I have in-depth knowledge of Social Security and Medicare because I worked very closely with SSA and other social services.
The Biographical Data on Your Social Security Information
When you were born in the United States, your parents applied for a Social Security card for you. Maybe you were born outside of the US, but your parent or parents are US citizens and still applied for a Social Security number for you. Or, you are not a US citizen but entered the US legally and are allowed to work in the US, and you or your parents applied for a Social Security number for you or yourself.
However you received your Social Security number, sometimes mistakes happen and your biographical data or "biodata" (your name, date of birth, place of birth, or mother's and father's name) is incorrect.
How did this happen?
- Perhaps you or your parents (depending on who applied for a Social Security card) have poor penmanship, and the information on the application for a Social Security card was illegible.
- Maybe the hospital that filled out the application for you mistyped the information on their computer.
- Even the Social Security Administration (SSA) can sometimes create a typo after the application was received.
No matter how it happened, it can be fixed by the SSA.
How Would I Know My Info is Wrong?
There is no easy way to tell if your biographical data is wrong, but here are the most common situations that may indicate it is wrong.
- You have been filing your taxes by paper or with an accountant for 10 years and you decided to do your taxes yourself this year online. The online tax forms keep getting returned to you and will not be accepted by the IRS. When you file taxes by paper, the tax forms' biodata interfacing with SSA are not so rigid, but when the electronic tax forms are interfacing with SSA's records, they must match. Usually, the reason for the mismatch is that your name or date of birth (DOB) is incorrect with SSA.
- You are applying for financial aid at your college but you keep getting denied. Usually, this means your name, DOB, or citizenship status are incorrect with SSA.
- You are applying for a loan or credit card but you always get turned down even though you legally live in the US and have been in the US for 10 years. Usually, this means you never updated your "Work Authorized Only" Social Security number to either Permanent Resident or US citizen status, both of which have more privileges than a "Work Authorized Only" card.
- You apply for a Social Security card replacement in the SSA office and they have your name, date of birth, gender, place of birth, or your mother and father's name wrong.
- You have gone through a gender change or sex change and you never updated your new gender or sex with SSA.
- You changed your name through the courthouse or have been married for 5 years or have been divorced for 7 years but never told SSA.
- You were adopted during your childhood but your name and parents' name was never informed to SSA.
- You or your parents amended your birth certificate but never told SSA to update your new biodata.
- You have been going by a nickname or shortened name for the last 25 years that even appears on your Social Security card, but it is not your legal name, and your employer can not hire you because of the name mismatch.
- You applied for a job but got an E-Verify letter stating you need to go to the SSA office to confirm or update your legal status in the US. Usually, this means you told your employer you are a US citizen but when they verified your information with SSA, it came back as a non-citizen.
- You tried to create an online mySSA account but the website keeps rejecting you. Usually, this means your name or date of birth is incorrect.
These are the most common reasons for mismatching info with SSA. Usually, you don't find out until you are trying to apply for a program like loans or filing taxes for many years unbeknownst to you.
There is no time limit to fix your biodata. You can correct it with SSA even if you never changed your name with SSA after 40 years of marriage. But SSA won't correct your information without proof. If you have the acceptable documents and evidence, SSA will correct your information. As always, the proofs must be original or certified copies. Remember, correcting your biodata directly with SSA is free. If someone is charging a fee to correct your information, you are not dealing with SSA and most likely it is a third party that is scamming you.
How do I Fix my Biodata?
For the most part, an original or certified copy of your birth certificate will suffice. Your birth certificate can allow SSA to correct your name (though it won't validate a name change from a marriage or divorce), date of birth, place of birth, gender, or parents' name.
A few examples of this type of correction are a name correction of a nickname or shortened name of Mike Smith to Michael Smith, a correction of a wrong month, day, or year in your date of birth, or an unknown father to a named father. These corrections are easy to make with an original or certified copy of your birth certificate.
It's best to deal with SSA in person. You can (but I suggest not to) mail your ID and birth certificate to the nearest SSA office. If you do this you must mail the original, not a photocopy. Yes, that means you have to mail your passport or driver's license with your original birth certificate to the office. If you don't want to do that, then go to the office yourself and wait to speak to a representative in person.
What if I Don't Have my Birth Certificate Available?
If you don't have a birth certificate and you were born in the US, you would have to contact the Vital Records or Vital Stats of the State of where you were born. You can find the Vital Records office of any state by doing a quick online search. Make sure you are at your State governments website. The Vital Records website of your state should end with an extension of .gov. Once you find out the Vital Records office, you can request a copy of your birth certificate via mail, phone, or online.
SSA will not correct any information without proper proof or evidence. Do not go to the SSA office without your birth certificate if you are trying to correct your biodata. Depending on what needs to be corrected, SSA can accept other documents to correct your biodata but the birth certificate is definitely the most acceptable proof. If you provide any other proof besides the birth certificate, SSA will look into seeing if it is acceptable but it may delay the correction by weeks or months and sometimes, it may not be acceptable at all since it cannot be verified. If you have any doubts about your proof or evidence, just try your best to obtain your birth certificate.
