09-19-2019 Letters and Commentary

Your earnings record is both your financial history and your financial future

Social Security is an earned benefit. Your earnings history is a record of your progress toward your benefits. Social Security keeps track of your earnings so we can pay you the benefits you’ve earned over your lifetime. This is why reviewing your Social Security earnings record is so important. If an employer didn’t properly report just one year of your work earnings to us, your future benefit payments from Social Security could be less than they should be. Over the course of a lifetime, that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in retirement or other benefits to which you are entitled. Sooner is definitely better when it comes to identifying and reporting problems with your earnings record. As time passes, you may no longer have easy access to past tax documents, and some employers may no longer exist or be able to provide past payroll information. While it’s the responsibility of your employers, both past and present, to provide accurate earnings information to Social Security so you get credit for the contributions you’ve made through payroll taxes, you should still inform us of any errors or omissions you find. You’re the only person who can look at your lifetime earnings record and verify that it’s complete and correct. The easiest and most efficient way to validate your earnings record is to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to set up or sign in to your own “my Social Security” account. You should carefully review each year of listed earnings and use your own records, such as W-2s and tax returns, to confirm them. Keep in mind that earnings from this year and last year may not be listed yet. Notify us right away if you spot errors by calling 1-800-772-1213. You can find more detailed instructions on how to correct your Social Security earnings record at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10081.pdf. Remember, you can access important information like this any time at www.socialsecurity.gov and do much of your business with us online. Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

134,300 IMMIGRANTS ARE WELCOMED AS NEW CITIZENS… I marvel at the problem we Americans have with handling the “immigration crisis.” My own take is we don’t have a problem with immigrants; after all, all of us have ancestors that were immigrants. Thank goodness they chose to come to America. Mostly uninvited, unwanted, poor, they came, anyway. Once here, they went to work, raised a family, helped pay the boat fare for more family, sent the kids to school, paid taxes, built a home, started a business. Sound familiar? That was my family’s story as it was yours. And while we are focused on the “immigration problem”, there is also an immigration solution… Tuesday of this week the Honorable Mark A. Goldsmith, District Judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan administered America’s soon-to-be citizens during a special naturalization ceremony at Wayne State University. This ceremony is one of over 316 ceremonies that welcomed more than 34,300 new citizens at Constitution Day and Citizenship Day ceremonies across the nation between Sept. 13 and 23. The 25 citizenship candidates originate from the following 10 countries: Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, India, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mexico, Philippines and Romania. One of my favorite pictures of my dad was taken just before leaving for the United States. He’s dressed as a sailor standing at the helm of the ship, straight faced, all business. I wish I had seen that photo when I could ask him, the 16-year-old sailor, “What was it like coming to America? Were you nervous? Scared?” There is another photo of six people: dad and his brother and sisters, plus two other girls, possible shipboard friends, Romances? Dad and his brother are strumming ukuleles. I know the picture postcards were made to send to the folks back home–what a treasure they are today! What I do know is that there was a mean-spirited ship steward who gave dad a near lethal dose of “medicine” to help his seasickness. The frothing potion was straight dry ice bubbling in water. Dad’s sister told me he was sick for most of the journey. They all had their first oranges on board ship. “They were wonderful,” Aunt Annie told me. Dad, Annie, Elsie and Alfred came to America alone. Grandpa Bayer was already here for a couple of years, working to set up a home for them and to pay for their passage (which they paid him back by getting them jobs as soon as they got off the ship). What’s the difference between those immigrants being arrested while fleeing danger and oppression in their homeland just south of the U.S. this week and the thousands swearing allegiance to the United States this week in ceremonies in celebration? By definition, those massed at our southern border have overwhelmed the system in place to welcome and process them to enter the United States. Until then, they’re all viewed as illegal aliens. Those thousands taking the oath of citizenship this week have earned it by going thru the legal process to attain it. I think the biggest issue of all is the sheer number of people wanting to enter the United States, but can’t. They can’t because there is a hoard of people looking for sanctuary and, for a variety of reasons, they cannot go back home. It is up to us, the USA, to alleviate the immigration crisis on our southern borders by treating all as welcome immigrants, not as illegal aliens.