent in another Part B application along with all required forms needed – for the 3 Rd time– I again asked if I was going to have an LEP PENALTY – again I was told no – because they had made a mistake putting in my case SS number– I received my Part B in March – 2 identical cards !!!! Then a letter that I was to pay an LEP MONTHLY CHARGE — I am still trying to have this reversed — because I did not cause the problem… SO this is another injustice –mistake on the wrong person!!! My pay is limited – I was a stay home mom- divorced and started working late- so 14 years wasn’t much , I learned… I need this mistake reversed and the LEP cancelled…
    NCCampos
    I don’t earn a big paycheck .. I have copies of each time I applied!!

  11. This is a government ”Of the PEOPLE, by the PEOPLE,
    for the PEOPLE.” We are not your customers. We OWN and PAY for the government.

  12. SS COLA is tied to inflation. Inflation has been very low but positive. No increase in SS but the cost of everything to survive has increased tremendously.
    Renewing the insurance on the 2010 mobile home my 93 year old mom lives in by her self quote was 60% higher than last 3 years without any claims. Changing companies quote is 23% higher. Her income is fixed at approximately 15K annually. The COLA needs fixing

  13. We need a actual cost of living increase. I worked for 40 years and paid into Social Security so I feel it is an earned income. Medicare could be improved. The cost of medicines and monthly charge is outrageous.

  14. All i see is all talk; I’ve paid in since i was 12 years old, when in Army at 17 proudly served for 10 years! Worked until i was 53 various jobs and self employed paid all taxes to incl SS. I aplied whsn i got sick really bad was told if ever terminal to let them know! I said that won t happen!! Well 4-14-16 at age of 54 told o had plumonary fibrous from V.A lung specialist!! Was in total shock!! When back to SS office told them! Asign a case worker Mrs Arroyo out of Purto Rico@@ i went got all med record from Togus in Maine sent to her been over 45 days now also to be told i need to see their doctors! Mine you it s goverment doctor I m seeing now so she put douht in my mine her goverment going against mine REALLY. Been out of work since 10-2016. Still waiting broke in Maine. Like i said all talk!! I should write President on in error in S.S System
    Rsndy

  15. I’ve read all of the above comments.
    I’m curious Mr. Walker, have you or anyone connected with SS read any of these comments? If so, have any of these individuals received any assistance/help with their concerns/problems? If not, why??? What is the hold up??? Web site is nice, thou totally non-functional, if no one is reading the comments and assisting your readers. What is the point of having this forum, if you and your staff are not going to respond??? I’m simply curious???

    • Any staff, SSA or otherwise is not able to respond to personal problems on this site. The person complaining would have to give out too much information to the general public and in addition, the complainant would have to have to ability to write clearly. This article on clear communications postulates that the SSA tries to be clear in their communications but an effective conversation has to have both parties with the ability to write clearly, otherwise all we have is one party bragging about all the good that they do.

  16. PS: I await your reply.
    Thank you for your kind consideration in this urgent matter on behalf of everyone on this site!!!

  17. This is my personal opinion. We were not expected to still be here to collect our money. Looking at the comments, they concern people in their 80’s and 90’s. That used to be rare, but now it’s pretty common. I worked until I was 75, still paying into SS and Medicare, but the official retirement age was 65, therefore that last 10 yrs of deductions went somewhere else. It did not affect my benefits. We are the fastest growing segment of the population, but our concerns are the least considered. Even the old public officials pay no attention, because with their pension will prevent them from ever being in our shoes. This is the first time I have ever made a public comment, so it may be a little choppy. And I will not be surprised if I do not see this in the comments

  18. Tax gold and silver coins and bullion and use proceedings to fund SS .. Investors buy them to protect from “imaginary” economic fears which is not true.

  19. A 2% COLA raise is two pennies for every dollar you now get. If you get $800 than it means you’ll be getting a raise of $16.00. Whoopee!

  20. I finally was approved for SSD four years and a day after the surgery that left me disabled. SS would not accept or independently request my medical records. How could I been fairly reviewed for coverage before that proof was received? While not in the file with SS I was turned down all the way to the ALJ stage. When I questioned this I was told it would be discarded if I sent it and they would request it if necessary – however it never was – I just got denials and delays and was told several times my case would be a slam dunk if only I was over 50. I just turned 48 the day before approved.

    The ALJ ridiculed me after the first hearing immediately after he went off record. Said “Ms. X – you are a very young lady and you have many many productive working years ahead of you regardless of surgeries you’ve had oh, and your “condition”.

    He clearly was discriminating against me due to my age.

