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Your Social Security Benefit Statement (SSA-1099)

Tax season is approaching, and Social Security has made replacing your annual Benefit Statement even easier. The Benefit Statement is also known as the SSA-1099 or the SSA-1042S. Now you can get a copy of your 1099 anytime and anywhere you want using our online services.

A Social Security 1099 is a tax form Social Security mails each year in January to people who receive Social Security benefits. It shows the total amount of benefits you received from Social Security in the previous year so you know how much Social Security income to report to the IRS on your tax return.

If you live in the United States and you need a replacement form SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S, simply go online and request an instant, printable replacement form through your personal my Social Security account at

A replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S is available for the previous tax year after February 1.

If you already have a my Social Security account, you can log in to your online account to view and print your SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S. If you don’t have access to a printer, you can save the document on your computer or laptop or even email it. If you don’t have a my Social Security account, creating one is very easy to do and usually takes less than 10 minutes.

If you receive benefits or have Medicare, your my Social Security account is also the best way to:

  • Get your benefit verification letter;
  • Check your benefit and payment information;
  • Change your address and phone number;
  • Change your direct deposit information;
  • Request a replacement Medicare card; or
  • Report your wages if you work and receive Social Security disability insurance or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

If you’re a noncitizen who lives outside of the United States and you received or repaid Social Security benefits last year, we will send you form SSA-1042S in the mail. The forms SSA-1099 and SSA-1042S are not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

With a personal my Social Security account, you can do much of your business with us online, on your time, like get a copy of your SSA-1099 form. Visit to find out more.


Kylle’ McKinney, SSA Public Affairs Specialist, can be reached by email at


The State of Camellias: How an Asian import became Alabama’s State Flower

By Katie Lamar Jackson

It’s adorned landscapes, tabletops and even the gowns of first ladies here in Alabama for more than 200 years, but how did the camellia, an import from Asia, become our state flower 60 years ago?

That story is a tale of adoration, tenacity and a bit of conflict that will be recounted and celebrated Feb. 15-18 in Mobile, the city where Alabama’s camellia culture first took root, as the Alabama and the American Camellia societies join forces for their annual meetings and a mega-flower show.

Held in conjunction with Alabama’s Bicentennial celebration, the event commemorates the 60th anniversary of the camellia becoming Alabama’s state flower while also welcoming hundreds of camellia lovers from across the nation to help celebrate the history and future of this beloved, storied plant.

Camellias have long been adored for their glossy, evergreen foliage and exquisite flowers, which burst into bloom during the fall and winter. According to the American Camellia Society’s website, the Camellia genus encompasses more than 200 species of plants including C. sinensis, the source of pretty much all the tea in China and the world.

The genus also includes several ornamental species — the two most common of which are the fall-blooming C. sasanqua and the winter-blooming C. japonica. These and a handful of other camellia species are the foundation plants for more than 3,000 named varieties and hybrids that produce a diverse and sumptuous selection of bloom colors, sizes and petal arrangements.

Gov. John Patterson and his wife, Mary Joe McGowin Patterson, at the 1959 inaugural ball. She was influential in making the camellia the state flower. Photo courtesy Alabama Camellia Society

All the world loves a camellia

Though camellias have been revered and cultivated for thousands of years in their southern and eastern Asia homelands for their tea-producing leaves and breathtaking flowers, it was a thirst for tea that brought them to England and other parts of Europe and the Middle East in the 16th and 17th centuries. Enamored with — or more properly, addicted to — tea, the British began importing C. sinensis plants by the thousands, and with those shipments, whether by accident or not, came some of the ornamental varieties.

By the late 1730s, camellias were becoming almost as popular as tea in Europe and, by the late 1700s, they had been introduced into America.

Camellias, though a source of adoration for many, were also the cause of conflict, says Forrest Latta, a Mobile camellia devotee and member of the conference planning committee who has what he calls a “historic imagination.” He loves learning about the stories of camellia plants and their people.

“What plant has inspired two wars?” queried Latta. The answer: camellias, which were catalysts for the American Revolutionary War (remember the Boston Tea Party?) and the Opium Wars (a series of conflicts fought between China and England in the 19th century over the British trade of opium for tea).

