Burke: Social Security benefits increase in 2020

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Each year, we announce the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). By law, federal benefits increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Usually, there is an increase in the benefit amount people will receive each month, starting the following January.

Nearly 69 million Americans will see a 1.6 percent increase in their Social Security benefits and SSI payments in 2020.

Other changes that will happen in January 2020 reflect the increase in the national average wage index. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll tax will increase to $137,700 from $132,900. The earnings limit for workers who are younger than “full” retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will increase to $18,240. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $18,240.)

The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2020 will increase to $48,600. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $48,600 until the month the worker turns age 66.)

This month, we will post Social Security COLA notices online for retirement, survivors, and disability beneficiaries who have a my Social Security account. You will be able to view and save future COLA notices via the Message Center inside my Social Security.

You can log in to or sign up for a my Social Security account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to get more information about your new benefit amount. You can choose to receive an electronic notification by email, text, or both ways under “Message Center Preferences.” Our notification will let you know that a new message is waiting for you. We will not send any personal information in the notification. The Message Center also allows you to go paperless by opting out of receiving agency notices by mail that you can get online, including annual cost-of-living adjustments and the income-related monthly adjustment amount increases. The Message Center is a secure portal where you can conveniently receive sensitive communications that we don’t send through email or text. More information about the 2020 COLA is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

If you’re changing your name, it’s important to let Social Security know so we can update the information we maintain, send you an updated Social Security card, and ultimately ensure we pay you accurate benefits when you retire or if you become disabled.

To change your name in our records, you must provide Social Security with documents proving your legal name change and identity. If you are a U.S. citizen, you also must provide our agency with documentation proving your U.S. citizenship. You must present original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them. We can’t accept photocopies or notarized copies.

To prove your legal name change, you must show one of the following documents:

  • Marriage document.
  • Divorce decree.
  • Certificate of naturalization showing a new name.
  • Court order for a name change.

To prove your identity, you must show an unexpired document showing your name, identifying information, and photograph, such as one of the following:

  • U.S. driver’s license.
  • State-issued non-driver’s identification card.
  • U.S. passport.

If you don’t have one of those documents available, we may be able to accept your:

  • Employer identification card.
  • School identification card.
  • Health insurance card.
  • U.S. military identification card.

To prove your U.S. citizenship, you must show one of the following documents:

  • U.S. birth certificate.
  • U.S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad.
  • U.S. passport (unexpired).
  • Certificate of Naturalization.
  • Certificate of Citizenship.

To get started, fill out the form at www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf and carefully follow the instructions. In most cases, you can mail your signed application with your documents to any Social Security office. We will return any documents you mail to us. You can also locate your local field office at www.socialsecurity.gov/locator to show your required documents in person.

In the event you need to replace a lost Social Security card to get a job or obtain government services, but you don’t need to change your name, you can — in most states and the District of Columbia — request your replacement card replacement card online using your my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

For additional information about Social Security Numbers, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Chris Burke is a Social Security district manager based in Glendale.

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