    One time I was called from I believe Louisiana and the guy said he just got my file that day – it was a Friday. He said how is your depression? I didn’t file for depression, but have that. He said you haven’t filled your script so u had to have run out 10 days ago so u must be better. I’m so happy for you! I hope your job hunt picks up because I can clearly see you are getting better. He was in a hurry – Fri afternoon – tried to explain this process has bankrupted me and I couldn’t afford the prescription. He tried to just ignore that. I let him know I was represented by Allsup bc my disability ins from work was through Cigna and he needed to include them in the conversation.

    They did every thing possible to get me to give up Inc. Forcing me into bankruptsy. I couldn’t quit my claim bc I seriously can’t work and have crap left for quality of life. I lost everything including my credit which will impact me for years to come and my 401k savings is depleted.

    I’m still shocked at my treatment and I was afraid to complain in case the ALJ could possibly get me back. He was on a serious power trip and has no business in this job. He tried to confuse his own doctor after refusing to sopeona mine – the SS Doctor had to be at least 80 based on his graduation date. The ALaN tried to get him to completely reverse what he had just said and agree with the ALan. He tried to close my case at least three times bf my attorney could spit out a reason why it shouldn’t be. By myself, without lawyer, I’d be dead.

    I shouldn’t have to pay for a attorney and it’s a crap shoot with them as they only want percentage of settlement – but is only going to put so many hours into it.

    I feel judge had not read my case before court, neither had the SS contracted doctor.

    What could have taken so long for a decision when it was obvious I was being shoved through system w/o a fair and through – or ANY – REVIEW.

    THE ALan said he didn’t believe a word my doctor wrote in my support. He was supposed to give his opinion more weight than the SS contracted judge.

    If I ever have to go back through this ALJ – believe me he will deny me.

    I worked pensioable jobs for 28 years and earned three degrees at night school. Why would I have wasted all my child’s childhood getting a degree that I didn’t get much extra money for compared to the 10 years of night school I endured.

    People do become disabled. Nobody is thrilled about. It. But I shouldn’t have lost my entire retirement savings in the process along with my credit reputation. I’ve gone HUNGRY, LOST HEALTH INS TWICE DUE TO NOT ENOUGH MONEY FOR THE $575 PREMIUMS even though GEICO my employer denied me disability benefits that would have prevented that and my first face to face with anyone from SS was at the hearing where I was having am anxiety attack bc my life was being decided and I had no options left. My fiance left me after failed surgery bc I can’t get out and do things – completely alone and was treated terrible.

    I offered several times to go to Dr of their choice as my disability is obvious but nope, not gonna make this easy.

    I paid into this system for 28 years but yet ppl who never paid a dime receive checks. Somethings seriously wrong with the work flow as useless tasks are automated but pretended to be made by ppl.

    I would appreciate a response to my experience and assurNce the ALJ does not tough my file again.

    • It seem like the SSA approves lazy freeloaders if they appeal enough times.

      The DDS denied their claim and the ALJ knows the person is not disabled, but approves them anyways.

      These people were approved four years ago when the ALJs were giving away free disability checks to anyone just to reduce the backlog. But that back fire on them ALJs because the people they approved were telling others to appeal creating more backlogs.

      • Allsup claims a 97% success rate. It is similar to the West Virginia Attorney who claim 100% success rate.

        How can the SSA allow Allsup to represent claimants through false advertisement? What is the SSA doing to protect claimants?

        If they got a 97% success rate, then the SSA probably needs to look into them also.

  21. Social security is important to the elderly to servive it is also important on family death with children to help support. And to help the disable . If they wasn’t disability SS we wouldn’t be able to live so it is very important to people to have this.The only thing is they don’t give cost of living every year and that makes it hard on people SS doesn’t stretch that far you live in poverty the rest of your lifestyle.

  22. Common sense seems to be gone. Having no cost of living increase for three of the last eight years has been a hardship. Now, insurance companies are suing the administration for renigging on their Risk Corridor payments so higher premiums are shifting back to people’s premiums in 2017. Everything is going up and yet there is no inflation? Sorry but his is just wrong.

  23. We go into a crazey office in Phoenix and a lady by the name of Coolombs that just walks in and does not work there comes and forces persons on the street and does not act like an agency rep. Please have her removed and get someone to help me as we are starving and not receiving our full benefit
    due now and pay back due now to travel with.

  24. The SSA is too stupid when it comes to attorney and non-attorney representatives. After their clients sign up with them, they get their clients to have their doctors to fill out Medical Source Statement(MSS) and Residual Function Capacity(RFC). They use it to achieve the 97% to 100% success rate for the lazy freeloaders.

