Social Security Column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Milwaukee, WI
MARCH MARCHES ON
Time goes by so quickly, it can be easy to forget important deadlines and even easier to let critical items fall to the nether regions of your to-do list.
Whether you get to everything or not, time marches on — so we’d like to share some March reminders with you.
Tax Time is right around the corner. If you haven’t filed your tax return yet, now is the time. But before you begin, you should make sure you have
everything you need. For example, if you plan to claim your children or any other dependents on your tax return, you’ll need to have a Social Security
number for each individual. If you don’t already have a Social Security number for a dependant, you better get to it right away. Applications and
evidence requirements are available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.
Request your 1099 online. If you receive Social Security benefits and your total annual income is $25,000 or more for an individual or $32,000 or more
for a couple, you may need to pay taxes on a portion of your Social Security benefits. If so, you’ll need your SSA-1099, which shows the total amount of
benefits received in the previous year. All 1099s were mailed by January 31, 2010. If you receive Social Security and have not yet received a 1099
for 2009, you can request a replacement online at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
Easy as A, B, C. If you’re covered under Medicare Part A, but originally opted not to apply for Medicare Part B, now’s the time to enroll in Part B. You’ll
have to act fast, because the general enrollment period ends on March 31. Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient care in a
hospital or skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay, some home health care, and hospice care. Part B helps pay for doctors’ services and
many other medical services and supplies not covered by hospital insurance. Learn more about Medicare by reading Social Security’s publication on
the subject at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html.
A few minutes now can change your retirement for years. If you’re not already retired and receiving benefits, there’s no better time than the present to
visit Social Security’s Retirement Estimator for an instant, personalized estimate of your future retirement benefits. Spend a few minutes trying out
different scenarios to figure out what retirement options will work for you — and what plans you may want to make now to benefit you in the future.
You can do it in minutes at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
We can’t stop time from marching on, but taking some time out now to focus on these important reminders can save you a lot of time in the future. For
more information about Social Security, visit us on the web at www.socialsecurity.gov.
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OUR MOST CONVENIENT OFFICE IS ONLINE
You probably don’t need anyone to tell you that times are tough for many people right now. The past year has seen a recession-driven increase in
applications for Social Security retirement and disability benefit applications. These increases translate into busier offices and telephone lines.
So if you need information, or want to apply for benefits, visit the most conveniently located office Social Security has: our online office at www.
socialsecurity.gov. There, you can apply online for retirement, spouses, and disability benefits. There’s no need to fight the traffic to visit an office or
wait for an appointment. Our website makes it simple, allowing you to apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes.
If you’re not certain you’re ready to apply, we have online resources that can help you decide. Our Retirement Estimator will allow you to enter
different scenarios to come up with the retirement plan best for you. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
A Disability Starter Kit makes it easy to prepare for your disability application. The kit explains the documentation and information you’ll be required to
share on the application, and includes checklists and worksheets to help take the mystery out of applying. You can find the Disability Starter Kit at
www.socialsecurity.gov/disability on the left-hand side of the page.
There are other things you can do online, such as applying for a replacement Medicare card, and requesting an SSA-1099 for tax purposes. You can
learn about these and other online services at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
When you are ready to apply for Social Security benefits, everything you need is at your fingertips. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.
# # #
FAST FACTS ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY
When you think of Social Security, you probably think about a monthly payment for retired and disabled workers. But Social Security has a rich history
full of interesting facts. The program has been around for almost 75 years, so there has been ample time to put together a list of fun facts and figures.
Here are a few.
Social Security paid benefits to about 55.8 million people in 2008. Fifty-six percent of adult beneficiaries were women.
Here is some trivia about wages over the past few years. In 2007, the average annual wage was $40,405. In 2008, it went up to $41,679 (estimated).
And in 2009, the average wage was $42,041 (estimated).
Looking at the average wages, it’s plain to see how easy it is to reach your full Social Security credit each year. For example, in 2009, a wage-earner
needed to earn and pay taxes on $4,360 of wages to earn the full four credits of Social Security coverage for the year.
When you retire, you’ll fully appreciate just how useful Social Security can be. In 2007, 88 percent of married couples and 86 percent of single people
aged 65 or older received Social Security benefits. Social Security was the major source of income (providing at least 50 percent of total income) for
53 percent of aged beneficiary couples and 73 percent of aged single beneficiaries. Social Security made up 90 percent or more of income for 21
percent of aged beneficiary couples and 44 percent of aged single beneficiaries.