This historical marker on the grounds of the Alabama Capitol tells the story of how the camellia became the state flower.
Photo courtesy Alabama Camellia Society

Despite these conflicts, camellias also brought together some ardent allies, particularly here in Alabama where the plants grew exceptionally well and were commonly planted in landscapes and yards throughout the state as early as the mid-1800s. According to Latta, those allies included a quartet of men who made Alabama a hub of camellia production, innovation and commerce in the early 1900s.

“Lightning strikes sometimes and, like Silicon Valley in the technology world, in the gardening world it struck in Mobile, Ala.,” Latta said. That “lightning” was generated by four Mobile residents: Tom Dodd, Tsukasa Kiyono, Robert Rubel and Kosaku Sawada, all names that remain iconic in the camellia’s story. Each man was independently growing, developing and selling camellias through their nursery businesses.

From their inspired and tenacious work sprang many named varieties and Alabama’s still-flourishing nursery industry. They also helped make camellias a must-have plant for gardens in the state, region and nation, including in the now world-famous Theodore, Ala., garden of Bessie and Walter Bellingrath.

Camellia cities

Though camellias are an iconic plant of Mobile, Greenville, Ala., is where the effort to make the camellia our Alabama state flower began, a story that brought on another bit of conflict.

According to historical records, after overhearing a visiting garden editor from a national magazine comment on the large number of handsome and old (some dated back to the mid-1800s) camellias in Greenville, a local newspaper editor began using the slogan “The Camellia City” on his paper’s masthead. Soon city officials and civic and business folk (including a local dairy that used pictures of camellias on its milk cartons) also adopted the slogan.

This camellia, “Herme,” is planted at the Alabama Capitol and originated in the 1840s in Japan.

The camellia was named Greenville’s official city flower in the late 1930s, and is also where, in 1948, the Alabama Camellia Society was founded. A year later, those Greenville-based camellia champions began lobbying to replace the goldenrod, which had been named Alabama’s state flower in 1927 (the same day the yellowhammer became our official state bird), with their favorite flower.

The first camellia bill, sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Faulkner of Baldwin County in 1949, failed. But the camellia camp was undeterred. They touted the attributes of camellias, including their beauty, ease of cultivation and tourism potential.

A June 4, 1959, Alabama Journal article reported that, as the Legislature’s Conservation Committee met to vote on moving the bill forward for a full vote, they had company – “the camellia crowd, made up primarily of formidable-looking women.”

Later that month, the bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. John Patterson on Aug. 26, after which Patterson’s wife, Mary Joe McGowin Patterson, who had connections in Greenville, reportedly said, “Good, I can go home tonight!”

In 1999, to clear up any confusion about which camellia was the state flower, the Legislature passed another bill designating Camellia japonica L. as the official Alabama camellia species. (At the same time, perhaps to quell some of the goldenrod angst, legislators also named another native flower, the oak-leaf hydrangea, as Alabama’s state wildflower.) In 2014, the Legislature also proclaimed Jan. 7 of each year as Alabama’s “Camellia Day,” a date picked to coincide with the start of C. japonica’s prime blooming season.

Robert Rubel of Longview Nursery in Mobile once shipped five railcars of huge old camellias from the Gulf Coast to estates in the Charleston area, as shown in this photo inscribed “Shipped Nov 29, 1930.”

Despite the conflicts it may have incited, the camellia remains a beloved plant to many, including the thousands of tourists — and their dollars — who come to Alabama each year to see them in bloom. As Latta says, “Camellias are like apple pie. Everybody likes them.”

And there is a lot to like. These long-lived, low-maintenance plants are available in a wide range of sizes, from dwarf shrubs to 15-foot trees, which can fit any landscape design needs. And when their showy blossoms open to show myriad hues of solid and variegated white, pink and red, often with adorned with yellow-to-gold stamens, “like” can easily become “love.”

Plus, said Latta, they are a reminder of how lucky we are to live in Alabama. “Where else but Alabama can you go out in the yard in the middle of February and get cut flowers?” he asked.

Then there’s the human connection. “I think of camellia stories as people stories,” Latta says, noting that the adoring and tenacious men and women who have, and still do, love and propagate them are as unique as the plants themselves. “Every beautiful camellia you see has a human pedigree.”

Want to hear more of the story — or become part of it? Latta said this year’s convention offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do just that. “Or just come to the free flower show on Feb. 17,” Latta suggested.  “You’ll see a floral fireworks and leave a changed person.”

