When I was little, I was a television fanatic.
To this day, my mother likes to joke about the journal I kept during spring break in second grade.
It was supposed to tell the story of what I did on my vacation, but it read more like a TV Guide, listing every single show I watched.
I still remember my dad getting so excited when reruns of one his favorite shows from the '60s, "The Patty Duke Show," started playing in syndication.
At first, I was skeptical. It was in black and white, and my dad liked it. Sounded pretty boring to me.
My opinion soon changed when I realized that one person was playing identical cousins!
How great is that? I watched faithfully as the cool, popular Patty and the graceful, cultured Cathy pulled all kinds of wacky tricks on their friends and family.
You can imagine the thrill I felt finding out more than 20 years later that Patty Duke was going to be the new spokesperson for Social Security, telling all of America to file for benefits online.
I sang "The Patty Duke Show" theme song for my co-workers and displayed the Patty Duke SSA poster in my cubicle.
However, I wasn't so sure how I felt about the public using a computer to file for benefits in lieu of talking to a person. After all, that was my job-taking disability and retirement claims from people. Was the Internet replacing me?
I tried keeping an open mind.
Since the launch of SSA's "Retire Online" campaign, there have been constant improvements made, and now it is easier than ever to file for benefits on our website. A retirement claim can be completed in less than 10 minutes. Most of the time, you won't even have to submit anything to our office.
If you have an appointment scheduled with your local Social Security office, you can still complete the Internet application beforehand. That way you can ask any questions you may have, and still save time.
People already receiving Social Security benefits can go online to let Social Security know about a change of address or phone number, start or change direct deposit, get a proof of income letter, or replace a lost Medicare card.
Why wait on hold on the telephone or in line at a crowded office, when you can make these requests in the comfort of your own home?
This month, Social Security has teamed with Star Trek icon George Takei and Patty Duke to launch a new campaign.
"Boldly Go" to www.socialsecurity.gov to plan for your retirement and to apply online. Workers can get an online estimate of their future retirement benefits and use Social Security's planners to plan for a secure retirement. Young people can help their grandparents with retiring online or getting extra help with their Medicare prescription drug costs.
So do me a favor and visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
I guarantee many of you will find the information you need, quickly and easily.
If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to call us at (877) 628-6581. And may you live long and prosper.
Tracey L. Weaver is district manager of the Social Security Adminstration's Oneonta Field Office. 'Senior Scene' columns can be found online at www.thedailystar.com/seniorscene.
When I was little, I was a television fanatic.
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