New benefits were approved for about 5.1 million people in 2008. Of these new beneficiaries, 44 percent were retired workers and 17 percent were
disabled workers. The remaining 39 percent were survivors or the spouses and children of retired or disabled workers.
Then there’s Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a program that provides income to needy people aged 65 or older, or who are blind or disabled.
Payments under SSI began in January 1974, with 3.2 million people receiving federally administered payments. As of December 2008, the number of
recipients was 7.5 million. Of this total, 4.3 million were between the ages of 18 and 64, 2 million were aged 65 or older, and 1.2 million were under
To learn more, read our online publication Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2009 at www.socialsecurity.
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HOTTEST TICKET IN TOWN
Millions of disabled and blind Americans receive monthly Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Some receive both. Most
also have help in paying medical bills from Medicare or Medicaid.
Many of these individuals would prefer to be working. But taking that leap can be a challenge — especially with the risk of giving up much-needed
medical insurance and sustaining disability cash payments.
If you’re in that situation — you want to work but don’t want to risk losing benefits — Social Security has just the ticket for you: the Ticket to Work
The Ticket to Work program may be able to help you obtain vocational rehabilitation, training, job referrals, and other employment support services free
When you use your Ticket, you can get help finding a job, vocational rehabilitation or other assistance. These services are ¬provided at no cost to you
by employment networks, which are private organizations or government agencies that have agreed to work with Social Security to provide
employment services and other ¬support to beneficiaries with ¬disabilities and state vocational rehabilitation agencies. The Ticket to Work program
gives you the opportunity to choose from a variety of employment networks.
Interested in putting your Ticket to work? Learn more about Ticket to Work and how to get one by calling MAXIMUS, Inc., at 1-866-968-7842 (TTY, 1-866-
833-2967). MAXIMUS is a private company working with Social Security. They can answer most of your questions about your Ticket and can give you
the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of “employment networks” or the state vocational rehabilitation agency in your area.
In addition to the Ticket to Work program, Social Security has work incentives that help serve as a bridge between disability benefits and financial
independence. These work incentives include:
• Cash benefits while you work;
• Medicare or Medicaid while you work; and
• Help with any extra work expenses you may have as
a result of your disability.
You can find more information about Social Security and SSI work incentives by visiting The Work Site at www.socialsecurity.gov/work.
# # #
SOCIAL SECURITY WELCOMES YOUR IDEAS
In support of President Barack Obama’s Transparency and Open Government initiative, Social Security has launched a new Open Government
The new webpage serves as the portal for all agency activities that support the President’s Transparency and Open Government initiative. It’s open
for the public at www.socialsecurity.gov/open.
“Our new Open Government webpage gives Americans an opportunity to give us their ideas on how we can become a more open and transparent
agency,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “They will be able to post their ideas on transparency, participation, collaboration,
and innovation that should be included in our Open Government Plan. I encourage everyone to visit our webpage and submit their ideas, read and
discuss what has been posted, and vote on the ideas that have been submitted."
Anyone is welcome to submit ideas. To send us yours, click on the link at the top right of the webpage that says, “Share your ideas on our open
government plan.” After agreeing to the terms of participation, the link will take you to a webpage that asks for ideas on how Social Security can:
• work better with others inside and outside the government;
• solicit feedback from the public;
• improve the availability and quality of information;
• be more innovative and efficient; and
• create an Open Government Plan.
Social Security’s new Open Government webpage also provides easy access to important agency information such as the Agency Strategic Plan,
Freedom of Information Act Report, as well as program laws and regulations. The webpage includes links to the datasets that were recently published
on www.Data.gov. The agency will publish its Open Government Plan in April.
Join our “online open house” at www.socialsecurity.gov/open.
# # #
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
My wife doesn't have enough work under Social Security to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits or Medicare. But I am fully insured and
eligible. Can she qualify on my record?
Yes. The question you've raised applies to husbands as well as wives. Even if your spouse has never worked under Social Security, she (or he) can,
at full retirement age, receive a benefit equal to one-half of your full retirement amount. If your spouse will receive a pension for work not covered by
Social Security such as government employment, the amount of his or her Social Security benefits on your record may be reduced. For more
information, take a look at the fact sheet, Government Pension Offset, Publication No. 05-10007 at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10007.html. Your
wife is eligible for full spouses benefits at her full retirement age, or reduced spouses benefits as early as age 62, as long as you are already
receiving benefits. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov and select the “Retirement” tab.
