2005-04-01 / Columnists

Social Security And You

By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Center

James GlasserJames Glasser GENERAL: Question: I’m expecting my first child this summer, and wondered how I should get a Social Security number for the baby?

Answer: The easiest way to apply for a Social Security number for a newborn is to do so while you are still in the hospital. Staff there should ask if you want to do so when the child’s birth certificate is being completed. If you don’t apply then, you can apply after leaving the hospital by visiting your local Social Security office. You will need to provide proof of the child’s age, identity and citizenship, such as the birth certificate and hospital record. For more information and to find out exactly what you need in your situation, visit the Social Security Number and Card page at www.social security.gov/ssnumber/.

Question: My company’s pension plan benefits are based on my last five years of earnings. Are my Social Security benefits figured the same way?

Answer: No. Retirement benefit calculations are based on your average earnings during a lifetime of work under the Social Security system.

For most current and future retirees, we will average your 35 highest years of earnings. Years in which you have low earnings or no earnings may be counted to bring the total years of earnings up to 35.

Question: I stopped work at the end of last year, when I was 52. I don’t expect to work again, and will probably file for Social Security retirement benefits when I turn 62. Will I still get the same benefit amount that is shown on the Social Security Statement that I recently received?

Answer: Probably not. When Social Security calculated your 35 highest years of earnings to estimate your future benefits on your Statement, there was an assumption that you would continue to work until age 62, making the same earnings you made last year. If, instead, you have zero earnings each year over the next 10 years, your average earnings will probably be less and so will your benefit. You can use the Social Security benefit calculators at www.socialsecurity.gov to see how this will affect your monthly benefit amount.

DISABILITY: Question: My insurance agent told me that I should consider buying disability insurance. But I remember hearing that I already have some disability insurance protection through Social Security. Would a private policy offset any of the Social Security disability benefit I would be eligible for?

Answer: No. Neither your eligibility for, nor the amount of your Social Security disability payments, is affected by any private insurance you may buy.

But worker’s compensation and some public disability payments may affect your Social Security benefit. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity. gov, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME (SSI): Question: I plan to visit some relatives in Canada for a few months. Can I continue getting my monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) check?

Answer: Your SSI benefit payments usually stop if you leave the United States for 30 days or more. Since you are going to be away for more than a month, your payments will be affected. It is important to tell Social Security the date you plan to leave and the date you plan to come back. Then we can let you know if your SSI will be affected and for which months.

For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I’m disabled and get Supplemental Security Income (SSI). I did some part-time work last year and reported it to Social Security at that time. I’ve just completed my tax returns and will be getting a refund this year. Does my tax refund count as income?

Answer: No, tax refunds do not count as income for SSI purposes. That’s because Social Security counts your gross wages each month that you work, and the taxes withheld from your wages were already counted as income. However, if the money you get from IRS isn’t spent in the month you get it, it will be counted as a resource in the following month. If your total resources are worth more than $2,000 (or $3,000 for a couple) you cannot get SSI. Report how much you get and the date you receive it to Social Security.

For more information, visit www.social security.gov or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

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