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U.S. Consumers Lose More Than $7 Billion to Online Threats, Consumer Reports Survey Finds

Yonkers, NY (PRWEB) August 6, 2007

The online threats associated with using the Internet remain high according to Consumer Reports’s latest “State of the Net” survey. Consumer Reports projects that U.S. consumers lost more than $ 7 billion over the last two years to viruses, spyware, and phishing schemes.

Additionally, the “State of the Net” survey shows that consumers face a 1 in 4 chance of succumbing to an online threat and becoming a cybervictim, a number that has slightly decreased since last year.

The number of consumers responding to e-mail phishing scams has remained constant at eight percent. Consumer Reports projects that one million U.S. consumers lost billions of dollars over the past two years to such scams.

Many underage youngsters are at risk on social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, the survey found. In households surveyed with minors online, 13 percent of the children registered on MySpace were younger than 14, the minimum age the site officially allows, and three percent were under 10. And those were just the ones the parents knew about.

Based on the survey, Consumer Reports projects that problems caused by viruses and spyware resulted in damages of at least $ 5 billion replacement over the past two years.

The 2007 “State of the Net” survey was conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center among a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 households with Internet access.

Consumers can visit http://www.ConsumerReports.org/security to access the full “State of the Net” report including free tips related to online protection, avoiding viruses, and reporting cybercrimes.

Among CR’s key 2007 “State of the Net” findings:

Based on survey projections, computer virus infections prompted an estimated 1.8 million households to replace their computers in the past two years and 850,000 households to replace computers due to spyware infections in the past six months. Additionally, 33 percent of survey respondents did not use software to block or remove spyware. And CR projects that 3.7 million US households with broadband remain unprotected by a firewall.

Spam: Consumer Reports’ survey respondents have reported a lower proportion of spam reaching their Inbox than in the past, which CR believes is a result of better spam-blocking. Survey results indicate that about 650,000 consumers ordered a product or service advertised through spam in the month before the survey. Additionally, in 5 percent of the households surveyed that had children under 18, a child had inadvertently seen pornographic material as a result of spam.

Viruses: Computer virus infections held steady since last year according to CR’s survey. CR notes that this is actually a mark of progress for consumers and software makers, because the threats have become more challenging. In the latest survey, 38 percent of respondents reported a computer virus-infection in the last two years. Seventeen percent of respondents didn’t have antivirus software installed.

Spyware: In the past six months, 34 percent of respondents’ computers were exposed to a spyware infection. CR’s survey also reveals that although spyware infections have dropped, the chances of getting one are still 1 in 3, and of suffering serious damage, 1 in 11.

Phishing: Eight percent of respondents submitted personal information in response to conventional phishing e-mails in the past two years, a number that has remained unchanged over the past two years. The median cost of a phishing incident is $ 200. Yet scammers’ tactics are improving – e-mail looks like it comes from a reputable business such as a bank and features better grammar, more believable stories, and more authentic-looking Web addresses.

Consumer Reports rates internet security suites

Consumer Reports tested nine internet security suites, four of which are Quick Picks that protect against viruses, spyware, and spam as effectively as the best stand-alone products.

Survey Shows Parents Need To Do more To Protect Their Children Online

(PRWEB) September 20, 2007

Parents are relying too heavily on their children doing as they are asked to keep them safe online according to new research from UK broadband comparison service BroadbandChoices.co.uk.

84 per cent of parents polled across the UK said that they rate verbal agreement with their children on safe Internet usage as their number one means of monitoring online activity. This comes in the wake of a worrying Government report that one in four children has put themselves in potential danger by secretly meeting strangers they have contacted online1.

Michael Phillips, product director of BroadbandChoices.co.uk, said: “It’s surprising that so many people rely heavily on their child doing what they ask – it just isn’t going to happen in most cases and the Government’s research proves this.

“However, there are a few simple steps parents can take to bolster protection for their child when online. Rather than relying on a single approach, they should use parental control and security software, combined with education, to stop inappropriate material – and people – reaching their child.”

