About Us

Introduction

A little over thirty years ago, my wife and I lived in apartment in a suburb of a large city.  We lived about half a mile from a corner strip mall which was anchored by a large supermarket at one end and an office building at the other.  We would often walk to the supermarket on warm evenings.

One of the storefronts down a few doors from the market was a Social Security Administration office.  One of the times we walked to the market, we stopped at the SSA office, which was closed, and looking in through the glass front door.  I could see row after row of of ugly gray government-style desks, all facing front.  I didn’t count them, but there were easily sixty or seventy of them in view.

I remember saying to my wife, “I wonder what it is they do in there that requires so many employees.”  Two or three years after this I was hired by another Social Security office, which at the time had about 105 employees, about the same number as the office we had looked into.  I quickly found out what it was they did that required so many employees.  They did a lot, and still do.

A Social Security office, with a well-placed bus bench advertisement

A Social Security office, with a well-placed bus bench advertisement

My Purposes For This Blog Are:

1.  To discuss Social Security benefits and programs, their rules, eligibility criteria, and related issues that might be of interest current beneficiaries and recipients, or those who will be in the future.   These benefits and programs include, but are not limited to:

a.    Social Security Retirement and Survivors Benefits

b.    Social Security Disability Benefits

c.    Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

d.    Social Security And SSI Work Incentives Programs

e.    Medicare

2.  To keep track of current issues, primarily political, that may have an affect on the current Social Security Administration, or what may happen to it in the future.

3.  To answer specific questions from anyone about SSA benefits and programs, problems or concerns they may have, or anything else Social Security related. Please refer to the Contact Me page.

4.  To explore and explain other government programs that Social Security beneficiaries might have to deal with, and

5.  To share stories about interesting people I met during my career at Social Security

About ssapotluck

Certificate for completing 30 years of Federal Government Service, slightly modified, awarded to me in November, 2001.

I was hired by SSA as a service representative (SR) in 1981.  A SR is the person you first talk to when you call or go into an SSA office (or call the 800 number for that matter.)  SRs have to know something about everything that SSA does.  They process Social Security Number applications.  They answer questions about Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicare, and input some post-entitlement changes, such as changes of address, direct deposit, or death of a beneficiary, among many others.

After a little over a year, I was promoted to be a claims representative (CR).  CRs process initial claims for Social Security (also known as Title 2 (T2)) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (also known as Title 16 (T16)) payments.  CRs also process complex T2 post-entitlement and T16 post-eligibility issues.  CRs are usually trained only in one program, but are given crossover training in the other program.  I was trained in Title 16 (SSI).  I worked as a T16 CR for about 2 1/2 years.  I was then made the T16 Quality Reviewer, which entailed reviewing the work of all T16 CRs in the office and providing frequent training to them on SSI issues causing quality problems.  I was the district liaison for all work incentive issues.

In 1989, I was promoted to be an operations supervisor(OS) in another office.  That particular office was divided into two units, initial claims and post-eligibility.  I supervised the latter unit, which was comprised of the SRs and about half of the T16 CRs.  I held this job until 1997, when I was transferred to another, larger office.  I supervised the T16 CRs who handled post-eligibility actions there.  After about 2 years, I left management and became the T16 Technical Expert for the district.  I provided technical assistance to all employees on difficult T16 issues and worked on initial claims and post-eligibility actions myself.   While in this position, I taught a T16 CR class for new CRs.   I was also the district liaison for all work incentive issues.

Throughout the majority of my career, I did a lot of community outreach regarding T2 and T16, and their work incentive programs.  This involved speaking to groups from other government agencies or private social agencies, and to groups of beneficiaries, and in some cases, their families.

I retired from SSA in 2003 after 22 years service with them.

Note:  I was formerly affiliated with a discussion forum, on which I had a column devoted to Social Security articles and information, essentially the same as this blog.  I removed all articles I had written on Social Security and have severed all connection with this discussion forum.

About revenuer

My wife was employed by the Internal Revenue Service for many years, which is the basis for her user name. She also worked in the private sector, mainly in the insurance and financial fields. She is my consultant for tax and business related issues. She is the comment moderator for the blog and decides which comments meet blog standards. She has been my silent partner on the blog until now. Up until recently, we have received relatively few comments. Lately, they have increased, and we have begun getting comments from people who are hostile either toward Social Security or to other commenters. She has agreed to help me by dealing with these inappropriate comments, which I appreciate very much. Her duties at IRS have given her a lot of experience dealing with hostile people.

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10 Responses to About Us

  1. Paul says:

    Kudos for this site….I have been staring blankly at the BLS site for years and I learned more here in a couple of minutes than I ever did there……You have turned a rubik’s cube into a simple block diagram with a great chart with a simple explanation…also, your commentary is spot on…not too fringey or out of touch…… keep up the good work.

    Paul

  2. ssapotluck says:

    Thank you for your kind remarks. When I worked for SSA, I particularly enjoyed telling people why and how we did what we did, how things worked, that sort of thing. I have been gone from there for awhile, but I still enjoy it. I hope you come back.