    SSR96-5p: POLICY INTERPRETATION RULING TITLES II AND XVI: MEDICAL SOURCE OPINIONS ON ISSUES RESERVED TO THE COMMISSIONER

    Under 20 CFR 404.1527(e) and 416.927(e), some issues are not medical issues regarding the nature and severity of an individual’s impairment(s) but are administrative findings that are dispositive of a case; i.e., that would direct the determination or decision of disability. The following are examples of such issues:

    Whether an individual’s impairment(s) meets or is equivalent in severity to the requirements of any impairment(s) in the listings;
    1. What an individual’s RFC is;
    2. Whether an individual’s RFC prevents him or her from doing past relevant work;
    3. How the vocational factors of age, education, and work experience apply; and
    4. Whether an individual is “disabled” under the Act.
    The regulations provide that the final responsibility for deciding issues such as these is reserved to the Commissioner.

    Medical and psychological consultants in the State agencies are adjudicators at the initial and reconsideration determination levels (except in disability hearings–see 20 CFR 404.914 ff. and 416.1414 ff.). As such, they do not express opinions; they make findings of fact that become part of the determination. However, 20 CFR 404.1527(f) and 416.927(f) provide that, at the administrative law judge and Appeals Council levels of the administrative review process, medical and psychological consultant findings about the nature and severity of an individual’s impairment(s), including any RFC assessments, become opinion evidence. Adjudicators at these levels, including administrative law judges and the Appeals Council, must consider these opinions as expert opinion evidence of nonexamining physicians and psychologists and must address the opinions in their decisions. In addition, under 20 CFR 404.1526 and 416.926, adjudicators at the administrative law judge and Appeals Council levels must consider and address State agency medical or psychological consultant findings regarding equivalence to a listed impairment.

    Explanation of the Consideration Given to a Treating Source’s Opinion

    Treating source opinions on issues reserved to the Commissioner will never be given controlling weight. However, the notice of the determination or decision must explain the consideration given to the treating source’s opinion(s).

    One Congressman said that he doesn’t want the ALJs to express their opinion in the decision. The DDS has denied them twice and that is a finding of fact and not an opinion. Why were the ALJs approving so many claimants after they have been denied twice by the DDS?

    The Social Security disability system was designed for lazy freeloaders to get approved.

  25. The ALJs does the same thing during the CDR and overturned many of the DDS adjudicators’ terminations. The lazy freeloaders can collect for life based on the Social Security disability lazy freeloader system.

  26. The Short Form CDR is a joke. They only have to list their three most recent visit to the doctor and have the CDR deferred up to 7 years.

    They can go without seeing a doctor for years and see them when they are coming up for a review.

    In the application process they would be denied for failure to follow prescribed treatment for not seeing a doctor for over a year. They can get away with that during the Continuing Disability Review (CDR).

  27. I learned all this stuff from the lazy freeloaders before me. It is common knowledge. I haven’t seen the doctor for years, but I started seeing a doctor now since my review is coming up. I will just fall through the cracks like the millions of other lazy freeloaders.

    You can stop seeing the doctor after you are approved and start seeing them again when your review is coming up. The SSA doesn’t even bother to enforce their rules.

    SSR 82-59: TITLES II AND XVI: FAILURE TO FOLLOW PRESCRIBED TREATMENT

    Continuing Disability — The issue of “failure” may arise at the time of a continuing disability investigation where (1) subsequent to a prior favorable determination based on information indicating the individual was cooperating with prescribed treatment, the individual failed to follow through on such treatment or (2) treatment has been prescribed since the last determination. Such situations will require the same documentation as that outlined above to determine if “failure” exists and if it is justifiable. Benefits will be continued for 2 months after the month in which a determination of cessation occurs.

  28. I have been trying to discontinue my online connection with ssa.gov because I can never give my correct three answers ,even though I have concrete evidence in hand that proves my correctness.I’ve grown very tired of this round robin situation so I only want my alerts and info sent by US mail only.Thanking you so much for reading this…Respectfully louis kelley

    • Thank you for using our online services Louis! If you having difficulties with your personal “my Social Security” account, please call 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. After you hear “Briefly tell me why you are calling,” say “Help Desk”. We hope you try again. Thanks!

  29. ok my name is Curtis Jerome kimbrough birthday sep,13,1953 I all ready get ss been gel t because my social secritjy sence 2005 I think sence I am at age retired will I get more money thank you

    • Hi Curtis, thank you for the question. If you’re already receiving disability benefits under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, we will automatically convert your disability benefits to retirement benefits, when you attain your Full Retirement Age. The benefit amount will generally remain the same.

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