Our research shows that the top four ways parents monitor their child’s online activity are:

1. A verbal agreement to use the Internet safely (84 per cent)

2. The use of parental control software such as McAfee and Norton (63 per cent)

3. Restricting the amount of time children spend online (62 per cent)

4. Manually checking the computer to see what they have been doing online (59 per cent)

This represents a three-fold increase on a similar study carried out two years ago.

Behind their parents’ backs

The poll also asked children aged 11-16 what they had actually been doing online during the school holidays. The top three activities were:

1. Downloading music and photos (48 per cent)

2. Joining in with chat rooms and making new friends online (45 per cent)

3. Using social networking sites such as MySpace, Bebo and Facebook (40 per cent)

“The wide availability of the Internet has made ‘stranger danger’ omnipresent. Parents need to be made more aware of the simple checks that they could put in place to safeguard their children who are increasingly using the Internet to build new relationships.

“As well as the possible safety threats posed by the Internet, your child’s online activities could land you a bigger bill at the end of the month. With 48 per cent of children regularly downloading from the Internet, usage allowances could easily be exceeded and parents could find themselves out of pocket at the end of the month if they aren’t able to monitor it,” concluded Phillips.

BroadbandChoices.co.uk’s top five tips for protecting your children online

1. Parental control software: Some ISPs like AOL and BT offer parental controls as part of their service, while other users can get them with their antivirus and security suites. Parental controls allow you to block certain sites and keywords, apply different settings for different age groups and monitor your child’s online activity. You can also use the Messenger Plus! program to keep a log of conversations they might be having using Instant Messenger.

2. Education: Completely banning older children from the Internet is unlikely to stop them from using chatrooms and social networking sites, so instead, explain why they need to be careful on the Internet and make sure they know never to give out personal information or meet strangers without an adult around.

3. All on one PC: Keeping the family computer in the living room is a great way of ensuring that your children stay safe online. They’re far less likely to spend time in chatrooms or downloading illegally if their parents are in the same room. Also, make sure that you’re set as the administrator on any PC in the home, so that only you can change the settings on your parental control software.

4. Antivirus and firewall software: Using security software to protect your PC will also protect your child from spam emails with inappropriate content, and phishing emails where they could give out personal information including bank details.

5. Monitor downloads: If you’re concerned about the affect your children’s downloading is having on your monthly usage allowance, use a Broadband Download Monitor such as ours to keep an eye on downloads and set alarms to alert you when you near your limit.

BroadbandChoices.co.uk’s download monitor can be accessed at http://www.broadbandchoices.co.uk/broadband-download-monitor.html

About BroadbandChoices.co.uk: http://www.broadbandchoices.co.uk

BroadbandChoices.co.uk is the second biggest broadband comparison service in the UK. Unlike other comparison sites, BroadbandChoices.co.uk doesn’t just focus on price but total package value. Consumers can now refer to this impartial Website to access the latest broadband advice and deals, to help them make the right choice.

What makes BroadbandChoices.co.uk different:

Most comprehensive range of consumer guides and advice
Emphasis on value rather than cost alone
Variety of ways to rank products according to individual priorities
Detailed product information
A community of like minded people where you can read reviews or share your thoughts
Up-to-date information regarding key industry developments
Access to bespoke interactive tools – [http://www.broadbandchoices.co.uk/speed-tester.html speed tester & broadband download monitor)

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The Hunger Site and GreaterGood Network Establish New Gifts That Give More to Directly Aid People of Eastern Burma with Medical Services and Supplies

Seattle, WA (PRWEB) November 29, 2007

The Hunger Site (http://www.thehungersite.com), one in a family of click-to-give Web sites known as the GreaterGood Network, recently established a partnership with 2007 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award winner, Dr. Cynthia Maung. Six new Gifts That Give More were created to benefit Dr. Maung’s clinic in Mae Sot, Thailand, and village medical clinics in Burma. One hundred percent of the contributions given through these gifts will go directly to fund medical training and supplies to benefit the needy in areas of Eastern Burma.