  3. cholla45 says:

    Hello SSAPotluck,

    I am so pleased to have found your blog. What a wealth of information from someone who knows – very helpful. My company is setting up a site for Medicare-eligible retirees who have enrolled in Medicare plans through our exchange, and I’d very much like to post a link to your blog and feature it in one of our weekly updates. We’re launching in June – please let me know if you have any objections, or if you’re agreeable, if there’s anything special we should know and explain to our membership.

    Sincerely,
    Christine Holland
    Extend Health, Inc.
    http://www.extendhealth.com

  4. ssapotluck says:

    Feel free to link to my blog. I have no objections at all. I am happy to provide information to anyone who wants it.

    One thing I should say is that I cannot endorse any product or service. I basically follow the same rules that I followed when I worked for SSA.

    Thank you very much for your interest.

  5. Judy Reynolds says:

    Thank you for this site and the effort you obviously have put into it. As one who is entering Social Security this year and subject the WEP and GPO, I have found your information clearly stated and very helpful. Good job!

  6. ssapotluck says:

    WEP and GPO. Ouch. GPO got me too, since I was a Federal employee who was not covered under SSA. I plan to write a piece specifically about these two little gems soon. I remember when I was in Service Representative class, in 1981, and the instructor was teaching GPO. Slowly it dawned on me, “Hey, wait a minute, that affects me! Every so often, someone in Congress will try to amend GPO, but it hasn’t gone anywhere yet.

  7. Merene Davidson says:

    I just discovered this site and I’ll be looking in frequently! I’ve been receiving Social Security for over three years, and Medicare for about six months. I often have questions or sometimes I just want recent information (like whether Social Security recipients will receive a COLA in 2012). This is by far the best site I’ve found to get understandable information about the matter! And I very much appreciate that you will not allow “hatespeak” and inflammatory political comments . Good for you! I’m sure I’ll be checking in often. Thank you for your good work!

    • revenuer says:

      Merene,

      Thank you very much for your comment. Welcome to the blog and we hope you will come back and comment often. We answer questions both by comments and via email if you need a little more detail. We will get back to you as soon as we can either way.

      Also, we are glad you are comfortable with out comment policy. We want to give as much accurate information as we can and we want our visitors to feel comfortable and safe making comments and asking questions without having to worry about flame wars. People can exchange ideas and opinions without being cruel or abrasive. That way you can get more light without getting burned by excessive heat which lacks benefit.

  8. just found you this morning Oct 19th, been trying to get confirmation on the CPI for Sept consequently we/you can accurately predict the COLA for 2012. You say 3.6%, really ! Good news, I hope you are accurate, if it turns out to be 3.6%, I will be a loyal follower starting today.
    Good going!
    My wife and I are retired Civil Servants on CSRS, we do well as (double-dippers) but my Social Security benefit was reduced because the government says we already have a retirement/s from the government. My SS check is $148 per month and with the 3.6% COLA it should go up by $5 more dollars per month, not much, could care less. What gripes me is that for many years before my retirement, the SS people would send me yearly updates projecting my monthly take-home would be around $400 per month. I got $148? This is what galls me, I could use extra money, I am not rich. I am a little guy that got ripped-off about $250 per month for about 10 years now. Is anything being done about this?, most of all government workers are under this “unfair” policy, we worked for it, we should get it. Hoping to hear from you on this subject soon. Thanks for being there for us………………70 year old retired Civil Servant (Fire Captain)

    • ssapotluck says:

      Gene,

      Thank you for your question.

      The reason your Social Security benefit is lowered from about $400 to $148 is due to something called the “Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP.) The 1983 Amendments (P.L. 98-21) included a provision that eliminated so-called “windfall” Social Security benefits for retired and disabled workers receiving pensions from employment that was not covered by Social Security. This includes CSRS, but not FERS. Under this provision, a modified benefit formula is used to determine the wage earner’s primary insurance amount (PIA).

      The PIA is the amount that is paid to the beneficiary when he attains full retirement age (FRA) or becomes disabled prior to FRA.

      Social Security benefits are based on what is called the “average monthly wage” (AMW). For most people Social Security considers all covered wages paid during the 40 year period starting with the year the wage earner attains age 22 and ending with the year he attains age 61. The wages for earlier years are adjusted for inflation. Then the 5 lowest years are discarded. The amount of the remaining wages (35 years, adjusted for inflation) is called the “dividend. It is divided by 420 (35 x 12.) The result is the AMW.

      In the basic formula for figuring benefits, the first part of the AMW is multiplied by 90 percent; the second part is multiplied by 32 percent; and any part of the AMW remaining is multiplied by 15 percent. These are called “bend points.” For example, a person who becomes eligible for Social Security in 2005, the bend points are $627 and $3779. A wage earner would get 90% of his AMW up to $627, 32% of his AMW between $628 through $3779, and 15% of any part of his AMW which was above $3780.

      However, under WEP, the 90 percent factor is replaced by a factor ranging from 85 to 40 percent depending on the number of years of “substantial” earnings the wage earner has.

      Social Security publishes a very good fact sheet which explains this provision. You can access it at Windfall Elimination Provision.

      I am also CSRS so WEP would apply to me if I was insured, which I am not. I believe this provision was a deliberate shot at government workers at all levels by the Reagan administration, which was the beginning ot the real war against the middle class which is so prominent in all our lives today.

      Thank you again for your question.

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