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Archive | Social Security News

Tips from Social Security when applying for disability

 

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Becoming disabled and unable to work is a very stressful time in one’s life. There are so many questions and unknowns when you have to transition out of the workforce due to medical issues. While an employer may offer short or long-term disability, most people faced with a disability will file for benefits with Social Security.

If you’re facing life with a disability and don’t know where to start, we encourage you to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityssi. After reading about Social Security disability, if you’re ready to file, you can do that online as well.

When applying, be prepared to answer a number of questions including:

  •  When your conditions became disabling:
  •  Dates you last worked;
  •  The names, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of visits to your doctors;
  •  The names of medications that you take and medical tests you’ve had; and
  •  Marital information.

In addition, if you plan on applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability payments, for people with low income who haven’t paid enough in Social Security taxes to be covered, you will answer questions about:

  •  Your current living arrangement, including who lives there and household expenses;
  •  All sources of income for you and your spouse, if applicable; and
  •  The amount of your resources, including bank account balances, vehicles, and other investments.

You can view our disability starter kit at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits.htm.

Remember, we are there when you might be faced with one of the hardest obstacles of your life. Social Security helps secure today and tomorrow with critical benefits for people with severe disabilities, not just during retirement. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

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Focus on retirement planning–it’s your future

 

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

When most people begin their career, retirement is the farthest thing from their mind. Instead, they focus on trying to purchase a home, start a family, or perhaps save money for travel. Retirement seems so far away for many younger people that they delay putting aside money. However, it’s very important to save for the future — if you want to enjoy it.

An employer-sponsored retirement plan or 401(k) can be a useful way to set aside funds for retirement, especially if your employer offers matching funds on what you invest. If you don’t work for an employer that offers this type of plan, there are many other plans designed to help you save for retirement.

From solo 401(k)s to traditional and Roth IRAs, there are programs designed to fit a multitude of budgets. The earlier you start to save, the more funds you’ll have ready for retirement.

In addition to traditional programs, the U.S. Department of the Treasury now offers a retirement savings option called myRA. There’s no minimum to open the account, you can contribute what you can afford, and you can withdraw funds with ease. To learn more about myRA, visit www.myra.gov.

And, as always, there is Social Security, which is funded by taxes you pay while you work. To get estimates of future benefits and check your earnings record for accuracy, you can create a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Prepare for your future and start saving and planning—today!

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

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Ex-spouse Benefits, Taxes, and You

 

By: Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Mid-April features both Ex-Spouse Day and tax day. These two observances are extra important if you are an ex-spouse, because Social Security pays benefits to eligible former spouses. In addition, you may need to claim this income on your tax forms.

If you are age 62, unmarried, and divorced from someone entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, you may be eligible to receive benefits based on his or her record. To be eligible, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for 10 years or more. If you have since remarried, you can’t collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ended by annulment, divorce, or death. Also, if you’re entitled to benefits on your own record, your benefit amount must be less than you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work. In other words, we’ll pay the higher of the two benefits for which you’re eligible, but not both.

You can apply for benefits on your ex-spouse’s record even if he or she hasn’t retired, as long as you divorced at least two years before applying. The same rules apply for a deceased former spouse.

The amount of benefits you get has no effect on the benefits of your ex-spouse and his or her current spouse. Visit Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced at, www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm to find all the eligibility requirements you must meet to apply as a divorced spouse. Our benefits planner gives you an idea of your monthly benefit amount. If your ex-spouse died after you divorced, you can still quality for widow’s benefits. You’ll find information about that in a note at the bottom of the website.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/divspouse.htm today to learn whether you’re eligible for benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. That could mean a considerable amount of monthly income. What you learn may bring a smile to your face … even on tax day!

Stephanie Holland is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov

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Use your extra day to leap into retirement

By Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs

It’s leap year and that means one thing—you can add one extra calendar day to your February schedule. Many people are preparing for the upcoming elections. Others might be getting a jump on spring-cleaning. What will you do with your extra day?

You could use a few of your extra minutes to check out what Social Security offers   www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. There, you can:

Apply for retirement, disability, and other benefits;

Get your Social Security Statement;

Appeal a recent medical decision about your disability claim;

Find out if you qualify for benefits;

If you’re planning or preparing for retirement, you can spend a fraction of your extra 24 hours at my Social Security. In as little as 15 minutes, you can create a safe and secure my Social Security account. More than 21 million Americans already have accounts. Sign up today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. With a my Social Security account, you can:

Obtain an instant, estimate of your future Social Security benefits;

Verify the accuracy of your earnings record — your future benefit amounts are based on your earnings record;

Change your address and phone number, if you receive monthly Social Security benefits;

Sign up for or change direct deposit of your Social Security benefits;

Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season; and

Obtain a record of the Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

If you have a little time to spare, you can always check out our blog, Social Security Matters, at blog.socialsecurity.gov. There, you will find guest posts by Social Security experts, in-depth articles, and answers to many of your questions about retirement, benefits, and healthcare. Each post is tagged by topic so you can easily search for what matters most to you.

