By JEFF WILSON
Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES–The cast of the 1960s TV comedy ‘The Patty Duke Show‘ reunited as seasoned citizens Tuesday to promote the Social Security Administration’s service allowing baby boomers to apply online for retirement and Medicare benefits.
The agency has had versions of online applications since 2000. But applicants had to provide paper documents with their signatures and copies of birth certificates or W-2 forms.
The process is now paperless in the majority of cases and can take 15 minutes or less.
“You could retire online but you couldn’t do Medicare online. Now, you can,” Social Security commissioner Michael J. Astrue said.
Up to 10,000 baby boomers – the first generation to grow old in the computer age – apply for benefits each day. That pace is expected to continue for 20 years as the nation’s 80 million boomers move into retirement.
Astrue said another 700,000 disability and 300,000 retirement claims are being filed annually with the agency because of the recession.
Academy Award-winning actress Patty Duke became a spokeswoman for the Retire Online campaign last year.
Astrue said the initial public service announcements were enormously successful, with online Social Security applications increasing from 23 percent to 37 percent – about 500,000 a year.
In Hollywood style, the commissioner decided on a sequel in an online campaign adding Medicare applications to the mix. He enlisted 63-year-old Duke and ‘Patty Duke Show’ co-stars William Schallert, Eddie Applegate and Paul O’Keefe this time around.
“We are family from way back. And we’re all headed in the same direction,” said O’Keefe, who played brother Paul on show.
Duke said she’s grateful the ads are reaching boomers.
“The most wonderful thing for me is I was volunteering in an altruistic way,” she said. And the cast reunion is nice, too.
“I haven’t seen some of them for 10 years,” she said.
Watch a clip of Duke from the cult classic “Valley of the Dolls”: