With millions upon millions of baby boomers about to retire, the Social Security Administration has created an online  “retirement benefits estimator” that is a substantial improvement over the previous Internet version. Go to  www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

There are a number of things that are significant improvements.  Unlike previous versions, this one uses your actual Social Security taxes paid over your lifetime, to calculate the benefit for you — exactly.  Secondly, it provides an opportunity to ask for different scenarios – such as, what if I retire early at age 62, or age 64, versus my full retirement age of 66.  Finally, it is FAST!  Two simple pages of input items (name, SSN, date of birth, mother’s maiden name), and you’ll instantly have the amount of your Social Security check.

With over 1 million people visiting Social Security local offices each week, anything that will cut down on unnecessary trips to SSA will benefit both individuals who need the information as well as the number of SSA employees needed to respond to requests for information.

The organizers of the Florida State Guardianship Annual Convention asked me to prepare some comments on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – It Just Keeps Changing.  The ten page paper highlights changes in how  attorneys and guardians of disabled individuals will have to change the way they interact with SSA, video hearings, “paperless” medical and legal files at SSA, as well as the 2008 changes in Medicare, and changes we are expecting in the SSI POMS that relate to Special Needs Trust administration: new rules on employment by the trustee of parents to care for minor disabled children, support of dependent spouses and minor children using the disabled parent’s trust funds (see our previous post on July 11th), and structured settlement annuity problems, particularly with deeming of healthy parents’ annuities against the disabled child’s continued eligibility for SSI and Medicaid.

If you want more information on guardianship, or the Florida State Guardianship Association and an application for membership, click here.

On July 19, 2008, we will all have access to a new Internet tool courtesy of the Social Security Administration.  It is called the benefit estimator, and will allow each of us to secure a reasonably accurate estimate, online, of our Social Security retirement or disability benefit monthly check amount. 

The benefit estimator will use live SSA records to make the calculations.  We will have to enter some identifying information on the SSA website for authentication purposes.  We will then be able to check out different scenarios and see how our benefits would be impacted, such as taking early retirement at age 62, or waiting to full retirement age, such as age 66 or 67.

Check SSA’s main web-pageafter July 19th for instructions.

Until recently, if you wanted to see what SSA was up to in terms of proposing new regulations, you would go to policy information page on the Social Security Administration’s main website.

Under a new policy, all federal agencies’ proposed regulations, and other announcements, will appear on a new website called Regulations.gov.  One of the neat things about the website, is that we can sign up for notification of any new proposed regulations by whatever agency we’re interested in.  We will be sent an email.

This is an important development because it makes it easier to alert the public so that timely comments can be made to proposed regulations before they are adopted.  These NPRM items, "Notice of Proposed Rule Making" are published in the Federal Register pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act.  But wading through the Federal Register every day or each week is tedious.  Now the Internet will do it for us!