web analytics

Archive | Social Security News

Someday is closer than you think

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

For many people, Someday is an elusive day on the far-off horizon—always close enough to see, but too distant to touch.

Perhaps Someday you plan to go skydiving or enter a hot dog-eating contest. Maybe Someday you plan to ride a mechanical bull or travel around the world or visit all of America’s national parks.

Someday, you may want to retire. If you are mid-career, Someday, you may need to start planning for retirement. Even if you are just now starting your career, Someday, you’re going to want to see what your future benefits will be and check your earnings for accuracy.

Well, get ready, because Someday has arrived. Open a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, and you’ll see what we mean.

Millions of people have already opened an account, taking advantage of the benefits of my Social Security. Why are so many Americans opening accounts? Because my Social Security is fast, easy, and secure. It’s a convenient way to check your earnings record, get up-to-date, personalized estimates of retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, and access your Social Security Statement. With a my Social Security account, you can plan for your retirement and get help figuring out how to save for your future. If you already receive benefits, you can manage them online by starting or stopping your direct deposit, changing your address, and getting an instant proof-of-benefits letter.

Someone opens a new account just about every six seconds. Considering there is only one skydive every 16 seconds, opening a my Social Security is even more popular!

That elusive Someday that you thought might never come is here now. You’ll find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

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

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Questions and Answers

 

 

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Question: I lost my Social Security card, but I remember my number. Do I really need a new card?

 

Answer: No, probably not—but it is important to know your number. The only time you may need the Social Security card is if your employer asks for it when you get a new job. If you do decide to get a new card or your lost one turns up, don’t carry it with you. Keep it with your other important documents. Generally, you are limited to three replacement cards a year and 10 cards during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. Keep in mind this is a free service. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

 

Question: I noticed that my date of birth in Social Security’s records is wrong. How do I get that corrected?

 

Answer: To change the date of birth shown on our records, take the following steps:

Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5); 

Show us documents proving:

U.S. citizenship (if you have not previously established your citizenship with us);

Age; and

Identity; and

Take (or mail) your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.

 

Note that all documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. For details on the documents you’ll need, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ss5doc.

 

Question: What type of information will I need to provide if I’d like to apply online for Social Security retirement benefits?

 

Answer: Whether you apply for retirement benefits online, by phone or in an office, we suggest that you have the following information at hand when you do it—it will make completing the application easier for you.

Your birthdate, place of birth and Social Security number;

Your bank account number and your bank’s routing number, for direct deposit;

The amount of money you earned last year and this year. If you are applying for benefits in the months of September through December, you may also need to provide an estimate of what you expect to earn next year if you plan to continue working;

The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year;

The beginning and ending dates of any active military service you had prior to 1968; and

The name, Social Security number and date of birth of your current and any former spouses.

Depending on your situation, you may need to provide additional documentation with your application. We’ll give you instructions on how to mail or bring it to us. To get started, visit our Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2.

 

Question: I am 65 and my wife is 62 and receiving spouse’s benefits. When will she qualify for Medicare benefits?

 

Answer: Most people must wait until age 65 to qualify for Medicare benefits. Some people can get Medicare at any age, including those who:

Have been getting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months or more;

Have kidney failure and require dialysis;

Have had a kidney transplant; or

Receive disability benefits because they suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).

You can apply online for Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.

 

Question: What are the requirements for receiving disabled widow’s benefits?

 

Answer: You may be able to get disabled widow(er)’s benefits at age 50 if you meet Social Security’s disability requirement. Your disability must have started before age 60 and within seven years of the latest of the following dates: the month the worker died; the last month you were entitled to survivors benefits on the worker’s record as a parent caring for a surviving minor child; the month your previous entitlement to disabled widow(er)’s benefits ended because your disability ended. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dqualify9.htm.

 

Question: I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must last at least a year or be expected to result in death. But I’m disabled now. Does this mean that I must wait a year after becoming disabled before I can receive benefits?

