Going Online for Benefits Information
By: Korky Vann
Women represent 49% of those who are online, and that number is increasing. The Social Security Administration says the specially tailored site offers women an easy and convenient way to research benefits.
Women also make up more than half of all Social Security recipients, and for many, those benefits are their only income, according to research done by AARP's Women's Initiative Project. Each life circumstance, such as widowhood, divorce, remarriage or being single, presents its own set of rules in the Social Security system. The rules, say experts, can be confusing to older women, especially those who apply for the first time after losing a spouse or after a divorce.
"As a group, women live longer than men, earn less and rely on Social Security for most of their retirement income," said Larry Massanari, acting commissioner of Social Security. "Because of that, they need to know what impact the program will have on their particular circumstance."
Research shows that Americans of both sexes need help with retirement planning. A 1999 survey showed that only 16% of individuals knew at what age they would be eligible to collect full Social Security benefits.
Earlier this year, the Social Security Administration expanded its official Web site, http://www.ssa.gov, to help individuals compute customized estimates of future Social Security benefits, keep up with the latest changes through an electronic newsletter and apply for benefits without ever setting foot in a government office.
Links on the new "For Women" site connect to all of the above and provide specific information on Social Security and working women, beneficiaries, brides, widows, new mothers, divorcees and care givers.
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Women who visit the Web site also can apply for Social Security spouse's benefits online. While both men and women can use the online application, the agency says that more women than men qualify as the spouse of a retired worker. Statistics show that of the more than 700,000 people who apply for spouse's benefits annually, more than 90% are women.
"The Social Security program treats all workers--men and women--exactly the same," Massanari says. "But because of different life experiences, the real world results are different."
"For Women" also provides connections to other federal-agency Web sites such as the Department of Labor's Women's Bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services's "Women's Health" and the White House's Federal Programs and Resources for Women and Families.
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