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Finding Answers to Social Security Questions

I’ve recently received emails from several people telling me that, after reading Social Security Made Simple, they’re now looking for more information on the topic in order to answer questions about various complicating factors affecting their personal situations.

As I mentioned at the end of the book, there are several other good books about Social Security. The top four that I would recommend would be:

Alternatively, it often makes sense to go directly to the Social Security Administration.

Searching the SSA’s Website

If you’re looking for the answer to a simple question, the fastest route to success is often to use Google to directly search the SSA’s website.

As we’ve discussed previously, you can limit the results of a Google query to one specific website by adding “site:_______” to your search. For example, if you wanted to search SSA.gov for information about how Social Security interacts with a government pension, you could try the following Google search:

site:ssa.gov government pension

More Authoritative/Thorough Sources

If you’re looking for a more authoritative or thorough source than the FAQ-style articles on the SSA website, you may want to use one of the following three references.

Part 404 of the Code of Federal Regulations contains the actual law that makes up the Social Security system. Overwhelmingly, this is what I used as the source material for Social Security Made Simple. It’s not exactly meant to be reader-friendly, but it’s not terrible either. For example, I personally find it easier to understand than the Internal Revenue Code.

The Program Operations Manual System (POMS) is described by the SSA as “a primary source of information used by Social Security employees to process claims for Social Security benefits.” In other words, it’s their internal manual. Frankly, it’s hard as heck to understand, due to the amount of jargon it uses (though this glossary of acronyms will help a bit). But it covers certain things not covered in the Code.

The Social Security Handbook is to Social Security what IRS Publications are to tax topics. That is, it’s the SSA’s attempt at providing a thorough yet understandable explanation of the Social Security program. Please note, however, that the Social Security Handbook (again, like IRS Publications) is what I would describe as a credible though not authoritative source. In other words, there’s no reason to distrust anything in the Handbook, but if something in the Handbook contradicts something found in the actual Code (e.g, because the Handbook offered a simplified explanation), the Code wins.

Want to Learn More about Social Security? Pick Up a Copy of My Book:

Social Security Made Simple: Social Security Retirement Benefits and Related Planning Topics Explained in 100 Pages or Less
Topics Covered in the Book:
  • How retirement benefits, spousal benefits, and widow(er) benefits are calculated,
  • How to decide the best age to claim your benefit,
  • How Social Security benefits are taxed and how that affects tax planning,
  • Click here to see the full list.

A Testimonial from a Reader on Amazon:

"An excellent review of various facts and decision-making components associated with the Social Security benefits. The book provides a lot of very useful information within small space."
If you want to discuss this article, I recommend starting a conversation over at the Bogleheads investing forum.
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