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Archive | Social Security News

From dream to reality with MySocialSecurity

 

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about his dream of an America where equality was more than a concept—where it was an everyday reality.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

His dream struck a chord with many people and inspired a nation. It shined a light on the ideal that every citizen should have equal opportunity to prosper and succeed.

As we remember Dr. King and his dream for America, take a moment to reflect on your dreams for yourself and your family. What are the things that you want for your future? Do you see yourself enjoying retirement someday?

With some planning, that dream can come true. The best way to keep your retirement dreams on track is by opening a mySocialSecurity account. A mySocialSecurity account is an excellent tool that helps you plan for the future. It lets you verify your earnings on your personal Social Security Statement—because your future retirement benefit depends on your earnings throughout your career. You can view your Statement at any time, giving you a good picture of what your future benefits will be. When you are ready to retire, you can even go online to apply for benefits from your home or office.

The advantages of having a mySocialSecurity account don’t stop after you retire. Once you start receiving benefits, you can manage them with a mySocialSecurity account. You can get an instant benefit verification letter, check your benefit and payment information, change your address and phone number, and start or change your direct deposit information—all online.

Setting up a mySocialSecurity account is quick, secure, and easy. Millions of Americans already have accounts. In fact, someone opens one about every 6 seconds. Join the crowd and sign up today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

It’s the stuff dreams are made of.

 

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  

 

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Help Social Security help the homeless

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

December 21 is National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Since 1990, on or near the first day of winter and the longest night of the year, the National Coalition for the Homeless brings attention to and seeks compassion for the homeless who have died because they didn’t have a warm, safe place to sleep. Even as the recovery works its way through the entire economy, no one is immune to potentially being homeless. People in our community—colleagues and family members, military veterans, and our friends—might be too proud to ask for help. Too often, homelessness ends in tragedy.

Social Security provides services to the homeless and you can find these services at www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness. Those who are homeless can apply for benefits and, if they are eligible, their benefits can be deposited directly into a personal banking account, a Direct Express debit bank card, or another electronic account. They can also have benefits mailed to a third party, or if necessary, a representative payee can receive their funds.

Social Security also collaborates with other agencies to help the homeless. At www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness/collaborations.htm, you can read more about the Health Care for the Homeless program that provides grants to a network of local public and non-profit private organizations. Social Security also participates in the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, as well as the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program. PATH helps people with serious mental health issues or people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Every day, and especially on December 21, remember those living without a place to call home. Homelessness is a complicated and emotional issue, but we can help our brothers and sisters—friends and family—access the safety net that Social Security provides. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/homelessness to learn more.

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

 

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No more errands; stay home for the holidays

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Let’s face it, the last thing you’re going to want to do during this holiday season is another errand. You’ve hung the lights, plugged them in, and were frustrated when you realized you needed to replace one little bulb to make the entire string work. That’s a trip to the store. You thought this holiday season would be easy. When it comes to taking care of Social Security business, it is easy. You’ll find that www.socialsecurity.gov makes it easy to stay home and get that one last thing done. You can check off much of your Social Security business quickly and securely from your home using your computer or tablet (which you might have unwrapped early). At the Social Security website you can—

* Create a my Social Security account, which enables you to:

• obtain an instant, personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits;

•verify the accuracy of your earnings record—your future benefit amounts are based on your earnings record, so it is important to make sure your earnings are recorded properly;

• 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; and

• obtain estimates of the Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid;

* Apply for retirement, disability, spouses, and Medicare benefits;

* Check the status of your benefit application;

* Request a replacement Medicare card; and

* Apply for Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug plan costs.

Keep in mind that during the holiday season, your wait time may be longer if you call or visit a local Social Security office. If you need to reach us by phone, you can call us toll-free at

1-800-772-1213. We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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  

 

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Faces and facts tell the story of disability

 

Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Every family has stories—stories are a great way to carry on family legacies, pass lessons on to future generations, and share what is important to your family with the rest of the world. Your family stories may include ones about the birth of a child, serving in war, helping people in need, or the deaths of loved ones.

We’d like to share some stories about what it means to receive disability benefits from Social Security and we have a website that does just that:  The Faces and Facts of Disability is ready for you to explore at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

Learning the facts and hearing people’s stories about disability allows for a fuller understanding of what is perhaps the most misunderstood Social Security program.

The Social Security Act sets a very strict definition of disability. To receive disability benefits, a person must have an impairment expected to last at least a year or result in death. The impairment must be so severe that it renders the person unable to perform not only his or her previous work, but also any other substantial work in the national job market. Social Security does not provide temporary or partial disability benefits. Because the eligibility requirements are so strict, Social Security disability beneficiaries are among the most severely impaired people in the country and tend to have high death rates.

In addition, Social Security conducts a periodic review of people who receive disability benefits to ensure they remain eligible for disability. Social Security aggressively works to prevent, detect, and prosecute fraud. Social Security often investigates suspicious disability claims before making a decision to award benefits—proactively stopping fraud before it happens.

Please read and watch some of the stories about real cases of people who have benefited from Social Security by visiting the Faces and Facts of Disability website at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityfacts.

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  

 

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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  

 

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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.

 

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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  

 

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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

 

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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  

 

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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  

 

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