Closeup of using cellphone, online benefitsOn July 30th, thousands of Social Security recipients lost access to online account management because of a new government regulation. The new rules require beneficiaries to have a cell phone that receives text messages in order to improve account authentication.

Seniors Struggle

While the measure was intended to improve security, the new rules create several hurdles.

  • 22 percent of seniors do not have a cell phone or easy access to a cell phone
  • Many seniors avoid texting because the small buttons are difficult to manage
  • The cost of cell phone service is a burden for people on a fixed income
  • Seniors must maintain cell phone service indefinitely, because they receive a new code every time they access their benefits

Previously, low income seniors could access their “mySocialSecurity” portal through public computers at libraries and senior centers, but that access is now limited.

Free Alternatives

Those receiving Social Security in Chicago may apply for relief through the federal Lifeline program. Lifeline phones are funded by the federal government, offered to people who qualify for assistance, and provide up to 250 minutes and free text messaging.

In Illinois, seniors may qualify for a phone as long as their income is less than 135 percent of the federal poverty line. For single member households, this means an income of approximately $16,000 and $22,000 for two person households. Seniors on Social Security in Chicago may also qualify if they receive federal benefits such as Food Stamps, Housing Assistance, or Energy Assistance, or certain state assistance programs.

Application

Seniors can file the necessary paperwork either online or through the mail. The details of the applications vary by provider, and not all service providers are available in every zip code. In order to complete the application, seniors must have copies of the required documents, including:

  • Photo identification
  • Proof of receipt of benefits from a qualifying assistance program
  • Income documentation

For the online application, applicants can attach digital copies, either scanned into a computer or a picture taken with a digital camera. For a mailed application, seniors may include photocopies of the documents.

As the Social Security Administration continues to move towards paperless operations, more and more information will become available only online. People receiving Social Security in Chicago can take advantage of all of the programs for which they qualify in order to meet the requirements to access “mySocialSecurity.”