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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release November 16, 1998

Announces New 800 Telephone Service, Expanded Personal Earnings Statement

Washington, DC -- Vice President Gore announced today that the Social Security Administration will take important steps to improve customer service for current and future Social Security recipients.

Specifically, the Vice President said, SSA will (1) begin to enable Americans to call an 800 phone number to file for retirement and survivors benefits and (2) give Americans 25 and older a personal earning statement to monitor their future benefits.

"As we work to save Social Security for tomorrow, we are also improving it for today," Vice President Gore said. "Of the 800 service," Gore said, "We are making filing Social Security claims as easy as picking up the phone -- ensuring that our retirement system works better for tens of millions of Americans."

Before today, SSA told individuals who sought to file for benefits to schedule an appointment at a local field office, a process that could take several weeks. Starting today, SSA will conduct tests in three 800-number facilities to offer a new claims-taking service for callers who want to file immediately for retirement or survivor's.

SSA will conduct two separate tests in three cities to help determine the best way to implement the initiative nationally.

One group of pilots will involve people who live within selected area codes in the Dallas, Atlanta, and Chicago regions and who call SSA's 800 number because they are ready to file for retirement or survivor's benefits. These individuals will have their claims taken by a unit in one of three 800-number facilities -- Birmingham, Chicago, or Albuquerque.

In the other group of pilots, calls originating from selected area codes will be immediately transferred from the three pilot 800-number facilities to claims-taking personnel in selected Social Security field offices.

SSA expects to have the 800 number fully implemented nationally no later than September 2000.

In addition, the Vice President announced that, starting in October 1999, SSA will mail a Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (PEBES) to all eligible beneficiaries age 25 or older. These statements -- mandated by legislation that Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., sponsored and helped push through Congress -- give individuals a record of their yearly contributions to Social Security and an estimate of what they will get when they retire at 62 or 65. Since 1995, Americans age 60 and older have been receiving the statements. Just last month, SSA reached a milestone as it mailed its 50 millionth PEBES.