Leaping from webpage to webpage, you can easily see that Social Security has you covered all year long, not just on that extra day in February. Remember, you can access our homepage that links to our wide array of online services any day of the — socialsecurity.gov.

Stephanie Holland is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St, Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov

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New online service to replace Social Security Cards 

 

Available through a my Social Security Account

 

The Social Security Administration introduced the expansion of online services for residents of Michigan available through its my Social Security portal at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, announced that residents of Michigan can use the portal for many replacement Social Security number (SSN) card requests. This will allow people to replace their SSN card from the comfort of their home or office, without the need to travel to a Social Security office.

“I’m thrilled about this newest online feature to the agency’s my Social Security portal and the added convenience we are providing residents of Michigan,” Acting Commissioner Colvin said. “We continue to provide world-class customer service to the public by making it safe, fast and easy for people to do business with us online and have a positive government experience. I look forward to expanding this service option across the country.”

The agency plans to conduct a gradual roll out of this service; Michigan is one of four states, plus the District of Columbia, where this option is initially available. Throughout 2016, the agency will continue to expand the service option to other states and plans to offer this to half of the nation’s population by the end of the year. This service will mean shorter wait times for the public in the more than 1,200 Social Security offices across the country and allows staff more time to work with customers who have extensive service needs.

U.S. citizens age 18 or older and who are residents of Michigan can obtain a replacement SSN card online by creating a my Social Security account. In addition, they must have a U.S. domestic mailing address, not require a change to their record (such as a name change), and have a valid driver’s license, or state identification card in some participating states.

my Social Security is a secure online hub for doing business with Social Security, and more than 22 million people have created an account. In addition to Michigan residents replacing their SSN card through the portal, current Social Security beneficiaries can manage their account—change an address, adjust direct deposit, obtain a benefit verification letter, or request a replacement SSA-1099. Medicare beneficiaries can request a replacement Medicare card without waiting for a replacement form in the mail. Account holders still in the workforce can verify their earnings and obtain estimates of future benefits.

For more information about this new online service, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber .

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Your social security benefit statement

 

By: Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

It’s that time of year again: time to start preparing to file your taxes. If you receive Social Security benefits, one of the documents you will need when filing your federal income tax return is your Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099).

About one-third of people receiving Social Security benefits must pay taxes on some of these benefits, depending on the amount of their taxable income. This usually happens only iff you have other substantial income — such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends, and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return — in addition to your Social Security benefits. You will never have to pay taxes on more than 85 percent of your Social Security benefits, based on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.

You automatically receive your 1099 form each January. It shows the total amount of benefits you received in the previous year so you know how much Social Security income to report on your tax return. The 1099 form is not available for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), as SSI payments are not taxable.

Social Security makes it easy to obtain a replacement 1099 form if you didn’t receive one or misplaced yours. You can get a replacement quickly by using your secure online my Social Security account. If you don’t already have an account, you can create one in minutes. Open your own personal my Social Security account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Once you are logged in, select the “Replacement Documents” tab to obtain your replacement 1099 form.

You can also obtain a replacement 1099 form by calling us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or by contacting your local Social Security office. If you live outside of the United States, please contact your nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.     

Stephanie Holland is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St, Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov  

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The Force is strong with Social Security’s online services

 

By: Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it? 

This winter, Americans of all generations are awakening to the newest film in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Many readers probably remember seeing the first Star Wars film in theaters in 1977. Audiences watched with fascination at the advanced technology used by the Jedi and Sith in a galaxy far, far away.

We still don’t have interstellar travel, personal robots, or holographic communication, but we now use technology in our daily lives that would have seemed like science fiction in 1977. At that time, it would still be years until the modern Internet and smart phones would be part of our lives. Now, many of us can’t imagine life without such technology.

Many people who need to do business with Social Security are finding an awakening of sorts in how easy it is to use our online services. We continually expand our online services to reflect changing customer needs, and to provide you with world-class service. Our online services are convenient and secure, and allow you to conduct much of your business with us from the comfort of your home, office, or space freighter.

