Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
Milwaukee, WI
MARCH 2013

Here are a few important items about Social Security retirement benefits and how to apply for them.

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn “credits” toward Social Security benefits. If you were born in 1929 or later, you
need 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify for retirement benefits.

We determine the amount of your benefit by both how long you work and how much you earn. The higher your lifetime earnings, the
higher your monthly benefits. If there were some years when you did not work or had low earnings, your benefit amount may be
lower than if you had worked steadily or earned more.

Your age at the time you start receiving Social Security retirement makes a difference in your benefit amount. The full retirement age
(the age at which 100 percent of retirement benefits are payable) has been gradually rising from age 65 to age 67. You can take
“early retirement” as early as age 62, but if you start collecting benefits before you reach your full retirement age, your monthly
payment will be reduced. You can find out what your full retirement age is by referring to the convenient chart at

Just as you can choose an early retirement and get a reduced payment, you also can choose to keep working beyond your full
retirement age to take advantage of a larger payment. Generally, your benefit will increase automatically by eight percent each year
from the time you reach your full retirement age until you start receiving your benefits or until you reach age 70.

The decision of when to retire is personal and depends on a number of factors. To help you weigh the factors, we suggest you read
our online fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, available at
You may want to consider your options by using our Retirement Estimator to get instant, personalized estimates of future benefits.
You can plug in different retirement ages and scenarios to help you make a more informed retirement decision. Try it out at

You also can set up an online my Social Security account. You can use your my Social Security account to obtain a copy of your
Social Security Statement to check your earnings record and see future estimates of the retirement, disability, and survivor benefits
you and your family may receive. Visit

When you decide to retire, the easiest and most convenient way to do it is right from the comfort of your home or office computer. Go
to  where you can apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes. In most cases, there are no forms
to sign or documents to send; once you submit your electronic application, that’s it!  You’re done!

Be sure to have your bank account information handy so you can receive your payments electronically. Electronic payment of federal
benefits is now mandatory, with few exceptions.

Spring is a great time to turn a new leaf. Spring into retirement now! Learn more by reading our publication, Retirement Benefits, at

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It’s that time of year! Basketball fans are gearing up for March Madness — a time when the final four teams in the NCAA fight for the
title of national champion. While basketball fans are excited about March Madness, Social Security already has a winning “final four”
of online services to cheer about: our new my Social Security service, the Retirement Estimator, online Benefit Application, and
online Extra Help application!

Let’s take a look at the lineup.
My Social Security is an online account that allows you quick access to your personal Social Security information. During
your working years, once you create your online account, you can use my Social Security to obtain a copy of your Social Security
Statement to check your earnings record and see estimates of the future retirement, disability, and survivor benefits you and your
family may receive. If you already receive Social Security benefits, you can now sign into your account to view, save, and print your
benefit verification letter, check your benefit payment information, and even change your address and phone number in our records.
You also can start or change your direct deposit information. Check it out at
The Retirement Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future Social Security benefits. Just
key in some basic information and the Estimator will use information on your Social Security record, along with what you input, to
give you a benefit estimate on the spot. You even can experiment with different scenarios, such as changing your future earnings
and retirement date. Check it out in English at or in Spanish at

The online Benefit Application is the most convenient way to apply for Social Security retirement benefits. You can apply from
the comfort of your home — it’s fast, easy, and secure. It’s so easy, in fact, it can take you as little as 15 minutes to apply online. In
most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no
documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. Try it
out when you’re ready to retire at

4.        T
he online Extra Help application is an easy way to save about $4,000 a year on your Medicare prescription drug costs. To
qualify for the Extra Help, you must be on Medicare, have limited income and resources, and live in one of the 50 states or the
District of Columbia. Learn more about it at

Social Security’s online services continue to hold the top spots for customer satisfaction. In the recent American Customer
Satisfaction Index quarterly report, Social Security continued to score higher than the best private online services, including Amazon.

To learn more about our winning online services, visit


With St. Patrick’s Day at its heart, March is a very green month. People celebrating the luck of the Irish wear green clothing, drink
green beverages, and can even be found enjoying a shamrock milkshake from time to time.

We’d like to encourage you to go green in another way, too. Being environmentally friendly isn’t an elusive pot of gold at the end of
some rainbow — it is something everyone can work toward with little steps. Reusing and recycling, planting a tree, and using Social
Security’s online services.

When you use Social Security’s online services, there’s no paper, printing, postage, or travel needed. Here are a few of our most
popular online services:

•        Try out our expanded my Social Security services, available at It’s a one-stop shop to
obtain a Social Security Statement for checking your earnings record or estimated future benefits, or (if you already get benefits) for
checking your payment amount, changing your address and telephone number in our records, getting a benefit verification letter,
and starting or changing your direct deposit information.

•        Use our Retirement Estimator to get a quick and accurate estimate of your future Social Security retirement benefits.

•        Prepare for your retirement by visiting our Benefits Planner page. You also can go here to use the disability and survivors
planners to find out how much you or your family might qualify for if the need arises.

•        Retire online! You can complete and submit your retirement application in as little as 15 minutes. www.socialsecurity.

•        Apply online for disability benefits.

•        Apply online for Medicare benefits.

Go green with Social Security’s online services this month and throughout the year. For a complete list of our online services, visit

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March 2 is the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss.

Last year we took part in the celebration with our take on The Cat in the Hat, called The Mouse in the House. This year, inspired by
Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, we ham it up with Green Eggs, Ham, and

I am Guy.
I am online.
That Online-Guy, that online Guy, I do not like that Online-Guy.

