4 seniors: Checking your Social Security statement for errors

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Social Security can be a big part of your retirement income, so it helps to know if the federal government calculated your benefits correctly.

However, mistakes in the earnings record are fairly common.

Your Social Security benefits are based on your highest 35 years of earnings history. So, if your earnings for any particular year are underreported, it will reduce your benefits.

These errors typically occur because your employer either reported your earnings incorrectly or reported your earnings using the wrong name or Social Security number. Or if you got married or divorced and changed your name but did not report the change to Social Security.

Check Your Statement

The best way to keep an eye on your benefits and avoid any possible mistakes is to carefully review your Social Security statement every year.

Your Social Security statement lists your earnings record for each year of employment and estimates the benefits you and your family may receive as a result of those earnings.

Once you get your statement, take some time to verify its accuracy by comparing the earnings listed on your statement with your own tax records or W-2 statements. You have to correct errors within 3 years, 3 months and 15 days following the year of the mistake. If you happen to spot a discrepancy within that time limit, follow these steps:

First, call Social Security (800-772-1213) to report the error. Some corrections can be made over the phone, or you may need to schedule an appointment with your local Social Security office and go in with copies of your W-2 forms or tax returns to prove the mistake, or you can mail it in.

Once your earnings record is corrected, Social Security will send you a confirming letter.

Other Mistakes

Social Security earnings miscalculations can also happen if there’s a mistake in your current mailing address that the IRS has on file for you. Check your federal tax returns for this possible error, especially if you’ve moved recently.

To correct your address, contact the IRS at 800-829-3676 and ask them to mail you the “Change of Address” form 8822, or print it off, fill it out and mail it back to the address on the form.

Other factors that can cause mistakes are if your name or date of birth in the SSA records isn’t the same as it appears in the IRS files. So, double-check your Social Security statement for these possible mishaps, and if you find an error call the 800-772-1213 and ask for Form SS-5, “Application for a Social Security Card,” and submit it with the correct information. The form can also be downloaded.

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