2005-09-23 / Columnists

Social Security And You

By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Center


MEDICARE

Question: Is it really worth applying for the extra financial help available under the new Medicare prescription drug plan?

Answer: Yes, it is. If you qualify, you would get extra help paying for the premiums, deductibles and co-payments under the new Medicare prescription drug plan. That extra help could be worth an average of $2,100 per year for people who qualify. And there is no risk or cost to apply.

The application process is simple and can now be done online at www.social security.gov, or by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

RETIREMENT

Question: I am 66 years old and ready to retire. I am trying to put together a monthly budget for my retirement and wondered if my Social Security benefits would be taxable?

Answer: You would have to pay taxes on some of your benefits if you file a federal tax return as an “individual,” and your total adjusted gross income is more than $25,000, or you file a joint return, and you and your spouse have a total adjusted gross income above $32,000.

About one-third of all people who receive Social Security benefits have to pay taxes on their benefits. If you think you would have to pay Federal income taxes on your Social Security benefits, you should know that you can have federal taxes withheld from your benefit payments. You can get a Form W-4V from the Internal Revenue Service by calling the toll-free telephone number, 1-800-829-3676, or by visiting www. socialsecurity.gov on the Internet. After completing and signing the form, return it to your local Social Security office either by mail or in person.

Question: I retired a couple of years ago. My youngest son had received Social Security benefits based on my work record until he graduated high school last spring. Since he will be attending college this fall, will his Social Security benefits resume, as long as he’s a full-time student?

Answer: No. Normally, a child’s benefit stops when he or she reaches age 18, unless the child is disabled. If the child is still a full-time student in secondary or elementary school at age 18, benefits can continue until he or she graduates or reaches age 19, whichever comes first. For more information, visit Social Security’s website at www. socialsecurity.gov or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

DISABILITY

Question: I get Social Security disability benefits and will be 62 years old this year. Will my Social Security benefits change when I reach retirement age?

Answer: Yes and no. When you “retire” from disability benefits, so to speak, the amount of your monthly Social Security benefit will not change. It will, however, be changed from disability to retirement benefits in our records. But this doesn’t happen until you reach full retirement age. For more information, visit Social Security’s website at www.socialsecurity.gov , or call the toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I recently applied for Social Security disability benefits. If I’m approved, when can I expect my payments to start?

Answer: If Social Security determines that you are disabled and eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits, your monthly payments will begin the sixth full month of your disability.

For more information about Social Security disability benefits, see Social Security’s online publication, Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity .gov/ pubs/10029.html. You also can call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to ask for a printed copy.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY

INCOME (SSI)

Question: My dad, who has limited income, gets Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits because of serious physical ailments, and is now beginning to develop Alzheimer’s disease. My sister and I do not want him to live alone any longer and are looking to place him in a nursing home so that he can get the care he needs. But we wondered if and how this might affect his SSI benefits?

Answer: A person usually cannot get SSI while in an institution. If an SSI beneficiary enters or leaves a residential institution, skilled nursing facility, nursing home or any other kind of institution, Social Security needs to be notified.

For more information, visit Social Security’s website at www.social security.gov or call Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: My brother recently lost his job and has not been able to find a new one. He doesn’t have any savings, and is worried that he might be evicted from his apartment. Would it be possible for him to get Supplemental Security Income since he has no income and few resources?

Answer: Probably not. Although Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a needs-based program, the person also must be blind, have a disability or be age 65 or older.

For more information about SSI, see the online publication Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at www. socialsecurity.gov/ pubs/ 11000.html or request a printed copy by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I am 67 years old and get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments each month. I have a daughter who lives out of state, but we are no longer close. She and her husband recently sold a business and came into a lot of money. My neighbor told me that I might lose my SSI eligibility because I have a child who could help support me. Is this true?

Answer: No. Your eligibility for SSI will not be affected by your daughter’s ability to help support you. However, if she did give you any support, that would be considered income for SSI purposes and could affect the amount of your monthly benefit payment. You can find more information about SSI by reading Social Security’s online publication, Supplemental Security Income, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000 .html. Or you can request a printed copy by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

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