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A TGB EXTRA: Good News About Social Security...

...and you helped make it happen.

Remember two weeks ago when I told you about a new requirement at the Social Security website? Here it is as explained in an email from that federal agency [emphasis is mine]:

When you sign in at with your username and password, we will ask you to add your text-enabled cell phone number."

Because only 27 percent of people 65 and older own cell phones, this was idiotic; it locked millions of people out of their own information. I gave you a couple of email addresses where you could send your objections, including the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Now look at what has happened.

Yesterday, a press release arrived from that Committee. Let me quote some of it to you – again, the emphasis is mine:

”Following efforts from U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Claire McCaskill, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Aging Committee, seniors will once again be able to access their Social Security accounts online without needing to have a cell phone.

“Senators Collins and McCaskill sent a letter to the Social Security Administration (SSA) last week urging immediate action to roll back a new policy that required text message authentication for seniors to access their “my Social Security” account online.

“While noting the need for enhanced security, Senators Collins and McCaskill were concerned that using text message authentication as the only means of guaranteeing an individual’s access to their account put an undue burden on seniors, many of whom do not own a cell phone.

“Following the letter from Collins and McCaskill, as well as feedback from customers around the country, the SSA announced it is rolling back the policy that would have limited access for some users."

Just two weeks from implementation of a bureaucratic folly to resolution. When was the last time, I wonder, the federal government worked this quickly.

You can read the letter Senators McCaskill and Collins sent to the the acting director of Social Security here [pdf]. And here is the pertinent blog post at the Social Security website.

If you are one of the people who wrote letters, take a bow. Sometimes, now and then, occasionally and once in awhile speaking up works.

It matters not that this was an easy one for the Committee. Far less goes undone in Washington for years at a time. Hurray for us.


As a long time cell phone user, I am surprised so few seniors have one. Apparently so were folks at the SSA.

Good work, Ronni, for bringing this to our attention. It is all about communication, and in this case, righting a careless, not-thought-out-well wrong.

Senator McCaskill is my senator. She fights for people.

This is fabulous news. I have a cell phone, but still found this idiotic and aggravating. Congratulations to the folks who brought about the rollback - definitely including you, Ronni!

It was you, Ronni, who got us going.
Thank you for that. I love this blog!

Puzzling. Your post says that only 27% of elders over 65 own a cell phone... while the Collins/McCaskill says almost a quarter (25%) do not own a cell phone. Gotta be one or the other.

I don't know where Collins and McCaskill get their number, but mine are from Pew Research that has been tracking this kind of ownership by age for years. My figure is from 2015, so it may a bit more now but I doubt it is up by 200 percent in a year.

I did a quick google search, and I think the lower number is for smart phones, the higher one for cell phones (smart and otherwise)

Sen. Collins is my state senator and on a local level she also has added seniors with particular concerns to them. I appreciate this latest change. I've had a phone back to when there were bag phones in the '80s...I kept up and have a smart phone now. This is an important issue for communication for many, but I see it as a crumb along the path of S.S....

Thank you. We don't have a cell phone. We had one for several years and dumped it... one of our better moves!

Kudos to Senators McCaskill and Collins. If only we could get such concern and action from all of our elected representatives.

Hooray for us--and thanks to Ronni for bringing the attention to this issue that it so richly deserved. It may be somewhat surprising to find that public pushback still commands the attention of our elected officials and a large government agency. Thanks to Sens. McCaskill and Collins and the SSA for rolling back this user-UNfriendly "security enhancement" .

Although my husband I both have smartphones, I was beyond irritated when I tried to get into "my" SS account the week before last only to be informed--with NO notice!--that I was summarily locked out. I hadn't quite decided how to protest this youth-centric and uninformed action when I read Ronni's post a few days later, at which point I fired off a bunch of emails. Apparently, a lot of us did, and at least for now, we've won.

So it appears that the 12-year-olds who run the tech division of the SSA finally admitted that they don't know everything.

I too am surprised only 27 percent of seniors have cellphones. How many are online? Anyway, thank you for aiding and abetting a rare incidence of bureaucratic common sense.

I also did a quick search online and the Pew info I found says that as of June 2012 almost 70% of seniors have a cellphone. The 27% figure is for smartphones.

This is much closer to what I observe in friends and family.

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