The What, Where, When, and Why of Updating Social Security

The What, Where, When, and Why of Updating Social Security

Whether you receive disability or retirement benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you might think that your obligations to provide the department with information end when you start receiving these benefits. On the contrary, your obligations to contact the SSA may only be beginning.

What?

Once you apply and qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or retirement benefits, you have a legal duty to report any changes to the SSA that could affect your eligibility for these benefits. These changes include but are not limited to: change of address; change in marital status; change in financial resources; change in citizenship or immigration status; death of a spouse or household member; change in living arrangements; and change in earned or unearned income.

Additionally, if you receive disability benefits, you must report the following information to the SSA on a continual basis: all earnings; whether you receive extra help to do work because of your disability; if you start or stop working; if you start collecting other disability benefits; and whether you start paying for items or services that you need for work due to your disability.

Where?

You can report any necessary changes online at www.socialsecurity.gov or call the SSA at 1.800.325.0778. If you are unable to use those methods or prefer not to, you may visit in person or send mail to your local SSA office. (Call your local SSA office before going there in person. Due to the coronavirus, Social Security’s procedures may have been modified.) If you receive SSI benefits, you cannot report changes online, but you may use the toll-free SSI Telephone Wage Reporting Service or the free SSI Mobile Wage Reporting smartphone app in addition to regular mail or an in-person visit. If you need to change the address on file for your direct deposit payments, you can also create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. (Please note: even if you receive your monthly benefit payments via direct deposit, the government can stop your payments entirely if they cannot contact you by mail.)

When?

You must report any changes to the SSA immediately and no later than 10 days after the end of the month in which the change occurred. For example, if you moved to a new address on March 15th, you must notify the SSA that you moved by April 10th.

Why?

First and foremost, the SSA wants to ensure that the people receiving benefits for which the public pays are actually entitled to them and in the right amounts. You may be owed additional payments, or you may have been overpaid and now need to pay the government back for money to which you were not entitled in a timely manner.

What will happen to you if you do not notify the SSA of necessary changes or intentionally provide incorrect information? The SSA can stop all of your benefit payments. The department can also sanction you. Your first sanction will result in the loss of benefits for 6 months. Sanctions after that will result in loss of benefits for 12 and 24 months.