The unique Gifts That Gives More program allows 100% tax-deductible contributions to pass through directly to nonprofit causes. Inclusion in the program raises awareness and provides the supporters in this growing community that cares with an opportunity to fund specific services for people, animals and causes in need. With their full-color downloadable certificate of acknowledgement, Gifts That Give More make a meaningful holiday gift.

Dr. Cynthia Maung is the winner of the 2007 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award. The purpose of the award is to support democratic development and promote human rights throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Dr. Maung was selected for her tenacious and long-term commitment to the thousands of Burmese refugees and migrant workers who seek refuge from oppression and violence by the Burmese military junta that governs the country, and for her dedication to training and educating those refugees in order to build a community based on respect for life and human rights.

At her clinic, Dr. Maung provides not only medical care for her patients, but also job training, social services, health education, child protection services, and community-building activities. The Burmese Gifts that Give More provide six ways to fund these initiatives: Train Midwives ($ 50), Train a Backpack Medic ($ 100), Provide Essential Medical Supplies for a Village for a Day ($ 20), Treat Four Malaria Patients ($ 23), Provide Bednets ($ 30), and Provide a Clean Childbirth Kit ($ 24.50).

One hundred percent of funds collected from the Burmese Gifts That Give More is paid by GreaterGood.org to Planet Care/Global Health Access Program, a California based nonprofit organization working to improve the well-being of communities in crisis through the provision of health and public health services, capacity building, and resource enhancement. Since 1998, GHAP has supported Mae Tao Clinic and ethnic minority health organizations in Burma by providing health worker training, technical support for medical and public health programs, health information systems support, and medical supplies.

Tim Kunin, co-owner of CharityUSA comments, “The recent escalation of violence against Buddhist monks and Burmese citizens by the junta in Burma inspired us to look for ways to help reduce mortality in one of the most impoverished regions of the world. I visited Dr. Cynthia’s Clinic in 2003, and saw her amazing work firsthand. Then last month, we sent a staff member to Mae Sot. The results are these six new ways our visitors can help reduce infant and maternal mortality and give truly meaningful gifts this holiday season.”

The Hunger Site is a member of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, and has been selling products made by the Burmese refugee community in Mae Sot, Thailand since 2003, as a way to benefit families by providing income to refugee women.

About The Hunger Site (http://www.TheHungerSite.com) & GreaterGood Network

The Hunger Site is the original, flagship Web site in a growing family of cause-related sites operating as the GreaterGood Network. Other sites include The Breast Cancer Site, The Child Health Site, The Animal Rescue Site, The Rainforest Site, and The Literacy Site. Each site is focused on a specific need and allows supporters to benefit leading charities with simple, everyday online actions such as clicking to give and shopping to give more. In addition to 100% of sponsor advertising, a portion of every sale in the suite of GreaterGood Network stores goes to charity. At The Hunger Site, those funds help provide food for impoverished people in the U.S. and overseas through its charity partners, America’s Second Harvest and Mercy Corps. Since The Hunger Site launched in June 1999, hundreds of millions of people from around the world have clicked and shopped to make a difference. On average, over 220,000 individuals visit The Hunger Site each day.

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Travel Insured International Introduces New Travel Insurance Plans with Stronger Benefits, More Insurance Options

East Hartford, CT (PRWEB) April 29, 2008

Travel Insured International a leading provider of travel protection plans for travelers, has unveiled a new trio of travel insurance plans under the company’s popular Worldwide Trip Protector brand.

Worldwide Trip Protector, the signature brand of Travel Insured International now includes two plans redesigned with stronger benefits and more optional coverage choices than ever before. These include the company’s two popular comprehensive insurance plans, Worldwide Trip Protector and Worldwide Trip Protector Gold. A third plan, being launched for the first time, is Worldwide Trip Protector Lite and Lite Expanded, which is designed as basic yet flexible protection for families and budget conscious travelers.

