PAXINOS - Those attending the spring Coal Crackers luncheon Wednesday were encouraged to use the Internet for their Social Security needs.

While not everyone seemed to like the idea, more web-based services are a reality of a tightening Social Security Administration (SSA) budget, said Tim Zito, technical expert and a claims representative at the Selinsgrove office.

Zito addressed 175 people, most of them retirees, during the event at Masser's Banquet Hall. Coal Crackers gather each spring and fall at Masser's and each summer at Knoebels for lunch and reminiscing.

Zito said fewer staff has meant long waits for those visiting Social Security offices or for those who call the administration. Also, SSA has moved most of its records from paper to digital, which also promotes Internet use.

In fact, clients can no longer get a monthly benefit statement or other printouts at a Social Security office, he said.

They can get that information online, and they can also get a new Medicare card or make a change of address, Zito offered as examples.

But what if someone doesn't have the Internet, Zito was asked. He said the Selinsgrove office is considering establishing kiosks where people could visit to get online.

He otherwise likened the situation to using an ATM instead of going to the bank.

Social Security offices remain in place, he said in answering another question, because people do need personal assistance.

"A lot of people don't want to use the Internet, and we understand that," he said.

Still, the Internet push will continue, Zito said, and he encouraged people to create a "My Social Security" account. Log onto ssa.gov/myaccount.

Zito, who will retire in another year and a half, said he's among the surge of Baby Boomer retirees will force the Social Security system to change to remain solvent.

"Change will have to occur," he said. "The demographics tell us that."

How it changes, however, is a question for the politicians, Zito said.

Muskeys say thanks

Mike and Joan Muskey, lead organizers of the Coal Crackers, lost their Shamokin home to fire in December. It was the same blaze that claimed the life of a neighbor girl, Melissa Pangburn, 13.

Joan Muskey thanked the Coal Crackers for their support and prayers.

The Muskeys, who moved in with family in Mechanicsburg after the fire, are in the process of moving to a home at The Meadows at Maria Joseph Continuing Care Community, Danville.