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Tag Archive | "Social Security"

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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Payroll tax cut to boost take-home pay


New withholding details now available

WASHINGTON ―The Internal Revenue Service released instructions earlier this month to help employers implement the 2011 cut in payroll taxes, along with new income-tax withholding tables that employers will use during 2011.
Millions of workers will see their take-home pay rise during 2011 because the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act Of 2010 provides a two percentage point payroll tax cut for employees, reducing their Social Security tax withholding rate from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of wages paid. This reduced Social Security withholding will have no effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits.
The new law also maintains the income-tax rates that have been in effect in recent years.
Employers should start using the new withholding tables and reducing the amount of Social Security tax withheld as soon as possible in 2011 but not later than Jan. 31, 2011. Notice 1036, released today, contains the percentage method income tax withholding tables, the lower Social Security withholding rate, and related information that most employers need to implement these changes. Publication 15, (Circular E), Employer’s Tax Guide, containing the extensive wage bracket tables that some employers use, will be available on IRS.gov in a few days.
The IRS recognizes that the late enactment of these changes makes it difficult for many employers to quickly update their withholding systems. For that reason, the agency asks employers to adjust their payroll systems as soon as possible, but not later than Jan. 31, 2011.
For any Social Security tax over withheld during January, employers should make an offsetting adjustment in workers’ pay as soon as possible but not later than March 31, 2011.
Employers and payroll companies will handle the withholding changes, so workers typically won’t need to take any additional action, such as filling out a new W-4 withholding form.
As always, however, the IRS urges workers to review their withholding every year and, if necessary, fill out a new W-4 and give it to their employer. For example, individuals and couples with multiple jobs, people who are having children, getting married, getting divorced or buying a home, and those who typically wind up with a balance due or large refund at the end of the year may want to consider submitting revised W-4 forms. Publication 919, How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding? provides more information to workers on making changes to their tax withholding.

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Social Security News


Baby Boomers: apply online for Medicare

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

This January marks a historic moment: our Nation’s first baby boomers are turning 65.
For many baby boomers, it is time to hit the computer.  Even if you have decided to wait until after you are age 65 to apply for retirement benefits, most people should start getting Medicare coverage at age 65.
If you would like to begin your Medicare coverage when you first become eligible, it’s important that you apply within three months of reaching age 65. Don’t worry about the time and effort it will take to apply for Medicare — it’s fast and easy! You can do it online at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly in as little as 10 minutes.
Why apply online 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.
To learn more about Medicare benefits, visit www.Medicare.gov.
To learn more about Medicare and the online application, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.  While you’re there, take a look at the Patty Duke Show reunion video as they talk about turkey, pie, and Medicare online.
Happy birthday to all the baby boomers turning 65 in 2011!
Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 50 College SE, Grand Rapids MI 49503 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov

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