Social Security recipients can now get their benefits verification letter and conduct other business online, as part of enhanced Web services introduced last week.
The letters, which state the amount of the recipient's monthly benefit, are used to verify income when, for instance, someone is applying for a loan or for special programs, like those offering reduced rent based on income. The letters are now available online for those who are retired and receiving Social Security, as well as those who receive Supplemental Security Income, which pays benefits to those who are disabled.
Recipients also can change their address and manage electronic delivery of their monthly benefits payment on line.
The availability of the letters and the other options represent the first "significant expansion" of the agency's online service, known as mySocialSecurity, since it debuted in the spring, said Michael Astrue, commissioner of Social Security.
The service initially made online access available to annual Social Security statements for those who are still working. The statements list the annual income used to calculate benefits, as well as estimates of future benefits based on one's age at retirement.
To access information online users must set up an account, which requires them to answer questions to verify their identity before choosing a user name and password.
Users can also opt for enhanced security, which requires providing additional information.
About three million people have created accounts so far.
Previously, recipients seeking benefits verification letters had to wait for one to arrive in the mail or visit a Social Security office in person. Last year, the agency processed about nine million requests for such letters, he said. Reducing the number of people who come into Social Security offices for such letters will allow staff at the offices to spend more time on more complex transactions, Astrue said.