New Upgrades and Options

Each of the three Worldwide Trip Protector plans offers a menu of included and optional features to help travelers select the right coverage to fit their travel insurance needs. Available benefits, depending on the plan selected, include Kids Are Free coverage, Cancel for Any Reason and Cancel for Work Reasons options (neither of these options is available in Texas, Washington State or Oregon), a new Sports Coverage option, ID Theft Recovery Assistance, Pet Care coverage, Missed Port of Call and School Year Extension protection.

Travelers can ask their travel agent to describe the plan that works best for their booking, or they can visit Travel Insured’s web site at http://www.travelinsured.com and ask questions using Live Chat. They can also speak to a friendly, knowledgeable Travel Insured customer care professional who can answer their questions at 1-800-243-3174.

All three Worldwide Trip Protector plans offer options to Cancel for Any Reason or Cancel for Work Reasons (neither option is available in Texas, Washington State or Oregon), as well as options for increased Emergency Medical Expense benefits including Medevac coverage, and Flight Accident Protection. Travelers on any of the plans may also opt for a Sports Coverage upgrade to protect prepaid sports activities, such as golf green fees and ski passes, and rented or owned sports equipment while on vacation.

Kids are Free and ID Theft Recovery

Worldwide Trip Protector, Travel Insured’s most popular comprehensive plan, is widely used by travelers booking land or cruise vacations in both the popular-priced and luxury markets. The updated Worldwide Trip Protector includes Kids Are Free coverage for children under 18 traveling with a related adult enrolled and traveling on the same policy.

Worldwide Trip Protector Gold offers the highest level of comprehensive travel insurance benefits for clients who seek enhanced coverage that protects the quality of their travel preferences. The Gold plan has higher Medical and Trip Delay limits and inclusive Car Rental Collision Damage Waiver. Both Worldwide Trip Protector and Trip Protector Gold feature an ID Theft Protection Service that works to resolve any compromised financial cards or documents for the insured client who is victimized by an ID theft event while traveling.

Worldwide Travel Concierge Services are an added benefit with Worldwide Trip Protector and Worldwide Trip Protector Gold. Along with several other destination support features, Concierge Services provide travelers with access to entertainment and sports event tickets, help with local directions, restaurant and hotel reservations, or locating translation services or guides.

New Lite and Lite Expanded Travel Insurance Plan

Worldwide Trip Protector Lite and Lite Expanded are two coverage levels available within one newly-created Travel Insured plan for budget-minded travelers. Customers start with broad Worldwide Trip Protector Lite basic coverage at our most affordable plan rates. They may upgrade to stronger inclusive benefits with Lite Expanded protection and select specific coverage options that match their trip type or individual travel protection needs. Kids are Free coverage is included for one child under 18 per related adult enrolled and traveling on the same Worldwide Trip Protector Lite or Lite Expanded policy

All Worldwide Trip Protector plans come with Travel Insured’s superior level of customer service and Worldwide Emergency Travel Assistance, which is available 24/7 by a free phone call from anywhere insured customers are traveling and in need of help.

About Travel Insured International

Travel Insured delivers comprehensive travel protection benefits ranging from trip cancellation and trip interruption to emergency assistance and Medevac insurance, travel accident and sickness medical expense, accidental death and dismemberment, missed connection and baggage delay or loss.

The company’s travel insurance plans include its comprehensive Worldwide Trip Protector, the most popular travel protection plan and Worldwide Trip Protector Gold, an enhanced travel insurance plan designed to protect luxury vacations and business trips. Travel Insured also offers two travel insurance plans designed to provide basic yet flexible protection for families and budget conscious travelers, its Worldwide Trip Protector Lite insurance plan and Worldwide Trip Protector Lite Expanded insurance plan. Finally they offer a Medical Protector insurance plan, an Airline Ticket Protector plan as well as a complete offering of Group Travel Insurance plans including Student Group insurance plans.

Visit Travel Insured’s web site at http://www.travelinsured.com or speak to a friendly, knowledgeable Travel Insured customer care professional at 1-800-243-3174.

