CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Social Security Administration has added a new online service, but it may benefit others more than West Virginians, at least at first.
A new "My Social Security Account" service now allows more than 60 million beneficiaries to access their information online.
The online services were unveiled last May, but they were expanded last month. Social Security beneficiaries and Supplemental Security Income recipients can now access more information on the Web, including verification letters, payment history and earnings records online instantly.
Beneficiaries can also change their address and start or change direct deposit information online.
Since the personalized account system went online in May, about 3.6 million accounts have been created -- 18,000 of which were established with a West Virginia address, according to Terri Lewis, regional communications director for the Social Security Administration.
"The Social Security Administration is always looking for innovative ways to meet the needs of the public without compromising service. The online 'my Social Security/Account' allows us to provide faster service to more people in more locations," Lewis said.
But, the internet-based service may not be ideal for Social Security recipients in West Virginia, said Tom Hunter, spokesman for AARP West Virginia.
"It's great that folks have access, but it's probably more of a challenge here simply because we still have broadband issues in this state. A big concern here is that there is still a large segment of the population that doesn't have online access. And even those that do, have some concerns about making transactions with sensitive information online," Hunter said.
Michael Astrue, commissioner of Social Security, encourages everyone to make the switch.
"We are making it even easier for people to do their business with us from the comfort of their home, office, or library. I encourage people of all ages to take advantage of our award-winning online services and check out the new features available through an online my Social Security account," Astrue said in a release.
"Given our significantly reduced funding, we have to find innovative ways to continue to meet the needs of the American people without compromising service. These new enhancements will allow us to provide faster service to more people in more places."
In addition to eligible workers, people 18 and older who are not receiving benefits can sign up for a "my Social Security account" to get a personalized online Social Security Statement. The portal also includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability and Medicare.
People can sign up for an account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.