Note: Here is where you can find State Vital Records. Remember if it doesn't end with a .gov, then it is not worth it.
What Other Documents Can I Use?
Depending on the situation, there are other types of proof that SSA will accept to change or update your biodata. Let's run through what would be the easiest and best way to correct your information.
Name Change Scenario
If you went to the courthouse and legally changed your name, e.g. from Ken I Cruz to Captain Cool Guy, you would have received a stamped or certified copy of the name change document.
- Bring that document along with your ID, whether it is the old name or new name, to SSA.
- The ID must not be a temporary or paper ID. If that's all you have, wait until you get the permanent plastic ID or US passport. Same deal with a marriage certificate or divorce decree. SSA would need the original or certified copy of either one plus your permanent ID or passport whether it is the old name or new name.
- It doesn't matter how far back you got married or divorced; if you never used them to change or update your name, SSA will accept them as evidence as long as they are original or certified copy but they can not use them more than once.
If you changed your birth certificate information by amending it, bring in the amended birth certificate. A common reason for an amended birth certificate is when the parents chose the mother's last name for the child but then amended the birth certificate to reflect the change of the child's last name matching its father. Or sometimes the father is not listed on SSA record at all but the birth certificate shows a named father. Bring in the amended birth certificate, original or certified, to the SSA office.
Legal Alien or US citizenship Update
You were issued a "Non-Work Authorized" Social Security number (somewhat rare scenario), and you received notification by Immigration and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that you can stay in the US and are allowed to work.
- Bring in your I-94, Employment Authorization Card, Immigration Order from Judge or whatever you received from DHS that allows you to work in the US to SSA. If you received a letter from DHS that states Notice or Notification of Action (it is a green typed secured letter), SSA can not use it to update your information.
- Make sure everything you provided is the original I-94, Employment Authorization Card, etc. This update would give you an SSN card that states "Valid for Work Only with DHS Authorization".
You still have a Social Security card that states "Valid for Work Only with DHS Authorization" but became a Permanent Resident Alien, which would mean you have a Permanent Resident card (a "Green Card"). Show your green card to SSA to update your information. After updating your resident status, your SSN card would look like a "normal" one which is just your name and your SSN with no writing above your name.
You became a US citizen but never updated your citizenship with SSA. Show your Certificate of Naturalization, Certificate of Citizenship, or your non-expired US passport to SSA.
Note: If you were not born in the US and need to correct or update your name and DOB, these previously mentioned DHS documents can be used to correct or update them as well. Some foreign birth certificates are acceptable but not all due to issues with certain countries known for fraudulent documents. If in doubt, bring these DHS documents instead of your foreign birth certificate.
Gender Change or Correction
For a gender change, SSA will need to see any one of the following
- Full-validity, 10-year U.S. passport showing the new gender;
- State-issued amended birth certificate showing the new gender;
- Court order directing legal recognition of change of gender; or
- Medical certification of appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition in the form of an original letter from a licensed physician.
The document must have enough biographical data (e.g., name and date of birth) to clearly identify you. As always, all documents provided must be original or certified copy.
If gender is an error and needs to be corrected, an original or certified copy of the birth certificate would be acceptable.
Place of Birth Correction
Sometimes your place of birth is incorrect. The city, state, or country is incorrect.
- If this happens, turn in an original or certified birth certificate.
- If you were born outside of the US, then a foreign birth certificate or foreign passport are acceptable.
Most Important Info With SSA
The most important information that is used by SSA and other agencies is ranked as follows, 1 being the most important to correct:
- Name and Date of Birth: This needs to be corrected if it is incorrect with SSA. Name and DOB are often used by many companies and agencies such as banks, colleges, IRS and Social Welfare for identification verification. You must ensure that SSA has your name and DOB correct or you will always encounter problems with these types of places.
- Citizenship or Legal Alien Status: This needs to be corrected if you never informed SSA about your new citizenship or legal alien status. You will encounter problems with credit companies and banks if you apply for a loan. You will encounter problems with colleges if you apply for financial aid. You will encounter problems if you apply for a job and your employer cannot verify your citizenship or resident alien status. When these problems occur, you will most likely get denied for loans, benefits, and even the employment if your citizenship or alien status was never updated with SSA.
- Gender: This does not need to be corrected and is more of a personal preference. Sometimes incorrect gender does affect background checks when applying for certain kinds of benefits such as social welfare agencies.
- Place of Birth: This does not need to be corrected and is more of a personal preference. Incorrect place of birth would not affect you in applying for benefits. Sometimes the place of birth is used as an identifying question to verify a person's identity, so an incorrect place of birth can throw off the interview.
- Parents' Name: This does not need to be corrected and is more of a personal preference. Incorrect place of birth would not affect you in applying for benefits. But sometimes a parents' name is used as an identifying question to verify a person's identity in an interview, so an incorrect parents' name could throw off the interview.
If you find out that SSA has misinformation on you, especially your name and date of birth, and it needs to be corrected, go to the nearest SSA office and provide an original or certified copy of your birth certificate and you State Issued ID or Driver's License (US passport can be used in place of ID or driver's license).