Travel Insured International, based in East Hartford, Connecticut, was founded in 1993 by the foresight of insurance industry executive Peter Gehris when he acquired the travel protection division of the Travelers Insurance Company. Coverage is underwritten by Arch Insurance Company (a Missouri corporation, NAIC #11150) with executive offices located in New York, NY. Not all insurance products or coverage is available in all jurisdictions. Coverage is subject to actual policy language.

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National Survey Reveals Tail-End Boomers Avoid Participating in Parents’ Estate Planning: Survey by LegalZoom.com Finds that Younger Boomers Avoid their Parents’ Estate Planning, while Older Boomers are More Likely to Discuss and Participate in the Process

LOS ANGELES (PRWEB) May 6, 2008

Grant Funding Available “Feed More Kids”

Torrance, CA (PRWEB) February 10, 2009

The board of directors at Food Service Solutions, the industry leader in lunchroom POS technology, answered the demand of school districts nationwide to increase the “Feed More Kids” grant funding. This will open the door to even more schools across the country who dream of maximizing funding from their free and reduced lunch program running an automated point-of-purchase system.

Struggling School Districts are capitalizing on software that helps to improve their means of identifying poor students, while protecting their privacy. This is enabling districts to establish accurate accounting records in order to qualify for maximum state and federal public school funding and charter school funding.

Recent studies have shown that schools suffer from insufficient funding when they fail to qualify every student who is entitled to a free and reduced lunch at the school cafeteria. With this new system in place, administrators and parents can also keep track of balances and student eating habits.

Sometimes, with older accounting systems, the truth is plain as day and unintentionally segregates poor school children from the throng. Rather than pay with cash, students eligible for free and reduced lunch are issued vouchers or ID cards that, when presented at meal time, immediately identified their economic status. The embarrassment causes some students to do without food rather than be seen as less fortunate.

The older accounting system was not user-friendly either. School officials could not see personal account balances as each student went through the line as they can with the new biometric technology. Instead, to check balances, administrators would have to print out an entire list of lunch accounts at the end of the day.

Also, while the card-carrying system kept the background of each student confidential, it created other problems. On days when they did not intend to eat lunch, some students would loan their cards to friends. As a result, cards were often lost or stolen and replacing them created more work for already busy school officials.

The FSS biometric technology system that helps increase public school funding and charter school funding has succeeded, in part, because it makes laborious – and sometimes ineffective – administrative tasks so much easier. The new system also makes it easier for student and staff customers to pre-pay for meals. The system offers a good way of tracking that money. Parents can go online, via the MySchoolAccount.com feature and see when their child has eaten, and if they have money in their account. If there’s a question, they can print out an accurate statement to clarify.

In addition to ensuring a greater share of public school funding and charter school funding, this new technology speeds up the verification process of all registered students so that food service lines move faster as well as eliminates the social stigma sometimes associated with free and reduced lunch qualification. Also, since there is no need to carry cash for payment – students can pre-pay meals – no student stands out as either eligible for free and reduced lunch or not.

For more information contact:

Robert Gray

FSS Inc.

Altoona, PA 16601;

Phone: (814) 949-2037

Fax (814) 946-7572

http://www.foodserve.com

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Growing up Is Never Easy: The Pains of Recession Should Lead to More Mature Financial Practices

St. Cloud, MN (PRWEB) March 31, 2009

Urging the country to put away childish things, President Obama could have been talking about poor spending habits. Like children, this nation demanded instant gratification. The retail concept of lay-away, so popular just 30 years ago went the way of the drive-in movie. No longer satisfied with buying only what is affordable, Americans embraced run away equity lines and defined themselves by what could be bought on credit. But those days are no more – and maybe it’s for the better.

According to Patricia Hinds, founder of Granite Financial in St. Cloud, “Faced with plummeting investment accounts, declining home values, and the real prospect of job loss, Americans suddenly are doing what they’ve needed to do all along – spend less and save more.”