 

Answer: No. You do not have to wait a year after becoming disabled. If you’re disabled and expect to be out of work for at least a year, you should apply for disability benefits right away. It can take months to process an application for disability benefits. If we approve your application, your first Social Security disability benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to Disability Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

 

Question:  If I get approved, how much will I receive in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

 

Answer: The amount of your SSI benefit depends, in part, on the amount of other income you have. For 2014, the basic, maximum federal SSI payment is $710 per month for an individual and $1,082 per month for a couple. However, some states add money to the basic payment. Other monthly income you have would begin to reduce the basic SSI payment. Other things, such as where you live and who you live with, can affect your payment amount. Learn more about SSI by reading SSI publications at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. Enter “SSI” in the search box.

 

Question: I moved in with my parents until I get back on my feet. Why did my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment decrease?

 

Answer: If you receive SSI, your living arrangements can affect your monthly payment. When you live in another person’s home and do not pay your fair share of the living expenses, that is counted as “in-kind” income and can reduce your SSI payment. You must report any changes in your living arrangement to Social Security within 10 days of the change. When reporting a change in living arrangement, you need to tell us your address, who you live with and what you contribute toward the household bills and expenses. You also need to report if you move into a private or public hospital or nursing home, an institution run by the government, jail, another person’s home or a new place of your own. Report changes in your living arrangement at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Learn more about SSI and the things you need to report when you get it at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.

 

Question: I thought there were just two parts to Medicare, but my mom said there are more. How many parts to Medicare are there?

 

Answer: There are four parts to Medicare:

Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care and other services;

Part B (doctor insurance) helps pay for doctors’ fees, outpatient hospital visits and other medical services and supplies that are not covered by Part A;

Part C (Medicare Advantage) plans, available in some areas, allow you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a provider organization. These plans may help lower your costs of receiving medical services, or you may get extra benefits for an additional monthly fee. You must have Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C; and

Part D (prescription drug coverage) is voluntary and helps cover the costs of prescription medications. Unlike Part B in which you are automatically enrolled and must opt out if you do not want it, with Part D you have to opt in by filling out a form and enrolling in an approved plan.

 

Learn more about Medicare by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. Select the “Medicare” topic.

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Give your mom some Extra Help

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. It’s always nice to give Mom a card, flowers or candy, but this year, people all over the country are helping their moms save an estimated $4,000 annually on the cost of Medicare prescription drugs. You can help your mom too—and it won’t cost you a dime.

If your mother has Medicare coverage and has limited income and resources, she may be eligible for Extra Help—available through Social Security—to pay part of her monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments.

To figure out whether your mother is eligible, Social Security needs to know her income and the value of her savings, investments and real estate (other than the home she lives in). To qualify for the Extra Help, she must receive Medicare and have:

Income limited to $17,235 for an individual or $23,265 for a married couple living together. Even if your mom’s annual income is higher, she still may be able to get some help. Some examples where income may be higher include if she and, if married, her spouse:

—Support other family members who live with them;

—Have earnings from work; or

—Live in Alaska or Hawaii.

Resources limited to $13,440 for an individual or $26,860 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds. We do not count her house or car as resources.

We have an easy-to-use online application that you can help mom complete. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp. To apply by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020).

To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

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

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Medicare is the best care if you are age 65 or older

 

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

If you are age 65 or older and haven’t signed up for Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance), now is the time to consider doing so. The general enrollment period for Medicare Part B runs from January 1 through March 31 each year. Before you make a decision about general enrollment, we want to share some important information.

Remember: Most people are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B when they become eligible. If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you first become eligible, you may have to wait until the general enrollment period, which is January 1 through March 31 of each year. At that time, you may have to pay a higher Medicare Part B premium.

Most people first become eligible at age 65, and there is a monthly premium for Medicare Part B. In 2014, the premium for most people is $104.90, the same as it was in 2013. Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. Your Medicare Part B premium can be higher if you do not enroll when you are first eligible, also known as your initial enrollment period. There is a Medicare Part B deductible of $147 in 2014.

You can delay your Medicare Part B enrollment without having to pay higher premiums if you are covered under a group health plan based on your own current employment or the current employment of any family member. You can sign up for Medicare Part B without paying higher premiums.

