With Independence Day right around the corner, now is a good time to free yourself from the need to visit your local Social Security office.

Go to www.socialsecurity.gov to take care of important matters. What will you find there? For starters, you will find just about anything you want to know about Social Security.

Save yourself a trip by applying for retirement benefits online. Get started with your application at www.social security.gov/r&m2.htm. Or first, estimate your benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/calculators.htm.

Have limited income and resources? Learn how to get extra help with the costs of Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

Read about qualifying and applying for disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/d&s1.htm. Or qualify and apply for survivors benefits at www. socialsecurity.gov/ww&os2.htm.

If you have Medicare coverage, you can get a replacement Medicare card by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/mediinfo.htm. Or learn all about direct deposit -- how to set it up or change your account info -- by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/deposit.

You even can find fun facts such as a list of the most popular baby names at www.social security.gov/OACT/babynames.

Social Security offers a list of online publications that will help save you time and effort. Take a look at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/index.html to see a list. Most of the publications have been translated into Spanish, and the most popular publications have been translated into 15 different languages. You can find the translations by visiting our Multilanguage Gateway at www.socialsecurity.gov/multi language.

Also at www.socialsecurity.gov you'll find the answers to hundreds of frequently asked questions. You'll find answers to questions about Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and even Medicare. How do you get a Social Security card for your newborn? You can find out online. Want to know about benefits? It's there.

So declare your freedom from traffic jams and long waiting times. Save a trip to the office. Go to www.social security.gov.

Question: Will Social Security beneficiaries receive a payment from the economic stimulus package approved by Congress?

Answer: Yes, but only if you filed a 2007 tax return. If you don't usually file a tax return, you need to do so in order to get your stimulus payment. There's still time to file, but you need to do so by Oct. 15. In May, the U.S. Treasury began sending economic stimulus payments to more than 130 million households. To find out if you are eligible or if you have other questions about the stimulus bill, go to the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov. If you prefer, you can call IRS toll-free at (800) 829-1040. For more information about Social Security, visit our Web site at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us toll-free at (800) 772-1213, or TTY at (800) 325-0778.

Questions for this column should be mailed to Social Security Matters, Attn: James Feyerherm, 1212 East 27th, Hays KS 67601. All names will be kept confidential. Other questions should be directed to our toll-free number, (800) 772-1213 or call or visit your local Social Security office.

James Feyerherm is the district manager of the Hays Social Security Office.