web analytics

Tag Archive | "Social Security"

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  

Posted in Social Security NewsComments (0)

Social Security sends out incorrect Medicare letter 


LANSING, Mich. – Michiganders who recently received a letter incorrectly saying their Medicare Part B premiums would no longer be subsidized need not worry about reductions in their Social Security checks due to this error.

A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services technical system error caused the Social Security Administration to erroneously send the letter to about 12,000 seniors and people with disabilities around the state who receive Medicare. They are among nearly 250,000 people in Michigan enrolled in the Medicare Savings Program, which helps pay Medicare premiums, coinsurance and deductibles.

“We want to make sure that people who received the incorrect letter understand that they won’t see a reduction in their Social Security checks because of this error,” said Chris Priest, deputy director of Medical Services for MDHHS. “We quickly corrected the mistake before any checks went out and are working now with our federal partners. MDHHS understands the worries that this faulty information caused seniors and other residents. We apologize for the confusion caused by the system error.”

MDHHS has implemented a technical correction and submitted updated information to the federal government. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is working with the Social Security Administration to update the information. MDHHS is closely monitoring the situation and working to ensure Social Security checks are correct.

In addition to the 12,000 incorrect notices, about 3,000 people who are no longer eligible for the Medicare Savings Program were sent notices stating that they will no longer receive that benefit. These are notices MDHHS sends to anyone who is no longer eligible due to losing Medicaid eligibility or because changes in income or assets made them ineligible for the Medicare Savings Program. These individuals would have received a notice from both Social Security Administration and MDHHS. Individuals who incorrectly received notices would have been notified by the Social Security Administration only.

The Social Security Administration will be sending corrected notices to Medicare recipients affected by the error. There is no need for these individuals to take any action. Anyone who has questions can contact their MDHHS caseworker.

Posted in NewsComments Off on Social Security sends out incorrect Medicare letter 

Social Security questions and answers


Question: Will my son be eligible to receive benefits on his retired father’s record while going to college?

Answer: No. At one time, Social Security did pay benefits to eligible college students. But the law changed in 1981. We now pay benefits only to students taking courses at grade 12 or below. Normally, benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled. However, if children are still full-time students at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, benefits generally can continue until they graduate or until two months after they reach age 19, whichever is first. If your child is still going to be in school at age 19, you’ll want to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/schools.

Question: When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, are benefits payable on that person’s record?
Answer: Social Security survivor’s benefits can be paid to:

• A widow or widower — unreduced benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60;

• A disabled widow or widower — as early as age 50;

• A widow or widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled, and receiving Social Security benefits;

• Unmarried children under 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending high school full time. Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren or adopted children;

• Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled; and

• Dependent parents age 62 or older.

Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivor’s benefits. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: I want to make sure I have enough credits to receive Social Security retirement benefits when I need them. How can I get a record of my Social Security earnings?

Answer: The best way for you to check whether you have earned enough credits (40 total, equaling 10 years of work) is to open a free my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to review your Social Security Statement.

Once you create an account, you can:Keep track of your earnings to make sure your benefit is calculated correctly. The amount of your payment is based on your lifetime earnings;

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

*Get a replacement 1099 or 1042S.

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

*Manage your benefits:

*Change your address; and

*Start or change your direct deposit.

Accessing my Social Security is quick, convenient, and secure, and you can do it from the comfort of your home.

In some states, you can even request a replacement Social Security card online using my Social Security. Currently available in some areas in the United States, it’s an easy, convenient, and secure way to request a replacement card online. To find out where we offer this service, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Posted in Voices and ViewsComments Off on Social Security questions and answers

Social Security benefits U.S. citizens outside the U.S.


V-SS-US-citizens-benefitsBy Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Over half a million people who live outside the United States receive some kind of Social Security benefit, including retired and disabled workers, as well as spouses, widows, widowers, and children.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the United States as long as you are eligible. When we say you are “outside the United States,” we mean you’re not in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa. Once you’ve been outside the United States for at least 30 days in a row, we consider you to be outside the country.

If you are traveling outside the U.S. for an extended amount of time, it’s important that you tell Social Security the date you plan to leave and the date you plan to come back, no matter how long you expect your travel to last. Then we can let you know whether your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will be affected.

You can use this online tool to find out if you can continue to receive your Social Security benefits if you are outside the United States or are planning to go outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments_outsideUS.html.

This tool will help you find out if your retirement, disability, or survivor’s payments will continue as long as you are eligible, stop after six consecutive calendar months, or if certain country specific restrictions apply.

When you live outside the United States, periodically we’ll send you a questionnaire. Your answers will help us figure out if you still are eligible for benefits. Return the questionnaire to the office that sent it as soon as possible. If you don’t, your payments will stop.

You can also read the publication titled Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, even if that journey takes you outside the United States.

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  

 

Posted in NewsComments Off on Social Security benefits U.S. citizens outside the U.S.

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

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off on Use your extra day to leap into retirement

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 .

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off on New online service to replace Social Security Cards 

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  

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off on The Force is strong with Social Security’s online services

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   

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off on Many happy returns to Social Security

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

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off on Social Security tips

Social Security questions and answers


Vonda VanTil

Vonda VanTil

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Question: I am very happy that I was just approved to receive disability benefits. How long will it be before I get my first payment?

Answer: If you’re eligible for Social Security disability benefits, there is a five-month waiting period before your benefits begin. We’ll pay your first benefit for the sixth full month after the date we find your disability began. For example, if your disability began on June 15, 2015, your first benefit would be paid for the month of December 2015, the sixth full month of disability, and you would receive your first benefit payment in January 2016. You can read more about the disability benefits approval process at www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dapproval.htm.

Question: I’m applying for disability benefits, and I read about “substantial gainful activity.” What is that?

Answer: The term “substantial gainful activity,” or SGA, is used to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is “substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both. If you are working and earn more than a certain amount, we generally consider that you are engaging in substantial gainful activity. In this case, you wouldn’t be eligible for disability benefits. You can read more about how we define substantial gainful activity at www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/sga.html.

Question: My father gets Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for a disability. He is now legally blind and wants to receive information from Social Security in an alternative format. How do I help him?

Answer: Social Security is dedicated to providing vital information in the most effective way for every recipient. There are several ways to receive information from us if you’re blind or have a visual impairment. You can choose to receive Braille notices and a standard print notice by first-class mail; a Microsoft Word file on a data compact disc (CD) and a print standard notice by first-class mail; an audio CD and a standard print notice by first-class mail; or a large print (18-point size) notice and a standard print notice by first-class mail. You can request these special notice options by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/people/blind.

Question: My mother receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. She’ll be going to live with my sister next month. Does she have to report the move to Social Security?

Answer: Yes, she should report any change in living arrangements to us within 10 days. The change could affect her payment. Failure to report the change could result in an incorrect SSI payment that may have to be paid back. Also, we need her correct address so we can send her important correspondence about her SSI benefits. She can easily change her address by accessing her personal my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. She can also call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I recently retired and am approaching the age when I can start receiving Medicare. What is the monthly premium for Medicare Part B?

Answer: The standard Medicare Part B premium for medical insurance is currently $104.90 per month. Since 2007, some people with higher incomes must pay a higher monthly premium for their Medicare coverage. You can get details at www.medicare.gov or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) (TTY 1-877-486-2048).

Posted in Social Security NewsComments Off on Social Security questions and answers