For more information about Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D, visit www.medicare.gov or read our publication on Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Information about Medicare changes for 2014 is available at www.medicare.gov.

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

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Resolve to create a better retirement financial plan in 2014

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Another New Year is just around the corner, offering a new opportunity to improve your life in any number of ways with a wise New Year’s resolution or two. (No doubt, for most of us the possibilities are endless.)  One good idea for many might be creating (or updating) a long-term financial plan.

According to a 2013 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, “the percentage of workers confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement is essentially unchanged from the record lows observed in 2011.” Only 13 percent are very confident of being able to afford a comfortable retirement, while 28 percent are not at all confident.

If you are among those with lower financial confidence and you haven’t started to save for retirement already, now is the time to begin—no matter what your age. If retirement is near, you’ll want to jump into the fast lane right away. If you’re younger and retirement seems a lifetime away, it’s still in your best interest to begin saving now, as compound interest will work to your advantage. Experts agree that saving when you’re young will make a world of difference when the time comes to draw on your retirement savings.

Don’t take our word for it. You can check out the numbers yourself. A great place to start figuring out how much you will need for retirement is to learn how much you could expect from Social Security. You can do that in minutes with Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator.

The Retirement Estimator offers an instant and personalized estimate of your future Social Security retirement benefits based on your earnings record. Try it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

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

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Medicare is the best care if you are age 65 or older

 

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

If you are age 65 or older and haven’t signed up for Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance), now is the time to consider doing so. The general enrollment period for Medicare Part B runs from January 1 through March 31 each year. Before you make a decision about general enrollment, we want to share some important information.

Remember: Most people are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B when they become eligible. If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you first become eligible, you may have to wait until the general enrollment period, which is January 1 through March 31 of each year. At that time, you may have to pay a higher Medicare Part B premium.

Most people first become eligible at age 65, and there is a monthly premium for Medicare Part B. In 2014, the premium for most people is $104.90, the same as it was in 2013. Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. Your Medicare Part B premium can be higher if you do not enroll when you are first eligible, also known as your initial enrollment period. There is a Medicare Part B deductible of $147 in 2014.

You can delay your Medicare Part B enrollment without having to pay higher premiums if you are covered under a group health plan based on your own current employment or the current employment of any family member. You can sign up for Medicare Part B without paying higher premiums.

For more information about Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D, visit www.medicare.gov or read our publication on Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Information about Medicare changes for 2014 is available at www.medicare.gov.

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

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Social Security and you

Spouses have a significant benefit

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Social Security can be an important financial asset for married couples when the time comes to apply for retirement benefits. In many cases, one spouse may have earned significantly more than the other, or have worked for a longer span of years. Or it could be that one spouse stayed home to do the work of raising the children or caring for elderly family members while the other focused on a career.

Regardless of your situation, Social Security will look at all possibilities to make sure both spouses receive the maximum benefit possible.

Even if you have not paid Social Security taxes, it’s likely you’ll be eligible to receive benefits on your spouse’s record. If you did work and pay into Social Security, we will check eligibility based on your work record and your spouse’s to see which amount is higher.

You can apply for spouses benefits the same way that you apply for benefits on your own record. You can apply for reduced benefits as early as age 62, or for 100 percent of your full retirement benefits at your “full retirement age.” You can find your full retirement age, based on your birth year, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/ageincrease.htm.

The benefit amount you can receive as a spouse, if you have reached your full retirement age, can be as much as one-half of your spouse’s full benefit. If you opt for early retirement, your benefit may be as little as a third of your spouse’s full benefit amount.

If your spouse has already reached full retirement age but continues to work, your spouse can apply for retirement benefits and request to have the payments suspended until as late as age 70. This would allow the worker to earn delayed retirement credits that will mean higher payments later, but would allow you to receive your spouse’s benefit.

You can also apply for spouse benefits based on the earnings record of an ex-spouse or deceased spouse if you were married for at least 10 years. Spouses can consider a number of options and variables. We make it easier to navigate them. A good place to start is by visiting our benefits planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners. Take note of the “Benefits As A Spouse” section.

