Chris Stein, CFP®
How to Fix Errors in Your Earnings Record
The Social Security Administration tracks hundreds of millions of records. Even with a very small error rate, the chance there is a glitch or error in your Social Security record is there. The most common error is for earnings to not be reflected in your earnings record. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including employers who go out of business, typographical errors, and even sometimes intentional fraud. The good news is that it is easy to check your earnings record now, and there is a way to fix this situation if you have supporting documentation.
Check Your Earnings Record
To check your earnings record you need to obtain your earnings record from the SSA either by receiving your benefit estimate statement in the mail (they are sent out every 5 years now), by visiting your local SSA office, or by signing up for and checking your online records at www.ssa.gov/signin/.
We recommend checking your earnings record each year to make sure it has been updated properly. If you detect an error it is best to alert the SSA sooner than later. Many errors have a 3 year statute of limitations when it comes to reporting and fixing them. To correct an error you will need to:
Attempt to fix the issue over the phone at 1-800-772-1213 or by visiting the local SSA office. Some errors can be fixed easily. If not, then proceed to the next step;
Obtain publication SSA-7708 “Request for Correction of Earnings Record” by downloading from the SSA website at https://www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-7008.pdf or by visiting your local SSA office.
Fill out form SSA-7708
Include copies of documentation proving your actual FICA earnings levels (those earnings subject to Social Security withholding taxes). This might be a W-2, completed, signed and filed tax returns, pay stubs, bank deposit statements, etc. No need to send originals as the SSA accepts legible copies.
Mail the completed form SSA-7708 along with documentation to the address on form SSA-7708. At the time of this writing the address was in Baltimore, MD.
Within a few weeks you should hear back on the resolution of your request.
Errors Can Reduce Your Benefit
Remember that your PIA (primary insurance amount) is based on your AIME (average indexed monthly earnings), and your AIME comes directly from this earnings record. If you have a low or missing number in one or more years it can absolutely reduce your AIME, which reduces your PIA, which means your retirement benefit has been reduced.
If you bring an error of this type to the attention of the SSA after 3 years it is unlikely to be resolved to your satisfaction. That is why it is important for everyone to monitor their earnings record. And these days you must be proactive since they no longer mail out benefit statements every year. Now, by the time you receive one in the mail (every 5 years) it may be too late fix errors you find. The new SSA online portal is your best resource to monitor these important parts of your SS record. You can also find the official word from the SSA on this topic in SSA publication 05-10081.
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