In fact, in the last three months of 2008, the government reported Americans’ savings rate, as a percentage of after-tax incomes, rose to 2.9 percent. That’s up sharply from 1.2 percent in the third quarter and less than 1 percent just a year ago. Today, a shopping spree no longer appears to be the initial response to a wave of bad news. In February, the Commerce Department reported consumer spending fell for a record sixth straight month in December, dropping 1 percent amid worries about surging layoffs. The hunkering down trend likely will continue. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index plummeted further in February reaching yet another all-time low. The Index now stands at 25.0 (1985=100), down from 37.4 in January. According to The Federal Reserve, although consumer borrowing rose slightly in January, economists still expect borrowing will remain weak this year with news of the unemployment rate surging to a 25-year high.

“With pessimism about the state of the economy increasing daily, suddenly it’s chic to be cheap,” says Hinds. “Frugality is back in style and splurges on widescreen TVs, top-of-the-line kitchens, and designer clothes are out.” Across America, people have not only stopped borrowing, but they are actually paying back debt by paying down those car loans, mortgages and credit card bills. Consumers are actually talking about how to save money – with their neighbors and, more importantly, with their bankers, credit card companies, and household service providers.

The fallout from collective belt-tightening has been referred to as the “paradox of thrift.” That is, what’s good for the people — spending less, and saving more — does nothing to lift the economy out of recession. While many economists suggest that it’s bad news for our recession-battered economy when consumers pay off credit cards, increase their cash reserves, and skip a few pizza deliveries, Hinds begs to differ.

“I believe child-like spending played a role in this economic mess but our increasingly mature attitudes toward money management could make us healthier in the long run,” says Hinds. “Just as growing up can be painful, enduring the difficult repercussions of this recession may pay off by putting an end to bad financial habits.” This recession may be what it takes to help American consumers break free from a lifestyle of greed supported by excessive borrowing, leveraging and spending.

About Patricia Hinds and Granite Financial Inc.

Patricia Hinds, a branch manager for Securities America, Inc. and founder of Granite Financial Inc., has been a part of the financial services industry for over 19 years. She is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM practitioner and holds the Board Certified in Estate Planning (BCE) designation from the Institute of Business & Finance.

Hinds specializes in providing personal wealth management services to financially established women entering or near retirement. She uses a consultative approach to help develop and effectively implement a financial plan. Her process includes investment consulting, relationship management and advanced planning in four areas; wealth enhancement, wealth transfer, wealth protection and charitable gifting.

Hinds is a member of the Financial Planning Association, the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of Professional Women and the St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce. She conducts regular financial planning seminars and has contributed to articles in several leading trade publications including Wealth Manager, Financial Advisor, Investment News, Research and On Wall Street as well as consumer outlets such as Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and Minnesota Business Magazine. Visit http://www.granitefinancial.net for more information about Ms. Hinds and Granite Financial Inc.

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More Women Turning to Social Security Disability Benefits; Mothers Should Know Their Options


Belleville, Ill. (Vocus) May 5, 2009

More working mothers are becoming disabled and losing their ability to support their families. That means it’s even more important for women to understand the role of Social Security disability insurance, according to Allsup, which represents tens of thousands of people in the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) process each year.

In the past decade, from 1999 to 2009, the rate of disability for women has grown by about 72 percent compared with nearly 42 percent for men, according to the Social Security Administration. Since 1990, the number of working women who are fully insured for Social Security benefits has grown by 28 percent to 99.7 million women. As of April 2009, 3.6 million women were receiving SSDI benefits as disabled workers.

Disabilities may result from an accident, a chronic disease or worsening condition. Some of the diagnoses affecting women include multiple sclerosis, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, depression and fibromyalgia.

“Women may not realize they are insured for disability benefits, especially during the period before they experience a severe disability,” said Cindy Ratermann, manager of disability claims specialists at Allsup. “Women who are widows or widows with young children also may qualify for Social Security benefits based on their husband’s work record, so this is another option to consider.”

