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Get your Social Security statement -- now

(MoneyWatch) A few days ago I wrote about how Social Security is affected during the government shutdown. Some people making calls to their Social Security office may find their calls go unanswered. Others asking for certain services, such as replacement Social Security cards and Medicaid Cards, may find their requests denied.

I recommended that people log on to the my Social Security web site and download a copy of their Social Security Statement. I recommended doing so as a precaution just in case the shutdown has an unanticipated impact on Social Security records.

Good Bye Paper Statements

As most people should know by now, the paper Social Security Statements that were being mailed out to workers three months before their birthday are a thing of the past. The Social Security Administration stopped mailing these paper annual benefit statements to workers over a year ago which saves the government about $70 million in annual printing and mailing costs. Many folks and advisors I have spoken to about this haven't noticed that they are no longer receive their Social Security Statement.

What you need to know is that now the only way to access, download and print your Social Security Statement is to set up an account at my Social Security online. When you do this, you'll need to supply information that is on the Social Security System (name, date of birth, Social Security Number and address) and information that is in the credit bureau files ( for example; town where you resided in the past, year of recently registered vehicle, etc).

Your Social Security Statement Online

Your online Social Security Statement will look like the paper version you had been receiving in the past, The Statement includes estimated benefits for retirement, disability and survivors at various ages. It also includes your earnings record and the total Social Security and Medicare taxes you and your employers have paid over your working career.

Give this section more than a glance because sometimes earnings from certain employers or entire years of earnings are missing because they were not reported to Social Security. That could have an adverse impact on the amount of benefits you are entitled to receive. By some research reports, there is a three percent error rate for earnings information on these statements. Search the FAQs on the Social Security web site for Correcting Errors on My Earnings Record for the steps to take to report earnings missing on your Social Security records.

When you set up your Social Security online account, you can also do these things online:

Get your benefit verification letter;

Check your benefit and payment information and your earnings record;

Change your address and phone number; and

Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment.

As I said, I think it a good idea for people to log on now and download a current copy of the Social Security Statement. I also suggest that they do this each year and before the next meeting with their financial advisor.

If you can't get online for some reason, you're supposed to be able to visit your local Social Security office for help. But getting help for this at a local Social Security office during the government shutdown is likely to be a frustrating if not impossible task.

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