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Changes coming to Social Security cards

Industry News | Aug 06, 2015

For years, Social Security cards have contained the same information: your name, your unique Social Security number and your signature.

Social Security cards will soon look different, according to United HealthCare. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will begin removing Social Security numbers from newly issued cards in the near future. United HealthCare reported the change will not occur immediately. Instead, the agency will need four years to issue updated cards to new beneficiaries, and then another four years to distribute modernized cards to existing beneficiaries.

According to The New York Times, Congress will provide $320 million over four years to pay for the changes.

What you can expect
You'll likely have to wait a few years to see your new, numberless Social Security card. Once it arrives, you will immediately benefit from the changes. You'll no longer have to worry about your Social Security number being stolen. This may drastically reduce the chances of finding yourself as an identity theft victim.

"Social Security numbers are about to be removed from personal cards."

Part of the push revolves around the vulnerabilities some seniors may face. Senior citizens are recommended by Medicare to carry their Social Security cards on them at all times. However, issues may arise if purses or wallets are stolen.

"[...] Medicare needs to recognize the terrible impact on anybody whose identity is stolen. It destroys your self-esteem, and it can take years to re-establish your identity and credit," Ann Rossie, a senior from Seattle, told The New York Times.

Legislative hurdle
Calls to change Social Security cards have been going on since 2004. However, the process to remove numbers has lagged for quite some time. The issue was further delayed as technology specialists focused their attention on broken aspects of Healthcare.gov after it launched.

President Barack Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 in April. Within the context of the law was the decision to issue new Social Security cards without the numbers. According to the Office of The Inspector General of the Social Security Administration, federal agencies have recommended taking the numbers off cards for over 10 years.

"The Social Security number is the key to identity theft, and thieves are having a field day with seniors' Medicare cards," said Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Tex., in an interview with The New York Times.

Until the new cards arrive, seniors are advised to never hand out Social Security cards unless it's for a legitimate reason.