You can open a free personal online my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, where you can keep track of your annual earnings and verify them. Why is that important?  Because your future benefits are based on your annual earnings. With your account, you can also get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working; or, if you currently receive benefits, you can use your account to manage your benefits, and get an instant letter with proof of your benefits. You can also request a Medicare card replacement.

“The force is calling to you. Just let it in.” This winter, check out our online services and join the millions of other Americans who have already awakened their own personal my Social Security accounts. A my Social Security account is a force to be reckoned with. And you don’t need to be a Jedi to have one.

Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov. Once you go online, this force will be with you … always.

Stephanie Holland is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St, Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov  

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Many happy returns to Social Security

 

By: Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Everyone enjoys presents, but loved ones don’t always know exactly what you want. That sweater your relative gave you might be a little too festive for your taste. That’s when those happy returns begin. With gift receipt in hand, you go to the store or online to exchange that item for one you really want.

Now that the holidays are winding down, you’re also probably happy to return to your calmer routine. And part of that routine is planning for retirement.

Your secure my Social Security account allows you to do a number of important things throughout the year, at your convenience:

• Keep track of your earnings and verify them every year;

• Get an estimate of your future benefits if you are still working;

• Get a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and

• Manage your benefits:

  • Change your address;
  • Start or change your direct deposit;
  • Get a replacement Medicare card; and
  • Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season.

Signing up for my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount is quick, easy, and secure.

We also have another invaluable tool that you can use over and over. The Retirement Estimator allows you to calculate your potential future Social Security benefits by changing variables such as retirement dates and future earnings. You may discover that you’d rather wait another year or two before you retire to earn a higher benefit. Or, you might learn that you are ready to retire now — which you also can do online and often-in less than 15 minutes. To get instant, personalized estimates of your future benefits, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

It’s exciting to see the happy returns you’ll be getting when you retire, and returning to my Social Security on a regular basis will ensure you get the right amount at the right time. Give yourself the gift of a secure future at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Stephanie Holland is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St, Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov   

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Social Security tips

 

By Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Labor Day isn’t your only reward for hard work

On Labor Day, many Americans enjoy a long weekend to commemorate the hard work they do the rest of the year, as well as those who support working people. With barbecues and ballgames, beach trips and fireworks, this annual holiday often marks the unofficial end of summer. Established in 1882, Labor Day has become a timeless American tradition that many look forward to all summer.

Labor Day also reminds us that all our hard work is paying off in more ways than one. If you work 10 years, and receive four credits each year for a total of 40 credits, you’ll enjoy the security of Social Security retirement benefits. Remember, those years don’t have to be consecutive. You can check your Social Security Statement and make sure you have enough credits by opening a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

The best way to see what those benefits might be is to visit Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. The Retirement Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits. The Estimator uses your actual earnings history to compute a benefit estimate.

In the past, applying for benefits could be laborious, requiring you to drive to a Social Security office, wait, and fill out paperwork. Now, you can visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline to apply online for retirement benefits.

In most cases, after you submit your online application electronically, that’s it. There are no additional forms to sign or paperwork to complete. In rare cases, we’ll need additional information, and a representative will contact you.

Labor Day might mean something a little different once you’re retired. Spend a few moments considering what your hard work has earned in the form of Social Security protection for you, your family, and working people everywhere.

Stephanie Holland is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St, Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov

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Replacing your Social Security Card? Know before you go

 

By: Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Keeping your Social Security number card in a safe place is vital to protecting you against identity theft. Never keep it in your purse or wallet—this is the most common way people lose their card.

Getting a replacement Social Security number card is free, but you will have to provide the proper documents to get a new one. When replacing your card, you will need original or certified copies of documents, which include:

Proof of citizenship:
If you have not already established your U.S. citizenship with us, we need to see proof of U.S. citizenship. We can accept only certain documents as proof of U.S. citizenship, like your U.S. birth certificate or U.S. passport.

Identity:

We can accept only certain documents as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information (date of birth or age), and preferably, a recent photograph. For example, as proof of identity, we must see your:

  • U.S. driver’s license;
  • State-issued non-driver identification card; or
  • U.S. passport.

If you do not have one of these documents, or you cannot get a replacement for one of them within ten days, we will ask to see other documents, including a(n):

  • Employee identification card;
  • School identification card;
  • Health insurance card (not Medicare card); or
  • U.S. military identification card.

What’s more important than having your card is knowing your Social Security number. This is how we identify you, tally your wages correctly, and how we eventually issue you accurate retirement benefits. You might not even need your card for identification purposes if you know and consistently use your correct number.

For more information about replacing a lost or stolen Social Security number card, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Stephanie Holland is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St, Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov   

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