I recently received my annual Social Security Statement in the mail, and I noticed my taxes are only "estimated”. How did you calculate the amount?
The Internal Revenue Service collects your Social Security and Medicare taxes. At Social Security, we do not keep a record of those taxes; we record
only your earnings because your earnings are what we use to calculate your benefits. To estimate the total tax amounts we show on your Statement,
we multiplied your reported earnings for each year that you worked by the tax rate for that year. We then added all the years together. If you had both
wages and self-employment earnings in the same year, we estimated the taxes for that year as if the total amount was wages. If you had both Social
Security earnings and government earnings that qualified for Medicare in the same year, we estimated the combined Medicare taxes you paid. To
learn more, visit the Statement page at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement.
My cousin said he applied for Social Security retirement benefits on the Internet. Can you really do that?
Yes you can! Applying online is the easiest, fastest, and most convenient way to apply for retirement benefits. There’s no need to fight the traffic to
visit an office or wait for an appointment. Our website makes it simple, allowing you to apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes. You
can get started now at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.
What is the earliest age I can begin receiving retirement benefits?
The earliest age you can begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits is 62. If you decide to receive benefits before your full retirement age, you
will receive a reduced benefit. Keep in mind you will not be able to receive Medicare coverage until age 65, even if you decide to retire at an earlier
age. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
My brother had an accident at work last year and is now receiving Social Security disability benefits for himself, his wife, and daughter. Before his
accident, he helped support another daughter he had by a woman he never married. Is the second child entitled to some benefits as well?
Even though your brother wasn't married to the second child's mother, the child may qualify for Social Security benefits. Someone should file an
application on the child’s behalf. If she is found to be eligible, both children would receive equal benefits. Learn more by reading our online
publication, Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.
I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must be expected to last at least a year. So do I have to wait a year before I
can apply for benefits?
No. If you believe that your disability will last a year or longer, you should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take
about three to five months to process an application for disability benefits. If your application is approved, your first Social Security disability benefits
will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For example, if it is determined that your disability began on January 15, your
first disability benefit will be paid for the month of July. However, Social Security benefits are paid in the month following the month for which they are
due, so you will receive your July benefit in August. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to Disability Benefits
(Publication No. 05-10029) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME
What are the rules for getting Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? I’m thinking about applying.
To be eligible to receive SSI benefits, you must be disabled, blind, or age 65 or older and have limited income and resources. Income is defined as
wages, Social Security benefits, and pensions. Income also includes such things as food and shelter you receive from others. Social Security does
not count all of your income when deciding whether you qualify for SSI. Resources include bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds. You may be able
to get SSI if your resources are worth no more than $2,000. A couple may be able to get SSI if they have resources worth no more than $3,000. Learn
more by reading our publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000.html.
I have an appointment to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). What kind of information will I need to take with me?
To help make the application process go quickly and smoothly, you should bring:
• Your Social Security number;
• Your birth certificate or other proof of your age;
• Information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord’s name;
• Payroll slips, bank books, insurance policies, burial fund records, and other information about your income and the things you own;
• Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status; and
• If you are applying for SSI because you are disabled or blind, the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics
that you have been to.
Learn more by reading our publication, You May Be Able To Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11069.html.
What is the “Part B” Medicare monthly premium for 2010?
The standard Medicare Part B monthly premium is $110.50 in 2010. However, because there was no cost-of-living adjustment in 2010, some
beneficiaries are paying less than the standard premium. The Department of Health and Human Services determines the Medicare Part B premium.
The premiums paid by beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Part B cover physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services,
durable medical equipment, and other items. For most beneficiaries, the government pays a substantial portion — about 75 percent of the Part B
standard premium — and the beneficiary pays the remainder. Since 2007, higher income beneficiaries have been paying a larger percentage of their
Part B premium based on income they report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In 2010, a small number of beneficiaries with higher incomes
(individuals with income exceeding $85,000 and married couples with income exceeding $170,000) will pay a monthly premium equal to 35, 50, 65, or
80 percent of the total cost, depending on what they reported to the IRS. However, the higher premium affects less than 5 percent of Medicare
beneficiaries, so most people newly enrolled for Medicare will pay the standard premium without an income-related adjustment.
For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov and select the “Medicare” tab.