Celebrate camellias

Help celebrate the 60th anniversary of Alabama’s official state flower, Camellia japonica, which coincides with Alabama’s 200th year of statehood and the annual meeting of the American Camellia Society, by coming to Mobile Feb. 15-18 for three days of flowers, fun and history.

Registered participants will see outstanding camellia gardens in the Mobile area at their peak bloom, including Bellingrath and Mobile Botanical gardens and several private collections.

In conjunction with the Alabama 200 Commission, the convention also features a free public flower show featuring spectacular blooms from across the state and nation to be held at the Mobile Convention Center on Feb. 17 from 1-5 p.m.

To learn more about the conference, contact Chuck Shirk at 251-422-0398 or visit or the “Alabama Camellias” Facebook page, which offers hundreds of photos and stories about Alabama camellias and the people, past and present, who adore these plants.

In addition to the convention’s mega-flower show, several smaller shows will be held this month in Semmes (Feb. 2), Dothan (Feb. 9) and in Birmingham and Auburn (both on Feb. 23). For more information on these and future events or to explore membership opportunities with state or local camellia organizations, visit and click on “about” and then “clubs and societies.”

Cultivate camellias

Thinking of adding camellias to your landscape? Here are some tips to ensure they thrive and provide the best color in fall and winter landscapes.

Sites: For best growth and flowering, plant camellias in partial shade and in an area protected from strong winds; they grow well under pines but don’t compete well with hardwood tree roots.

Varieties: With more than 3,000 named varieties, there’s a camellia to fit any color, bloom-type and plant size preferences; if you live in colder parts of the state, make sure to choose cold-hardy varieties.

Soil: Camellias can be grown in a variety of soil types, but for best results they need an acidic soil (pH 5.0-6.5) that’s well aerated and high in organic matter.

Water: Camellias need adequate water when they are first planted and during growth periods: once established, they tolerate drought better than wet feet.

Planting times: Camellias are best planted in fall and early winter.

Propagation: Camellias can be reproduced from seed, cuttings, grafting and air layering.

To learn more about growing camellias, visit the American Camellia Association website (, join a local camellia club or check out the Alabama Cooperative Extension publication “The Culture of Camellias” at

Seven low-cost energy tips for renters

Setting your water heater to 120 degrees F will save energy and keep the water at a safe temperature. Photo by Scott Akerman

By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen

Q: It’s great to read about all the ways energy efficiency improvements to the home can save money, but what about folks who are renting or don’t have a lot of money to spend? Are there things we can do to reduce our energy bills? 

A: That’s an excellent question. Not everyone can replace their furnace with an air-source heat pump, whether they’re renting, or their budget won’t allow it. Here are seven low-cost efficiency tips that can help you reduce your energy bills.

Mind the thermostat. You might be able to trim your energy bill by carefully managing the temperature in your home. The Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat to 68 degrees F on winter days. If that’s too cool, try other ways to stay warm like layering with an extra sweater. You can save more energy by turning down the thermostat even lower at night or when no one is home. The same principle works in reverse during summer months. Just set the thermostat higher to reduce your energy use for air conditioning.

Go programmable. If you don’t always remember to adjust your thermostat manually, you could benefit from a programmable model. In the right situation, set correctly, programmable thermostats can save $150 a year. Some programmable thermostats can be managed from your smart phone or other devices. Before you purchase one, make sure your landlord approves. 

Try zone heating. If you don’t mind less-used rooms being colder, you might be able to save energy (and money!) by zone heating. Electric baseboards make it easy because they typically have thermostat settings on the units or in each room. Portable electric space heaters can also be a good tool for zone heating if they are used safely and wisely in the area you spend the most time. Keep in mind, if you’re using space heaters, you’ll need to reduce the heating you’re supplying to the rest of the home. Space heaters that are used incorrectly can be dangerous and increase energy costs. If your heating system needs to be replaced, you can talk to your landlord about installing a mini-split system, which is perfect for zone heating and cooling, and easier to install than a new duct and furnace system.

Stop air leaks. Small gaps around windows, doors, wiring and plumbing penetrations can be major sources of energy loss. This problem can be alleviated with a little weather stripping and caulk, but you should check with your landlord before you get started. Better yet, convince the landlord to do the work! A $10 door draft stopper (also known as a “door snake”) is a simple way to block gaps underneath exterior doors. Sealing air leaks around your home could shave up to one-fifth of your heating and cooling bills. 

