Social Security statements to go online

Updated with minor changes for clarity.

The Social Security Administration is ramping up its authentication procedures to allow contributors to access their Social Security statements online instead of waiting for a once-yearly letter or contacting a field office, an agency official said.

Once the statements are up, the agency intends to make more Social Security information available online, but there are no specific service plans at this point, said Alan Lane, the agency's associate chief information officer for open government.

There is not yet a firm deadline for the statements going online, he said.

When the entire project is complete, people will be able to use a single username and password to access all Social Security's online services. The agency has contracted with an outside vendor to help verify that the people requesting usernames and passwords are who they say they are, Lane said.

SSA has been especially cautious about making its information available online because Social Security numbers are highly valuable to identity thieves, Alan Balutis, chairman of the agency's Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel, said at a May 24 meeting.

As the rest of the government moves information online and citizens begin to expect online services from government, though, SSA is under pressure to find a safe way of following suit.

Citizens who want more security than a simple username and password combination when they access their Social Security statements will be able to opt for a double authentication process, Lane said. That will involve entering a newly generated personal identification number that's been texted to a preregistered cellphone, he said.

If the agency adds more sensitive services, it may require a double authentication with every log in, he said.

SSA is in the middle of a major technical overhaul to manage the onslaught of retiring baby boomers in the coming years.

The agency also has launched a series of Web initiatives to better communicate with increasingly tech-savvy retirees, including online videos featuring retirement age luminaries such as Patty Duke and Star Trek's George Takei.