SSDI is a federally mandated insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that operates separately from the retirement and SSI programs. SSDI provides monthly benefits to individuals who are under full retirement age (age 65 or older) and can no longer work because of a disability (injury, illness or condition) expected to last for at least 12 months or is terminal. Individuals must have paid FICA taxes to be eligible. More details are provided in the SSDI Overview on Allsup.com.

Concerns When Women Can No Longer Work

Women who have been working and supporting their families face enormous difficulties when they can no longer work because of an injury, illness or chronic disease. Allsup offers stories from women in this situation, including a former math teacher and former retail employee, on Allsup.com.

“If you’ve become disabled and must stop working on a long-term basis, you need to look at filing for SSDI benefits as soon as possible,” said Ms. Ratermann, who has more than 20 years experience in the SSDI process, working with a staff of nearly 580 professionals at Allsup.

Women must have a work history and meet certain qualifications to be eligible for SSDI on their own record, including having paid payroll taxes for five of the last 10 years. Having a record of your employment history for the past 15 years is ideal, said Ms. Ratermann. “Your earnings determine what your SSDI benefit would be if the SSA finds you disabled,” she explained.

Keep in mind that the SSDI process can be lengthy, with some claimants’ cases taking two to four years because of the backlog in the disability claims process. More than 2.9 million people are expected to apply for disability benefits in 2009, according to the SSA.

“Women can make this experience easier on themselves by choosing a representative to handle their SSDI claim,” Ms. Ratermann said. Allsup provides representation at all levels of the SSDI application process, including the initial application and, if needed, the hearing before an administrative law judge.

At the hearing level, or level 3, about 90 percent of claimants have a representative. Individuals Allsup represents at the hearing level generally receive an award four months faster than the national average. “It can be to your benefit to get representation from the beginning,” Ms. Ratermann said.

Considering Social Security Disability

There are a number of reasons why a woman should apply for SSDI, including regular monthly income. Additional considerations include:

Medical benefits: Regardless of your age, 24 months after your date of entitlement to SSDI cash benefits, you are eligible for Medicare, including Part A (hospital benefits) and Part B (medical benefits).
Prescription drug coverage: Once you are entitled to Medicare, you are also eligible for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug plan
COBRA extension: If you receive SSDI benefits, the length of your COBRA benefits could be extended an additional 11 months.
Protected retirement benefits: When you reach retirement age, SSDI ends and you transition to Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security disability entitlement “freezes” Social Security earnings records during your period of disability. Because the years in which you collect SSDI benefits are not counted when computing future benefits, your Social Security retirement benefits may be higher than if your earnings were averaged over a greater number of years.
Dependent benefits: If you receive SSDI benefits and you have a dependent under age 18, he or she may also be eligible for benefits. Benefits also may be paid to your husband on your earnings record if he is age 62 or older; or at any age if he is caring for your child (under age 16).

Insights On Social Security Benefits

Allsup provides representation services for Social Security Disability Insurance, but there are additional considerations for women.

Keep in mind that Social Security offers marginal amount of financial protection to women as a result of their earnings and through their spouse’s earnings, depending on the circumstances. Most people need 10 years of work, or 40 credits earned through payroll taxes, to qualify for benefits.

Today, nearly 60 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits, including SSDI benefits, are women.

Women and earnings. Women are likely to earn less than men during their careers, so their benefits may be lower. For example, in April 2009 the average SSDI benefit for women was about 22 percent lower at $ 920.47 compared to $ 1,188.52 for men. One factor is that many women work as caregivers for family members and children during their earning years. Often, women step out of the work force for years at a time and, over time, pay less toward Social Security.

Women and business ownership. If you and your husband operate a business together, you are entitled to receive Social Security credits as a partner. Even though you may file your income taxes jointly, you should file a separate self-employment report with Social Security. This ensures that you get Social Security benefits from your own work. Otherwise, all the earnings will be reported on your husband’s work record.

Women and additional benefits. Your payroll taxes go toward several programs besides SSDI.

These include: