2007-07-20 / Columnists

Social Security And You

Social Security FAQ's
Commentary By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Office

James Glasser James Glasser Question: My neighbor recently immigrated to the United States. She is learning to speak English, but her reading skills are limited. Is there a way for her to read about Social Security in her native Farsi?

Answer: Yes. In fact, our website includes information in fifteen different languages besides English. Just visit our Multilanguage Gateway at www.socialsecurity.gov/ multilanguage/ and select the language of your choice. Farsi is one of them, along with Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, Korean, Polish, Italian, Haitian-Creole, Greek, French, Chinese, Armenian, Arabic, Vietnamese and Tagalog.

Question: What's the highest payment a person can get for Social Security retirement?

Answer: The maximum benefit depends on your age when you decide to retire. The maximum 2006 monthly benefit amount for a person retiring at full retirement age (65 years and 10 months) is $2,116. This is based on earnings at the maximum taxable amount for every year after age 21. You can see the maximum amount of taxable earnings for each year at www. socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/cbb.ht ml. For more about Social Security, visit our website, www.socialsecurity. gov, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800- 325-0778).

Question: This summer my grandmother invited me to visit her for three weeks in Nicaragua. But if I go, will my SSI (Supplemental Security Income) stop?

Answer: Your visit should not affect your SSI. SSI usually stops if a person leaves the country for a full calendar month or 30 consecutive days or more. Since you will only be out of the country three weeks, your SSI should not be affected. However, you do need to let Social Security know when you leave and return. And if you don't have direct deposit, now is a good time to consider it. With direct deposit, your payments will arrive to your bank account no matter where you are. For more about Social Security, visit the website, www. socialsecurity.gov, or call 1-800-772- 1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits based on my disability. Does that mean I qualify for other benefits, too?

Answer: In most states, SSI recipients also get Medicaid. You should contact your medical assistance office to find out if you qualify. SSI recipients are also sometimes eligible for social services provided by the state, city or county where they live. These may include homemaker services, food stamps, arrangements for meals or transportation. More information is available at your local public assistance office.

Question: To get Social Security disability benefits, I heard that I have to have a disability that will last one year. But do I have to be disabled for a whole year before I apply?

Answer: No. You should apply as soon as you are unable to work due to your disability. You can begin receiving benefits six months after the date your disability began, if your application for benefits is approved. In addition to determining whether you have a disabling condition, the state agency making the decision will consider whether your disability is expected to last a full year, but the year does not need to have already passed. You may want to take a look at our online publication on disability benefits at www. socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html. For more about Social Security or to apply for disability benefits, visit the website, www.socialsecurity.gov, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I'm thinking about getting disability protection from a private insurance company. If I become disabled and have a private policy, would it reduce my disability benefit from Social Security?

Answer: No. Your eligibility for Social Security disability payments is not affected by any private insurance you may have. But, you may be interested to know that worker's compensation and certain other public disability payments could affect your Social Security benefit. To learn more, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov and visit one of the links under "Disability and SSI" or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325- 0778).

Question: I plan to take early retirement at age 62. Will my Medicare coverage begin then?

Answer: No. Medicare benefits based on retirement do not begin until you are 65. Benefits may begin earlier if you become too disabled to work. If you retire at 62, you might be able to continue to have medical insurance coverage through your employer. Or you may decide to purchase it from a private insurance company until you become 65. You may want to read our Medicare publication online at www. socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html. For more about Social Security, visit our website, www.socialsecurity. gov, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325- 0778).

Question: It's been a busy year. I planned to apply for the Medicare prescription drug plan and the extra help in paying for it, but haven't gotten around to it until now. Will I have to pay a penalty to sign up late?

Answer: Not necessarily. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that 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. To learn more about the extra help and to apply, visit Social Security's website at www.social security.gov or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

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