Manage your windows and window coverings. Your windows may be letting heat out during the winter and letting heat in during the summer. Window coverings like medium or heavy-weight curtains and thermal blinds can help. On cold winter days, window coverings can keep warmth inside and improve comfort. Opening up window coverings when you’re receiving direct sunlight is a ‘passive solar’ technique that can help cut your heating costs. You can also cover windows with clear plastic to reduce heat loss and air leaks. During the summer, keep window coverings closed to block the sun and to keep windows from heating the cooler indoor air.

Look for energy wasters. There are also small steps you can take every day to reduce your energy use. Water heaters should be kept at the warm setting (120°F). Wash dishes and clothes on the most economical settings that will do the job and always wash full loads. Use the microwave instead of the oven when possible.

Landlords (and others) can help. We hope these tips will help you reduce your energy bills and increase your comfort, but consider talking to your landlord about additional ways to save, like installing better insulation, energy efficient windows or heating systems. Many landlords make these types of investments to add appeal to their rental properties, which ultimately improve the value of the property. A home energy audit is the best way to identify areas for energy efficiency improvements. Contact your electric cooperative to see if they offer energy audits or if they can recommend someone local. An audit would be a great way to start a conversation with your landlord about potential improvements.


Patrick Keegan writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. Write to for more information.

Alabama People: Ray W. Scott Jr.

No one has influenced bass fishing more than Ray W. Scott Jr. Born in 1933, Scott grew up in Montgomery. As a young man, he began selling insurance until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1954. After serving two years on active duty, Scott used his G.I. Bill benefits to earn a business degree from Auburn University before resuming his insurance business. In March 1967, a storm cancelled a fishing trip, but Scott experienced what he called a “brainstorm in a rainstorm.” He envisioned a national professional bass fishing trail similar to golf tournaments. That summer, he organized such a tournament in Arkansas. From that event grew the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), the Bassmaster Classic and a multibillion-dollar industry. – John Felsher

How did you get started fishing, particularly for bass?

I loved fishing from my earliest memories. I’d hop on my bike with a cane pole and a can of worms to fish for bluegills anywhere I could find. Then one magical day when I was about 7 or 8 years old, my life changed. I was fishing and all of a sudden, this shimmering silver creature leaped out of the water on the end of my line. I was in awe of its strength. I ran home with my catch. My mother informed me I had caught a largemouth bass. I could tell from her voice that this was a special fish. From that moment on, bass fishing was my passion.

What was the one thing that gave you the idea to begin creating B.A.S.S. and by extension, professional bass fishing?

Actually, it was the other way around. The concept of a bass organization grew out of my idea for a true professional bass fishing tournament with stringent rules and a big purse. My first tournament at Beaver Lake, Ark., proved without a shadow of doubt the passion for an organization was there. Bass anglers across the country were hungry, not just to compete, but also to get together and share knowledge. The energy and passion at that 1967 tournament were beyond belief.

What was your biggest challenge in the early years?

My biggest challenge was money. I didn’t have any! I have always said, “Poverty was my greatest asset.” I had to work smart. There was no dramatic moment when I felt I had made it, but when we reached about 10,000 members signed up and more memberships pouring in, that gave me a lot more confidence. At that point, it was “let’s see how far can we go!” Now, look what it has become. Not bad for what most people considered a harebrained idea in 1967!

If you were young again and wanted to start a fishing organization, what would you do differently?

I can honestly say I have no regrets. We grew organically and that was healthy. We certainly directed our course with conviction, but we were also highly responsive to our members and the industry. That kept us on track as well as expanding our horizons. We had a few dead ends and detours, but they are amusing in retrospect. They were all part of an enthusiastic creative process.

From your love of deer hunting evolved another business. Tell us more.

In 1986, I sold B.A.S.S., but stayed as president. Two years later, I had another brainstorm and started the Whitetail Institute of North America ( Again, it was based on a personal passion. I discovered a new clover that whitetails really liked. That experience got me interested in developing nutrition produced exclusively and scientifically for whitetail deer and promoting proper whitetail management and conservation practices. It has been a solid success for more than 30 years now.

With so much said and written about Ray Scott over the years, what’s something nobody knows about you?

I think people might be surprised to know that, although I am the definition of an extrovert, I am also a homebody. I don’t particularly relish structured social gatherings, but I love the public at large. I’m very happy at home in my recliner with my two dogs in my lap … and probably on the phone. My wife always tells me I could run the whole country from a phone.n