Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay

Courtesy: Social Security Administration

March is Women’s History Month — a time to focus not just on the past, but on the challenges women continue to face in the 21st century.

Ida May Fuller, born on Sept. 6, 1874, was the first American to receive a monthly Social Security benefit check. Along with Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins — who was instrumental in the creation of the Social Security Act — Ida May Fuller was one of the first famous women of Social Security. She received her check, amounting to $22.54, on Jan. 31, 1940. Back then, people understood that she would be one of millions that would be positively affected by retirement benefits.

Seventy-six years after that first check was issued, Social Security continues to play a vital role in the lives of women. With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income. With the national average life expectancy for women in the United States rising, many women will have decades to enjoy retirement. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a girl born today can expect to live more than 80 years. As a result, experts generally agree that if women want to ensure that their retirement years are comfortable, they need to plan early and wisely.

What You Can Do

“The best place to begin is by knowing what you can expect to receive from Social Security, and how much more you are likely to need to enjoy a comfortable retirement,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Social Security’s acting commissioner and a Social Security pioneer woman in her own right.

You can start with a visit to Social Security’s Retirement Estimator. There, in just a few minutes, you can get a personalized, instant estimate of your retirement benefits. Plug in different scenarios, such as retirement ages or projected earnings, to get an idea of how such things might change your future benefit amounts. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

You should also visit Social Security’s financial planning website at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners. It provides detailed information about how marriage, widowhood, divorce, self-employment, government service, and other life or career events can affect your Social Security.

Your benefits are based on your earnings, so you should create your personal my Social Security account to verify that your earnings were reported correctly.

If you want more information about the role of Social Security in women’s lives today, Social Security has a booklet that you may find useful. It is called Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know. You can find it online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10127.html.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public affairs specialist in Hawai‘i.



Question:  I just got back from an overseas military deployment and I want to plan ahead. How will my military retirement affect my Social Security benefits?

Answer:  Your military retirement will not affect your Social Security benefits at all. You can receive both. Generally, there is no offset of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement. You will get full Social Security benefits based on your earnings. The only way your Social Security benefit might be reduced is if you also receive a government pension based on a job in which you did not pay Social Security taxes. You can find more information in the publication Military Service and Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10017.html, or, call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


Question:  I was turned down for disability. Do I need a lawyer to appeal?

Answer:  You’re entitled to hire an attorney if you wish to, but it is not necessary. And, you can file a Social Security appeal online without a lawyer. Our online appeal process is convenient and secure. Just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appeal. If you prefer, call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to schedule an appointment to visit your local Social Security office to appeal.


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