Do you like to go online?
I do not like to go online! I do not like it, Online-Guy.

Will you try a site I love?

I will not try that site you love,
Will you try it here, or there?

I will not try it here or there. I will not try it anywhere!
I do not want to go online! I do not want to, Online-Guy!

Visit the website from your office computer.
I’ll cheer you on! I’ll be your root-er!
Try it over bagels and lox!
It takes just minutes — watch the clocks!

Don’t bother me here at my desk! Let me be, you online pest!

Would you, could you at the right time of day?
Could you, would you if you don’t have to pay?

I will not any time of day! Would you please be on your way?

You’ll love the website. You will see.
The online services are free!
These services are not a pain.
Try them on the commuter train!

I don’t want to see. Don’t be a pain.
Who cares that they’re free? I’m leaving the train.

Open a My Social Security account
And see your benefit payment amount
Do it here! At your kitchen table!
I know that you are more than able.

I will not do it while I eat! I just won’t do it, I repeat!

Here’s a service you cannot hate:
Get a benefit estimate!
Try it, do! Try it now!
Go online! I’ll show you how.

I do not wish for you to show. I only wish for you to go.

Apply for Medicare with me!
Online’s where you ought to be!

I will not do that next to you. Phones and offices will do.

But what about when it’s time to retire?
Trudge into an office? That seems rather dire!
Online is the way to do it.
Grab your laptop! Let’s get to it!

Online-Guy, don’t think me picky. But computer apps are awfully tricky.

Nonsense! Do not speak such doom!
Come now, to your living room.
We’ll finish your business in a zoom!

Not now. Maybe someday later.
I’ve always been a procrastinator.

Will you log on from your bed?
Try the website! Go ahead!

Leave my house and close the door! Leave and bother me no more!
I do not want to go online! I do not want to, Online-Guy!

But you go online for all your mail.
You shop online when there’s a sale.
Online banking pays the bill.
You’ll love You will!

Guy … if you will let me go,
I’ll try the website. Then you’ll know.

Say! I like Social Security Online! I do! I like it, Online-Guy!
And I’ll create an account, and see my benefit payment amount.
I’ll use my Social Security, and get an estimate — just for me.
I’ll use the website to retire, and for Medicare! Guy, I’m on fire!
There’s fun stuff on this website too, like baby names and history, too!
I’ll use this website in my home, and at my office, and when I roam,
I’ll use it here and use it there. Say! I’ll use it everywhere!

I do so like Social Security Online.
Thank you! Thank you, Online-Guy.

You’ll fall in love with the website, too! waits for you.

# # #



I’m trying to figure out how much I need to save for my retirement. Does the government offer any help with financial education?
Yes. For starters, you may want to find out what you can expect from Social Security with a visit to Social Security’s Retirement
Estimator at The Financial Literacy and Education Commission has a website that can key you in
on the basics of financial education:  Finally, you’ll want to check out the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau, which offers educational information on a number of financial matters, including mortgages, credit cards, retirement, and
other big decisions. Visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at

I need to get something from Social Security to verify my income. How can I do that?
We provide three types of income proof:
1.        A Benefit Verification Letter shows your monthly benefit amount. You can get your Benefit Verification Letter online at www. It often is used as official proof of income to:
•        Apply for a loan;
•        Give to a landlord;
•        Obtain housing assistance, or other state or local benefits;
•        Verify Medicare coverage; or
•        Verify retirement status, disability, or age.
2.        An SSA-1099 shows your annual income for income tax purposes. We mail the SSA-1099 by January 31 each year. You can
request an SSA-1099 online, or you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through
Friday, or visit a local office. Go to to locate the office nearest you.
3.        An annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) notice is sent to all beneficiaries at the end of each year providing the amount of
the monthly benefit for the following year.   

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. Check out our Retirement Estimator to get fast, personalized estimates of future benefits.
You can find them at For more information, go to


My brother had an accident at work last year and is now receiving Social Security disability benefits for himself, his wife, and their
daughter. Before his accident, he helped support his son from a previous relationship. Is his son entitled to some benefits as well?
Regardless of whether your brother was married to his son’s mother, his son may qualify for Social Security benefits on his record.
Someone should file an application on his behalf. If he is found to be eligible, both children would receive equal benefits. Learn
more by reading our online publication, Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029) at

I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must be expected to last at least a year. Do I have to wait a
year before I can apply for benefits?
No. If you believe your disability will last a year or longer, apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take
three to four months to process an application. If your application is approved, we will pay your first Social Security disability benefits
for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to
Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029) at


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. You also must have limited income and
resources. Income is defined as wages, Social Security benefits, and pensions. Income also includes 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 ($3,000 for a
couple). Learn more by reading our publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), at

I have an appointment to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). What kind of information will I need to take with me?
So the application process can go smoothly, you should bring:
•        Your Social Security number;
•        Your original 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 balances, 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 visited.
Learn more by reading our publication, You May Be Able To Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at


What is the “Part B” Medicare monthly premium for 2013?
Most people pay the standard Part B premium of $104.90 each month in 2013. If your modified adjusted gross income on your
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax return from two years ago (the most recent tax return information provided to Social Security by
the IRS) is above a certain amount, you may need to pay more. Only about ten percent of Medicare beneficiaries, those with very
high income, are required to pay a monthly premium greater than $104.90. For more information, visit and
select the “Medicare” tab.