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Social Security for Employees

Online service lets employer verify enrollment names and numbers

En español | Q. I run a small business and want to confirm that my employees are properly enrolled in Social Security. How can I do this?

A. You can use the online Social Security Number Verification Service to check that your employees' names and Social Security numbers are correctly listed in Social Security's records. Accuracy is very important because without it workers won't get credit for their earnings. Those earnings will help determine their eligibility for future benefits.

The verification system is provided by the Social Security Administration's Business Services Online. The system can quickly provide verification results for up to 10 names and numbers at a time, Social Security says. For larger groups of names and numbers, you can usually get a response by the next business day.

In cases where the computer finds that a name and number do not match, the agency suggests that you recheck the name and number in an effort to produce a match. But SSA warns against jumping to any conclusions. It says: "A mismatch is not a basis, in and of itself, for you to take any adverse action against an employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing or discriminating."

SSA suggests that you document your efforts to establish the correct number. That will show that you've complied with federal laws that require employers to take steps to ascertain that their employees are American citizens or foreigners who have permission to work.

As you might imagine, the full operational details of the verification program are pretty complicated. Indeed, they fill a 34-page booklet. For full information, go to this Social Security handbook.

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for The Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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