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Archive | Social Security News

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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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

 

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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  

 

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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  

 

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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.

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The Medicare age is still 65

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

If you’re in your sixties, you probably know that the age to receive full retirement benefits has changed. However, the age to begin receiving Medicare has not — it is still 65. Even if you wait until after age 65 to apply for retirement benefits, you still may want to file for Medicare at age 65.

If you want Medicare coverage when you first become eligible, we suggest that you apply within three months of reaching age 65. You can do it online in as little as 10 minutes at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.

Why go online to apply for Medicare? Because it’s fast, easy, and secure. You don’t need an appointment and you can avoid waiting in traffic or in line. As long as you have ten minutes to spare, you have time to complete and submit your online Medicare application.

People who started receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits before age 65 do not need to apply; they will be automatically enrolled in Medicare.

There is no additional charge for Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) since you already paid for it by working and paying Medicare tax. However, there is a monthly premium for medical insurance (Part B). If you already have other health insurance when you become eligible for Medicare, you should consider whether you want to apply for the medical insurance. To learn more about Medicare and some options for choosing coverage, visit www.Medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE.

To learn more about applying for Medicare Only using the online application, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.

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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Young workers paying into Social Security

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

 

Summer will be here before we know it. That means millions of high school and college students will be searching for jobs. Whether a new worker is beginning the career of a lifetime or just earning some extra money for the next school year, there is one question that is likely to be on each new worker’s mind when they see their first pay stub: Where’s the rest of my money?

Some of the money that is withheld is referred to as “Social Security taxes” on the employee’s payroll statement. Sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA taxes,” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act. So let us tell you how that money is being used, and what’s in it for you.

The taxes paid now translate to a lifetime of protection, when you eventually retire or if you become disabled. In the event that you die young, your dependent children and spouse may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work.

Another bit of helpful advice for young workers: be wary if you’re offered a job “under the table” or “off the books.” If you work for any employer who pays you only in cash, understand that you’re likely not getting Social Security credit for the work you’re doing.

Want to learn more about Social Security and what it means to young workers? If so, we invite you to enjoy a webcast: Social Security 101: What’s In It For Me? The webcast will fill you in on the details you should know to get the most out of Social Security. Check it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/webinars/social_security_101.html.

If you have questions about Social Security, the best place to go is online — to 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  

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Social Security questions and answers

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Question: How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?

Answer: For an adult to be considered disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to do the work you did before and, based on your age, education, and work experience, you are unable to adjust to any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Also, your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability (less than a year).

Question: What is the earliest age that I can receive Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: There is no minimum age as long as you meet the Social Security definition of disabled and you have sufficient work to qualify. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked long enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits and some of the work must be recent. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels go up, and is currently $1,120. The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. For example, if you are under age 24, you may qualify with as little as six credits of coverage. But people disabled at age 31 or older generally need between 20 and 40 credits, and some of the work must have been recent. For example, you may need to have worked five out of the past 10 years. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

Question: What is the purpose of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI?

Answer: SSI is designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little income and few resources. It provides financial assistance to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. You can receive SSI even if you have not worked and paid into Social Security. SSI is a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). Find out more at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/.

Question: My brother recently left me some money. Will this inheritance affect my SSI benefits?

Answer: We consider the money inherited from your brother income for the month you receive it. That could make you ineligible for SSI that month, depending on the amount of the inheritance. If you keep the money into the next month, it becomes a part of your resources. You cannot have more than $2,000 in resources to remain eligible for SSI. You should call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 and report the inheritance. Representatives can tell you how your eligibility might be affected.

Question: Who is eligible for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs?

Answer: Medicare beneficiaries with limited income and resources may qualify for extra help. The extra help can save them money. It pays part of the monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments under the new Medicare prescription drug program. The extra help is estimated to be worth an average of $4,000 per year. Help someone qualify and apply at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

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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