If you are ready to apply for benefits, the fastest, easiest, and most convenient way is to apply online! You can do so at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

Whether you receive benefits on a spouse’s record or your own, rest assured we will make sure you get the highest benefit we can pay you. 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 St NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Strong families survive, and Social Security helps

V-SS-VonTilBy: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

June is National Family Month – a great time to reflect on family and how to make it stronger. As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reminds us, strong families share many valuable qualities: trust, commitment, communication, growth, affection, fun, and love.

Strong families are more likely to grow through a crisis, allowing the difficult experience to bring them even closer together.

In the unfortunate event of a family member’s death, Social Security is there to help. In addition to the emotional difficulty family members experience, there is often a financial burden as well, especially if the family’s main wage earner dies. In such cases, Social Security survivor’s benefits will help.

Did you know that nearly every child in America could get Social Security survivors benefits if a working parent dies? Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program. Although many people think Social Security is just a retirement program, Social Security also provides survivors insurance benefits for workers and their families.

Family members who may be able to receive survivors benefits include a widow or widower, unmarried children up to age 19 and still in high school, and under certain circumstances, stepchildren, grandchildren, step grandchildren, adopted children, and dependent parents.

To learn more about survivors benefits, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/survivors.htm.

 

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

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Women and Social Security

V-SS-VondaVantilBy: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

The Social Security program treats all workers—men and women—exactly the same in terms of the benefits they can receive. But women may want to familiarize themselves with what the program means to them in their particular circumstances.

One of the most significant things women need to remember about Social Security is the importance of promptly reporting a name change. Not changing your name with Social Security can delay your federal income tax refund.

When women start receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, other family members may be eligible for payments as well. For example, benefits can be paid to a husband:

• If he is age 62 or older; or

• At any age, if he is caring for your child (the child must be younger than 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits on your record).

• Benefits also can be paid to unmarried children if they are:

• Younger than age 18;

• Between 18 and 19 years old, but in elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or

• Age 18 or older and severely disabled (the disability must have started before age 22).

The family of a woman who dies may be eligible for survivors benefits based on her work.

For more information about women and Social Security, visit our special Women’s page online at www.socialsecurity.gov/women.

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

 

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off

Social Security questions answered

V-SS-VondaVantilBy Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Question: My brother had an accident at work last year and is now receiving Social Security disability benefits for himself, his wife, and their daughter. Before his accident, he helped support his son from a previous relationship. Is his son entitled to some benefits as well?

Answer: Regardless of whether your brother was married to his son’s mother, his son may qualify for Social Security benefits on his record. Someone should file an application on his behalf. If he is found to be eligible, both children would receive equal benefits. Learn more by reading our online publication, Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.

Question: I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must be expected to last at least a year. Do I have to wait a year before I can apply for benefits?

Answer: No. If you believe your disability will last a year or longer, apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take three to four months to process an application. If your application is approved, we will pay your first Social Security disability benefits for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.

Question: What are the rules for getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? I’m thinking about applying.

Answer: To be eligible to receive SSI benefits, you must be disabled, blind, or age 65 or older. You also must have limited income and resources. Income is defined as wages, Social Security benefits, and pensions. Income also includes food and shelter you receive from others. Social Security does not count all of your income when deciding whether you qualify for SSI. Resources include bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds. You may be able to get SSI if your resources are worth no more than $2,000 ($3,000 for a couple). Learn more by reading our publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000.html.

Question: I have an appointment to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). What kind of information will I need to take with me?

Answer: So the application process can go smoothly, you should bring:

Your Social Security number;

Your original birth certificate or other proof of your age;

Information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord’s name;

Payroll slips, bank balances, insurance policies, burial fund records, and other information about your income and the things you own;

Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status; and

If you are applying for SSI because you are disabled or blind, the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that you have visited.

Learn more by reading our publication, You May Be Able To Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11069.html.

Posted in Social Security News, Voices and ViewsComments Off