You Know What I Mean

July 14, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: July 14, 2016

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 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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About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. Marie R.

    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?

  2. anne B.

    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.

  3. Catherine

    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.

    • Susy

      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?

      • Robyn W.

        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.

        • S. K.

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

      • John O.

        As fuel prices change the costs related to delivery of goods and services change. Econ 101

  4. Merilann J.

    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.

  5. Miles N.

    I will be 64 in September, at what age do I need to sign up for benefits?

    • Roger

      6 months before your 62nd birthday. If you apply in the April before 65 you will get a bit more.

    • Sampa

      No one received a COLA in 2015.

  6. Fermina P.

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

  7. Victoria E.

    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.

    • Shawn

      Get power of attorney to handle to father’s affairs.

      • Robin.C.

        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?

      • John O.

        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.

    • R O.

      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.

    • Marti

      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.

  8. kEVIN s.

    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.

  9. Tom

    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.

    • Lori S.


    • Enos

      Typical government SOP (standard operating procedures}

      • Sampa

        You write them and ensure that they are written clearly.

    • Elaine

      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.

      • Tom

        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.

        • Lance

          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.

          • Teresa L.

            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

      • Bill

        There is no SSA field office in Naperville. The office that services you is in Woodridge.

    • A R.

      Get your Congressional reps to increase funding!

      • Cathy


  10. teresa t.

    Be sure we recieve an honest cost of living raise this year.

    • alice m.

      yes, that would be awesome as the price of living is thru the roof.

    • Charlotte

      Will seniors get a raise this year and if so, how much?

      • STEVE J.


        • DP

          No you can’t. Part B premiums are going up. We must continue to eat Beenie-weenies.

      • Carlos F.


        I think that I saw something on tv about the raise; 0.02%.

    • joe

      Not up to them cola is a bunch of economic numbers….

    • Sampa

      Learn to spell correctly

    • Sampa

      Learn to spell correctly. I before e except after c.

      • JC

        So are you saying that neighbor is incorrectly spelled?

    • joe f.

      Won”t happen because the cost of food is not considered to be part of the cost of living. Go figure

Comments are closed.