2009-02-27 / Columnists

Social Security And You

By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Office

RETIREMENT Question: How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?

Answer: Everyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. You can earn up to four credits per year, so you will need at least 10 years to become eligible for retirement benefits. Each year the amount of earnings needed for a credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2009, you receive one credit for each $1,090 of earnings up to the maximum of four credits per year. For 2008, you received one credit for each $1,050 of earnings. The best way to apply for retirement benefits is online, from the comfort of your own home or office. Just go to www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: I have two children at home and I plan to retire next fall. Will my children be eligible for monthly Social Security checks after I retire?

Answer: Monthly Social Security payments may be made to your children, including a legally adopted child or a dependent stepchild, if they are: unmarried and under age 18; age 19 if still in high school; or age 18 or over, who became severely disabled before age 22 and continue to be disabled.

In some cases, a grandchild may potentially be eligible as well. For more information, see our electronic fact sheet, Benefits For Children, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/ 10085.html. DISABILITY Question: Is there a time limit on receiving Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. We will review your case once in a while to make sure you are still disabled. If you are still receiving disability benefits when you reach your full retirement age, your benefits will automatically be converted to retirement benefits. To learn more, visit our website, www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: By law, Social Security disability benefits can be paid only after a worker has been disabled continuously throughout a period of five full calendar months. The first benefit paid is for the sixth month of disability and is paid in the seventh month. This waiting period ensures that we pay benefits only to persons with long-term disabilities and avoid duplicating other income protection plans (such as employer sick-pay plans) during the early months of disability. To learn more, read our online publication, Disability Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html. SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME

Question: My dad, who is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), will be coming to live with me. Does he have to report the move to Social Security?

Answer: Yes. An SSI beneficiary must report any change in living arrangements within 10 days after the month the change occurs. If the change is not reported, your dad could receive an incorrect payment or he may not receive all the money that is due. Also, your dad needs to report the new address to Social Security to receive mail from us. Even if benefits are paid by direct deposit, we need to be able to get in touch with him. He can report the change by mail or in person at any Social Security office. Keep in mind that failing to report a change to Social Security could result in incorrect payments that may have to be paid back or a penalty deducted from SSI benefits. Just call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1- 800-325-0778). You can get more information in the booklet Understanding SSI, at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi. MEDICARE

Question: In talking with my son, I found out that he submitted incorrect information about my resources when he completed my Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs. How can I get my application changed now to show the correct amount?

Answer: The best thing to do is to call us. Social Security's toll-free number is 1-800-772-1213. (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak with a representative between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Or, you can contact your local Social Security office. Find it by going to www.socialsecurity .gov/locator. For your information, we match data on your application with data from other federal agencies. If there is a discrepancy that requires verification, we will contact you. For more information about Medicare, visit www.medicare. gov. For more on Social Security and the extra help available for Medicare's prescription drug plan, visit www.socialsecur ity.gov.

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