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

Soon, the world’s most famous groundhog will be getting a lot of attention. On Groundhog Day, the world’s furriest weather
reporter, Punxsutawney Phil, will pop out of his home to forecast one of two possibilities: an early spring or six more weeks of

Regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil predicts, there’s no reason for you to wait six weeks to do business with Social
Security. Whatever the weather, you can visit our online office from the convenience and comfort of your warm and cozy home or
office. Just go to

You can do so many things online. And it’s so easy, even a groundhog could do it … if eligible. Below are a few of the things
you can do at

•        Get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits with the Retirement Estimator at
•        Apply for Social Security retirement, spouse’s,  or disability benefits at;
•        Apply for Medicare at;
•        Request a replacement Medicare card at, and
•        Learn about Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs at, where you can
find a link to apply.

Punxsutawney Phil has called for six more weeks of winter 87 percent of the time. We suspect that’s because he just likes to
stay in his comfortable home. You can too, on Groundhog Day or any day, by going online.

Whatever the weather, learn all about the things you can do online at

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, making this a popular time of year for proclamations of love. Such displays of
affection can be as simple and sweet as a heart with a “be mine” message, or as life altering as a vow before the altar.
If you happen to be a newlywed who is head over heels in love, you may not be focused on things such as taxes or Social
Security, but you should be. If you plan to exchange your maiden name for a married name — including hyphenated names
such as Smith-Jones — be sure you let us know.

Telling us about your name change shortly after your marriage will help us accurately keep track of your earnings and will
ensure that you and your family get the Social Security retirement, disability, and survivors coverage you’re entitled to. Also, if
the Internal Revenue Service and Social Security records do not show the same name and Social Security number, your
Federal income tax refund could be delayed.

If you continue to use your maiden name consistently throughout your working years, you do not need to contact us. However, if
you decide to change your name at a later time, you should let us know so that we can update your Social Security record and
send you a Social Security card with your new name.

There’s no need to pay someone else to mail in the information for you. Changing your name with Social Security is a quick,
easy, and free service. Just go online to, learn what documents you need, and click on “Fill
Out and Print an application (Form SS-5).” You also can call us at 1-800-772-1213 to obtain the form. We will need the
completed application along with a marriage certificate or divorce decree verifying your old and new names. If you were born
outside the United States, you also need proof of your U.S. citizenship or proof that you are lawfully living in the U.S. You can
bring or mail these documents to us.

You may be focused on the one you love, and we don’t blame you. But if you like us (we hope you do) please click on the
Facebook icon at our homepage and “like” us on Facebook. Also, you can follow us  on Twitter too.  Look for our Facebook and
Twitter icons at  We share information daily that can help you and all your Valentines.
Happy Valentine’s Day from Social Security.

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How long do I need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?
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. During your working years,
earnings covered by Social Security are posted to your Social Security record. You earn credits based on those earnings. If you
become disabled or die before age 62, the number of credits needed depends on your age at the time you die or become
disabled.  Learn more at

I have children at home and I plan to retire next fall. Will my children be eligible for monthly Social Security payments after I
A child (biological, legally adopted, or dependent stepchild or grandchild) may potentially be eligible.  Monthly Social Security
payments may be made to your children 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.

For more information, read Benefits For Children at


Is there a time limit on Social Security disability benefits?
Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. Social Security
will periodically review your case to determine whether you continue to be eligible. If you are still receiving disability benefits
when you reach your full retirement age, your disability benefits will automatically be converted to retirement benefits. Learn
more about disability benefits at

Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?
The law states that Social Security disability benefits begin with the sixth full month after the date your disability began. You are
not entitled to benefits for any month prior to that.  Learn more at our website:


My grandfather, who is receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), will be coming to live with me. Does he have to report the
move to Social Security?
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 grandfather could receive an incorrect payment and have to pay it back, or he may not receive all
the money due.  Just as importantly, your grandfather needs to report the new address to Social Security to receive mail from
us. You can report the change by mail or in person at any Social Security office or call Social Security's toll-free number at 1-
800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778). You can get more information by reading the booklet Understanding SSI, at


I found out that my son 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?
You can call 1-800-772-1213 and let us know. Or you can visit your local Social Security office (find it by using our office locator
at  Information on your application will be matched with data from other Federal agencies. If
there is a discrepancy that requires verification, we will contact you.

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