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Tag Archive | "Vonda VanTil"

What you can teach your grandchild about Social Security


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By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

One of the greatest gifts you can give a grandchild is the gift of financial literacy. Helping them save money early in life and showing them how to make wise spending decisions goes a long way toward a bright financial future. As they get older, they may want to save for special purchases or their college education. You can encourage them when they get their first job to begin saving for the future, including their retirement.

Planning for the Future with my Social Security

When you celebrate their graduation from high school, you can also remind them to set up a my Social Security account. They need to be age 18 or older, have a U. S. mailing address and a valid email address, and have a Social Security number. Even though their retirement is many years away, you can explain the importance of reviewing their earnings record each year since Social Security uses the record of earnings to compute their future benefits. As they start their first major job and begin saving, they’ll be able to monitor the growth of the estimates of benefits available to them. You can access my Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Share How Social Security Works

You can share your knowledge about Social Security with your young savers by explaining how the program works and how it has worked for you. About 96 percent of all Americans are covered by Social Security. Nearly all working people pay Social Security taxes and about 61 million receive monthly Social Security benefits. Encourage them to watch our Social Security 101 video at www.socialsecurity.gov/multimedia/webinars/social_security_101.html.

Share Your Retirement Stories

Social Security replaces about 40 percent of an average worker’s income, but financial planners suggest that most retirees need about 70 percent to live comfortably in retirement. Americans need more than Social Security to achieve that comfortable retirement. They need private pensions, savings, and investments. That means starting to save early and monitoring your Social Security record for accuracy. The best place anyone of any age can visit for quick, easy information about Social Security is www.socialsecurity.gov.

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 

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Set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically: America Saves Week


 

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

V-SocialSecuritySaving for the future is a vital part of ensuring a secure retirement. American Savings Education Council and America Saves coordinate the annual America Saves Week. Started in 2007, the week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

For years, Social Security has collaborated with America Saves Week to promote our shared mission of helping millions of people save for their future. This year, America Saves Week begins on February 27, but people like you are striving to save every day.

Visit www.myRA.gov if you do not have retirement savings as part of your job. myRA is a retirement savings account from the Department of the Treasury designed to help you put aside money for your retirement. You can invest in the fund according to your budget, putting you in control of your financial prospects.

Social Security’s “People Like Me” website has tailor-made information for preparing for your future. Our richly diverse country is made up of countless backgrounds, ethnicities, and nationalities, yet we all want the same thing — a secure future. You can see many of the diverse people we serve at www.socialsecurity.gov/people.

Younger people need to know, the earlier you start saving, the more your money can grow. Our website for young workers at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/youngpeople/saving.html has many resources that can help you secure today and tomorrow.

Veterans and wounded warriors, as well as their families, sometimes face unique obstacles when saving for their future. Our website has life-changing information at www.socialsecurity.gov/people/veterans.

After more than 80 years of success, we know that Social Security will always be there for you. Securing your today and tomorrow will always be our priority.

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  

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Tips from Social Security when applying for disability


 

By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Becoming disabled and unable to work is a very stressful time in one’s life. There are so many questions and unknowns when you have to transition out of the workforce due to medical issues. While an employer may offer short or long-term disability, most people faced with a disability will file for benefits with Social Security.

If you’re facing life with a disability and don’t know where to start, we encourage you to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityssi. After reading about Social Security disability, if you’re ready to file, you can do that online as well.

When applying, be prepared to answer a number of questions including:

  •  When your conditions became disabling:
  •  Dates you last worked;
  •  The names, addresses, phone numbers, and dates of visits to your doctors;
  •  The names of medications that you take and medical tests you’ve had; and
  •  Marital information.

In addition, if you plan on applying for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability payments, for people with low income who haven’t paid enough in Social Security taxes to be covered, you will answer questions about:

  •  Your current living arrangement, including who lives there and household expenses;
  •  All sources of income for you and your spouse, if applicable; and
  •  The amount of your resources, including bank account balances, vehicles, and other investments.

You can view our disability starter kit at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/disability_starter_kits.htm.

Remember, we are there when you might be faced with one of the hardest obstacles of your life. Social Security helps secure today and tomorrow with critical benefits for people with severe disabilities, not just during retirement. 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 NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov  

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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  

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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).

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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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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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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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