2007-03-30 / Columnists

Social Security And You

Commentary By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Office

Commentary By James Glasser, Manager,
Far Rockaway Social Security Office

James GlasserJames Glasser There's a lot of talk about online services. But what about people like me who don't have Internet access?

We realize that not everyone has access to the Internet, which is why many of our automated services are available over the phone as well. You can use our toll-free phone services, at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), to request publications and information, get a replacement Medicare card, ask for a Social Security card application (Form SS-5) or get an Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement (SSA-7004). If you already receive benefits, you can also use the phone services to change your mailing address and direct deposit information.

Does my baby really need a Social Security number?

In most cases, yes, as you will need the child's number in order to claim your child as a dependent on your federal tax return. We encourage all parents to apply for a Social Security card for their children. In fact, nine out of 10 parents apply for a Social Security card while still in the hospital. In addition to needing your child's number for a federal tax deduction, the number is also needed when filing for certain government benefits. To learn more, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call our toll-free number.

Is there a retirement planning section on Social Security's website?

Yes. Social Security's Online Retirement Planner allows you to compute estimates of your future Social Security retirement benefits online. It also provides information on important factors affecting retirement benefits, such as military service, household earnings and federal employment. Visit the planner at www.socialsecurity. gov/re tire2/.

I am only in my twenties. Last month I was injured in an auto accident and unable to work. How old do you have to be to get Social Security disability benefits?

There is no minimum age, but you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits. You can earn up to four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels go up. The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. In some cases for a very young worker, you may only need six work credits - as little as 18 months of work. You can find out exactly how many credits you need to qualify for disability benefits on our website, at www.socialsecurity. gov/dibplan/dqualify3.htm . If you don't have enough work credits, you may still qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits if you are disabled and have limited income and resources.

I'm getting Social Security disability benefits for myself, my wife and my son based on my severe disability. I also have a daughter by my ex-wife who used to get child support from me when I worked. Now that I'm disabled, can my daughter get benefits too?

Yes, it is very likely that she can qualify for Social Security benefits. An application should be filed on her behalf and, if eligible, both of your children would receive equal benefits.

Are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits only for people with disabilities?

No. To qualify for SSI, you must either be blind or disabled or you must be 65 years old. You must also have limited income and resources. To learn more about SSI, visit our online publication, Supplemental Security Income, at www.social security.gov/pubs/ 11000. html . You may also call us toll-free at to ask for a copy.

My son has a disability and receives SSI. Last month, a neighbor offered him $25 to do some yard work. Will this affect his SSI?

Probably not. Generally, the first $20 of unearned income and the first $65 of earned income from work do not count. The income does need to be reported, however. As long as your son is not receiving more than those limits in a given month, there will be no change in his benefit amount based on his earnings. If the amount earned goes over the limit in some months, we will take $1 in benefits for each $2 he earns. To learn more about SSI, visit our online publication, Supplemental Security Income, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000.html . You may also call us toll-free to ask for a copy.

I never got around to applying for Medicare Part D, or for the extra help. What should I do now?

You're in luck! There will be no late enrollment penalties in 2007, for people who qualify for the extra help. This means that if you have limited income and qualify for the extra help but didn't sign up during your initial enrollment period, you can do so now and still not have to pay a penalty. If you do not qualify for the extra help, you must wait for the next enrollment period for the Medicare prescription drug program, and you may have to pay a penalty. For more information about Medicare's prescription drug program and special enrollment periods, visit www.medicare.gov.

When I first became eligible for Medicare, I didn't enroll in Medicare Part B. Now that I'm going to the doctor more often, I think I need it. Can I enroll?

Once your initial enrollment period has passed, the only time you may enroll in Medicare Part B is during the general enrollment period, from January 1 to March 31 of each year. Your coverage begins the following July. If you do not make the deadline on March 31, the next time you will be allowed to enroll in Medicare Part B will be during the 2008 general enrollment period. Your monthly premium increases 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible but didn't enroll. Special rules apply when you have health insurance because of your own or your spouse's employment. You can learn more about Medicare by reading our electronic booklet, Medicare, at www.socialsecurity.gov/ pubs/10043.html or call us toll free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to request a copy. You can also visit the Medicare website at www.medicare. gov or call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

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