2008-02-29 / Columnists

Social Security And You

Social Security Q 's and A's
By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Office

James Glasser James Glasser Question: My husband died recently and my neighbor said I might be eligible for survivors' benefits. Am I?

Answer: In order to be eligible for survivors benefits, your spouse must have earned the required number of Social Security credits. If he did, the following becomes relevant:

If you were born before 1940, you may be able to receive full benefits at age 65. But the age to receive full benefits is gradually increasing to age 67 for widows and widowers born in 1940 or later.

You can receive reduced benefits as early as age 60.

If you, as the surviving spouse, are disabled, you can get benefits as early as age 50.

If you take care of the deceased worker's child who is entitled to a child's benefit and is younger than age 16 or disabled, you can receive benefits at any age. Your children also may be eligible for benefits.

For more information about survivors benefits, read our publication Survivors Benefits at www.socialsecurity. gov/pubs/10084.html or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I usually get my benefit payment on the 3rd of the month. But what if the 3rd falls on a Sunday or holiday? Will my payment be late?

Answer: No, just the opposite. Your payment should arrive early. For example, your payment should arrive on February 1, 2008 because February 3rd falls on a Sunday. You should always wait three days after a missed payment before contacting Social Security. Find more information about the payment schedule for 2008 at www. social security.gov/pubs/ 2008calendar.htm. Of course, if you have direct deposit, you'll get your payment even faster, without having to wait for the mail. You can sign up for direct deposit by calling Social Security at 1-800-772- 1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or by calling your bank, credit union or institution where you have an account.

Question: Will my military retirement affect my Social Security benefits?

Answer: No. You can get both Social Security benefits and military retirement. Generally, there is no offset of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement. You will get full benefits based on your earnings. The only way your Social Security benefit may be reduced is if you also receive a government pension based on a job in which you did not pay Social Security taxes. You can find more information in the publication Military Service and Social Security at www. socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10017.html. Or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1- 800-325-0778).

Question: I'm retired and the only income I have is a monthly withdrawal from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Are the IRA withdrawals considered "earnings?" Could they potentially reduce my monthly Social Security benefits?

Answer: No. We count only the wages you earn from a job or your net profit if you're self-employed. Nonwork income such as annuities, investment income, interest, capital gains and other government benefits are not counted and will not affect your Social Security benefits. Most pensions will not affect your benefits. However, your benefit may be affected by government pensions earned through work on which you did not pay Social Security tax. For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1- 800-325-0778).

Question: I got denied for disability benefits and I'd like to appeal. Can I do it online?

Answer: Yes - in fact, the best way to file a Social Security appeal is online! Our online appeal process is convenient and secure. Just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/appe al to appeal the decision. If you prefer, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to schedule an appointment to visit your local Social Security office to appeal.

Question: It's hard for me to get around because of my disability. Can I apply for disability benefits online?

Answer: Yes. Our online disability application is convenient and secure. You can apply for benefits over the Internet at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability. If you prefer, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to schedule an appointment to visit your local Social Security office to apply. However you decide to apply, begin by taking a look at our Disability Starter Kit at www.socialsecurity.gov/ disability/disability_starterkits.htm or calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800- 325-0778) to request a copy. It will help you prepare for your application or interview.

Question: As a senior, my only income is Supplemental Security Income (SSI). My brother recently died and left me a little money. Will this extra money stop my SSI benefits?

Answer: It all depends on the amount of your inheritance. It is considered income for the month you received the inheritance. You will have to report that and we will adjust your benefit for the month accordingly. If you keep the money into the next month, it then becomes a part of your resources. To get SSI benefits, you are limited to $2,000 in total resources, although there are exceptions. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and report the inheritance. We will tell you how your eligibility will be affected.

For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: My dad receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. He soon will be coming to live with me. Do we have to report the move to Social Security?

Answer: Yes. He should report any change in living arrangements within 10 days. The change could affect his benefit amount. Failure to report the change could result in a penalty being deducted from his SSI benefits. Also, we need his correct address so we can send correspondence. Please have him call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Or, he can report the change by mail or in person at a Social Security office. Visit our website for more information at www.so cialsecurity.gov.

Question: If I retire at age 62 will I be eligible for Medicare?

Answer: No. Medicare starts when you reach 65. If you retire at 62, you may be able to continue medical insurance coverage through your employer or purchase it from a private insurance company until you become eligible for Medicare. For more information see our publication, Medicare, at www. socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html, or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800- 325-0778).

Question: My uncle is interested in the Medicare Part D Prescription help, but he has about $10,000 in resources. Would he still be eligible?

Answer: Based on his resources, yes. However, there are other factors to consider as well. This year a person's total resources are, in most cases, limited to $11,990 (or $23,410 if married and living with spouse) to qualify for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs. Resources include the value of the things you own, such as real estate (other than the place you live), cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and retirement accounts like IRAs or 401ks. There are exceptions. To learn more, go to www.socialsecurity. gov and visit the "Medicare" link. Or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1- 800-325-0778).

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