Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
Milwaukee, WI
January 2012


We’re in the dead of winter. In many areas of the country, that means that we could be in for some rough weather.  When
severe weather strikes, parents of young children are well aware that they need to check for school closings as they prepare
for the day. But sometimes inclement weather can be severe enough to close down government buildings and offices as well
— including Social Security.

If the weather outside is frightful, you should check our website before making a trip to a Social Security office. The place to go
to find out about emergency office closings is

Social Security’s office closings and emergency page provides information on specific offices that are closed due to weather
and emergencies, as well as reminders about upcoming Federal holidays during which government offices are closed.

The website also offers a link to a comprehensive list of Federal holidays throughout the year.

To the right side of the page, you’ll find helpful resources from other government agencies, such as the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Weather Service. They can help you to prepare for weather emergencies before
they happen.        

We also provide information about alternatives to visiting an office, helpful even when offices are open. For example, many of
our most popular services are available online at

Find out what types of benefits you may be eligible for by using our benefits eligibility screening tool and then apply online.  If
you are already getting benefits, you can use our website to sign up for direct deposit so that your payments won’t be
interrupted during weather emergencies.  You can learn about these and other services available on our secure website by
visiting our Online Services page at

If you’d like to be alerted to office closings, that’s easy to do. Just visit and subscribe to the
page by selecting the “Get email updates” link next to the red envelope. Then you’ll get an email alert any time there is a
change, such as an office closing.

Is the weather outside frightful?  Never fear, Social Security service is always so delightful at

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You probably already know that there was an increase in Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) monthly
payments at the beginning of the year. If you receive monthly Social Security or SSI payments, you received a 3.6 percent cost-
of-living adjustment beginning with your payment for the month of January 2012.

For people who receive Social Security retirement benefits, there’s more good news. In addition to receiving a little more each
month, you may now earn more income without offsetting your benefits because the “earnings test” numbers also have gone

If you have reached your full retirement age (age 66 for anyone born between 1943 and 1954), the earnings test does not
apply and you may earn as much money as you can without any effect on your benefits.  However, if you are younger than full
retirement age, collecting benefits and still working, we do offset some of your benefit amount after a certain earnings limit is
met.  For people under full retirement age in 2012, the annual exempt amount is $14,640, and if you do reach that limit, we
withhold $1 for every $2 above that limit from your monthly benefit amount. For people who retired early, continue working and
will obtain full retirement age in 2012, the annual exempt amount is $38,880 and we will withhold $1 for every $3 you earn over
the limit from your monthly benefits.  

You can learn more about the earnings test and how benefits may be reduced by visiting our website,,
and searching on the topic “earnings test.”

Find out what your full retirement age is at our Retirement Age page,
You also may want to read our publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits. It’s available at www.socialsecurity.

# # #



We adopted a baby girl overseas and brought her home with us to the United States. We need to get a Social Security number
for her. What do we do?
In general, to apply for a Social Security number for your child you must:
•        Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5) for your child, which you can find online at
•        Show us documents proving your child’s:
o        U.S. citizenship or immigration status;
o        Adoption;
o        Age; and
o        Identity.
•        Show us a document proving your identity; and
•        Show us evidence that establishes your relationship to the child if your name is not listed as the parent on the child's
evidence of age. The adoption decree or the amended U.S. birth certificate will suffice.

You can take your application and original documents to your local Social Security office, or you can mail them to us.  All
documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized
copies of documents. If you do not yet have proof of your child's citizenship, we can assign a number based on documentation
issued by the Department of Homeland Security upon the child’s arrival in the United States. When you do receive
documentation of your child's citizenship, you can bring it to us, and we will update your child's record. We will mail your child’s
number and card as soon as we have verified your documents with the issuing offices.