2005-02-04 / Columnists

Social Security And You

Frequently Asked Questions
By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Center


James Glasser
James Glasser DISABILITY

Question: In her senior year of high school, my daughter had a sporting accident that partially paralyzed her. It doesn’t look as if she will be able to work in the near future, but she hasn’t had a job where she paid Social Security taxes. Do disabled children qualify for benefits?

Answer: There are two Social Security disability programs that include disabled children. Under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, an individual may receive monthly payments based on disability or blindness if: he or she has an impair_ment or combination of impairments that meets the definition of disability for children; and the income and resources of the parents and the child are within the allowed limits. (After a child reaches age 18, the parents’ income no longer affects eligibility or payment amounts.)

Under the Social Security Disability Insurance program, an adult child (a person age 18 or older) may receive monthly benefits based on disability or blindness if: he or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets the definition of disability for adults; and the disability began before age 22; and the child’s parent worked long enough to be insured under Social Security and is receiving retirement or disability benefits or is deceased.

Under both of these programs, the child must not be doing any “substantial” work, and must have a medical condition that has lasted or is expected either to last for at least 12 months or to result in death. For more information, visit the Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I have severe myopia and recently had a detached retina operation, which has left me partially blind in my right eye. Would this qualify me for Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: Under Social Security, a person is considered blind with corrected vision no better than 20/200 or a limited visual field of 20 degrees or less in the better eye. However, even if your vision does not meet the legal definition of blindness, you may still qualify for disability benefits if your vision problems alone, or combined with other health problems, prevent you from working. For Social Security disability benefits, you also must have worked long enough in a job where you paid Social Security taxes. For Supplemental Security Income payments based on disability and blindness, you need not have worked, but your income and resources must be under certain dollar limits. For more information, visit the Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov , or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

RETIREMENT

Question: I am 63 years old, and planning to retire this year. But I still have two children, ages 16 and 11, living at home. Will they be eligible for monthly Social Security checks after I retire?

Answer: Monthly Social Security payments may be made to a worker’s unmarried children under age 18, or age 19 if still in high school, or children age 18 or over who were severely disabled before age 22 and who continue to be disabled. Children who may qualify for benefits include the worker’s biological child, legally adopted child, dependent stepchild or dependent grandchild. For more information, visit the Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I have had direct deposit of my Social Security checks for several years now. But I am thinking of changing to a different bank that is offering a better interest rate on my checking and savings accounts. What do I need to do to make sure my direct deposit isn’t messed up?

Answer: When you open the account at your new bank, ask for direct deposit. Staff at the bank will be glad to help you. Or, you may call Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. When you call, be sure to have your Social Security number and a personal check or statement from your new account. The Social Security representative will need information from these documents to start your new direct deposit. Also, we recommend that you wait until deposits are going to your new bank, savings and loan or credit union before you close your old account.

SURVIVORS:

Question: My sister’s 34-year-old husband died suddenly of a heart attack. She was pregnant with their child when he died. Will she and her child be eligible for any Social Security benefits, and if they are, when should she apply?

Answer: Both your sister and her child would probably be eligible for survivors benefits based on her husband’s work record. Social Security survivor’s benefits are paid to a widow or widower at any age if he or she is taking care of the deceased’s child, who is under age 16 and receiving Social Security benefits. She should contact Social Security as soon as possible after the child is born. For more information, visit the Social Security website at www.socialsecurity.gov, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

MEDICARE

Question: I didn’t sign up for Medicare medical insurance when I was first eligible. Can I sign up now?

Answer: If you did not sign up for Medicare Part B when you were first eligible, what we call your initial enrollment period, each year you are given another chance to sign up during a general enrollment period. The general enrollment period begins January 1 and ends March 31 of each year. If you sign up during this general enrollment period this year, your coverage will begin July 2005. The monthly premium for Medicare Part B for 2005 is $78.20. However, your monthly premium increases 10 percent for each 12-month period that you were eligible but did not enroll, so your premium might be higher if you are enrolling during this year’s general enrollment period.

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