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Tag Archive | "Social Security"

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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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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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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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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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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Medicare Part B deadline approaching


By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

If you didn’t sign up for Medicare Part B medical insurance when you first became eligible for Medicare, you now have an opportunity to apply—but time is running out. The deadline for applying during the general enrollment period is March 31. If you miss the deadline, you may have to wait until 2013 to apply.

Medicare Part B covers some medical expenses not covered by Medicare Part A (hospital insurance), such as doctors’ fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical supplies and services.

When you first become eligible for hospital insurance (Part A), you have a seven-month period in which to sign up for medical insurance (Part B). After that, you may have to pay a higher premium—unless you were covered through your current employer’s group health plan or a group health plan based on a spouse’s current employment. You are given another opportunity to enroll in Part B during the general enrollment period, from January 1 to March 31 of each year but each 12-month period that you are eligible for Medicare Part B and do not sign up, the amount of your monthly premium increases by 10 percent.

You can learn more about Medicare by reading our electronic booklet, Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html or visit the Medicare website at www.medicare.gov. You may also call Medicare at 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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Feast on the information and services we offer online


By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, families everywhere will be traveling to reunite with one another. Generations will gather around dinner tables across the nation.  Certainly, some people are already coming up with conversation topics to season the festivities.
If some of the folks in your family like to talk about Social Security, make sure you’re ready with a visit to www.socialsecurity.gov.  After table time, sit down for some online time with anyone in your family who needs information. In fact, right on your tablet or laptop, you can even help a loved one apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes, or Medicare in as little as 10.
There are a number of other things you can help your loved ones do online. Use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool to see whether they qualify for benefits or use the Retirement Estimator for an instant and personalized estimate of their retirement benefits. You can learn about these and many other online services available by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
If you’re in a conversation about Social Security, use your smart phone or mobile device to visit our mobile-friendly frequently asked questions at www.socialsecurity.gov/faq.
If you end up talking about Social Security between turkey and pumpkin pie, rest assured that the authority on the subject is as close as your laptop, tablet, or smart phone.  Feast on the food at the table, and then take advantage of the feast of information and services available online 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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Social Security Announces 3.6 percent benefit increase


First cost-of-living adjustment since 2009

Monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for more than 60 million Americans will increase 3.6 percent in 2012, the Social Security Administration announced last week.
The 3.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits that nearly 55 million Social Security beneficiaries receive in January 2012.  Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 30, 2011.
Some other changes that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages. Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $110,100 from $106,800.  Of the estimated 161 million workers who will pay Social Security taxes in 2012, about 10 million will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.
Information about Medicare changes for 2012, when announced, will be available at www.Medicare.gov.  For some beneficiaries, their Social Security increase may be partially or completely offset by increases in Medicare premiums.
The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.  To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

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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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Social Security questions and answers


By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Question: When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, who is eligible for survivors benefits?
Answer: Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:
•    Widows or widowers — full benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60;
•    Disabled widows or widowers — as early as age 50;
•    Widows or widowers at any age if they take 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; and
•    Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled
Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivors benefits based on the earnings record of a former spouse. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
Question: What is a Social Security “credit?”
Answer: During your working years, earnings covered by Social Security are posted to your record. You earn Social Security credits based on those earnings. The amount of earnings needed for one credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2011, you receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings. You can earn up to a maximum of four credits a year. Most people will need a minimum of 40 credits (or 10 years of work) to be eligible for retirement benefits.
Question: What’s so easy about applying online for benefits?
Answer: There’s no need to go to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative.You can apply in less than 15 minutes. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov. Once you submit your electronic application, you are done. In most cases, there are no forms to sign or documents to mail. Try it at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Question: What is the earliest age that I can begin receiving retirement benefits?
Answer: You can get a reduced benefit as early as age 62. Keep in mind that your monthly benefit amount would be about 33 percent higher if you wait until age 66 and nearly 80 percent higher if you defer payments until age 70. Visit our Retirement Estimator to find out how much you can expect to receive. You can find it 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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