Sometimes, depending on what needs to be corrected, SSA would need other documents. Proof of citizenship can be shown in the form of a US passport or Certificate of Naturalization. Amended birth certificates can correct gender and parents' name. A permanent resident card can update your resident alien status.
As always, if your information with SSA needs to be updated, go visit the office and provide an original or certified copy of your evidence and your non-expired ID. Normally, correcting this information can be handled within a couple of days. Sometimes SSA would need a few weeks to a couple of months depending on the complications of the case. No matter what your reason is to correct the misinformation, SSA can fix it.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: I don't have or ever used my birth certificate. Can I request a name change without one?
Answer: No, they want legal paper trail. Birth certificates, amended birth certificates and court ordered name change documents are pretty much it. Marriage certificates and divorce decrees are also ways to chanfe or correct your name.
Question: I had been receiving Medicare benefits for over 25 years and only now have been informed there is a discrepancy with my date of birth at Social Security? How can I resolve this?
Answer: Don't do anything. SSA will not change it because it will cause hardship for you since it would go back 25 years of medical coverage and expenses. Best advice is for any medical attention, provide the incorrect DOB that medicare has for you. This is the only way Medicare will cover you.
Question: What kind of documentation do I need to prove my identity to the SSA if I am from another country?
Answer: Show your documents to the SSA, but it will be up to them to accept it or not. If they can't accept them, they will let you know.
Question: If I was born in Wichita, KS why would I have an Oregon social security number? Is it possible for that to happen?
Answer: It use to be that you could tell where you are from and where you got your SSN card based on the first 3 numbers of your SSN but in the past decade, SSN are so randomized where the first 3 numbers no longer matters and it does not give a clue where it was issued. I wouldn't worry about having an "Oregon" SSN even though you were born in Kansas.
Question: what if a person is on benefits and medicare and ss has the wrong age , will that person be required to pay back money?
Answer: Usually, if you have been receiving benefits or Medicare for a long time like a few years, SSA will not change your DOB because it can do detrimental damage to your SSA record. SSA does not want that to happen so they tell you to use the incorrect DOB for records keeping only to avoid the beneficiary owing lots of money.
Question: I have recently found out that my name was not legally changed when my mom remarried when I was 2, 1964, and was just given my step dad's last name. Now I cannot get my driver's license. What should I do?
Answer: Most likely you will have to go to your local courthouse and officially change your name through them. Then go to your local SSA office with your unexpired ID, whether it's the wrong name or not, and the name change document from the courthouse and SSA should be able to fix your SSN card. No photocopies will be accepted.
Question: I just recently received a replacement social security card but I'm not sure if my number is correct. Would the ssa office even send out incorrect social security numbers?
Answer: No, it is automated base on the biodata you provided like name, date of birth, place of birth, etc
Question: I was born in Vietnam and came here as a child. My sister somehow provided wrong information to the authority and had my birthdate month and year wrong. Will SSA allow me to change it back if I have the original document presented?
Answer: Most likely no. It doesn't hurt to try though. SSA has strict policies of accepting documents from other countries because of the high rate of forgeries. I think Vietnam is one of those countries where SSA will not accept a birth certificate or birth document for that reason. If your date of birth is correct on your naturalization certificate or US passport, they can update your date of birth with those documents.
Question: My grandmothers birth certificate has one year of birth but the social security office has another year of birth for her. How do i get her year of birth changed?
Answer: Have her bring in her original birth certificate to the local SSA office. Usually that's all they need to fix it. Sometimes it can't be changed if the applicant is already on benefits or Medicare but the office will look into it and explain to her why it can or can't be changed but definitely have her bring her ID and birth certificate.
Question: I was born in Cuba to an American father. I moved to US when I was a child. I was given a social security card but my last name was misplaced. For the first time in 43 years, I am now being questioned about it. Now I am being denied employment because of this after being hired. Is this legal?
Answer: Yes, because your documents don't match but go to your local SSA office and they will tell you how it can all be corrected. It is pretty simple and they will work with you but you will need to provide proper documents. They will let you know what documents you need.
© 2017 Ken
Ken (author) from Seattle, WA on January 15, 2019:
It's best to go to your nearest SSA local office to update your name. Show your documents and they will change your name right away and they will make copies if necessary so you don't have to send anything and have to qorry about losing your documents. Go to ssa.gov to locate your nearest office.
Ken (author) from Seattle, WA on April 15, 2018:
@john If you need to change your DOB but you were born outside the US, you can show your certificate of Naturalization. Most offices can change your DOB with the cert of Nat as long as it is the Original. If all you have is a US passport, it will be much more difficult and sometimes the office won't be able to change you DOB with just the Passport. Bring both if you have them, but definitely bring the cert of Naturalization. It will make it easier and usually quicker to correct you DOB with it.
john on April 08, 2018:
My DOB does not match on my SocialSecurity and my citizenship. My SS has the correct birthday, but my citizenship has something totally different. I am a naturalized citizen, and they do not keep or have birth certificates in the country where I was born.
How would i go about fixing my DOB on my citizenship records in this situation ?