Social Security Column
April 2010
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Milwaukee, WI

PATTY DUKE SHOW FAMILY REUNITES TO PROMOTE SOCIAL SECURITY’S ONLINE SERVICES

Patty Duke is back — and this time she’s brought the entire family.  The cast of The Patty Duke Show reunited to create a series of public service
announcements to promote Social Security’s new online Medicare application and other services.
You can view the new spots at
www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.
Patty Duke and her television family entertained American households on The Patty Duke Show in the 1960s.  Now, they’re telling families just how fast
and easy it is to apply online for Medicare.  It takes less than 10 minutes.
Even if you decide to wait until after you’re age 65 to apply for retirement benefits, most people should start getting Medicare coverage at age 65.  If you’d
like to begin your Medicare coverage, you should apply within four months of reaching age 65.  
It’s important to note that people who already receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits do not need to apply; they will be automatically
enrolled in Medicare.
Why apply online?  Because it’s fast, easy, and convenient.   You don’t need an appointment and you can avoid waiting in traffic or in line.  
If you’re within four months of turning age 65 or older, what are you waiting for?  As Patty Duke and her television family will tell you, it takes less than 10
minutes!  Visit
www.socialsecurity.gov and select the “Retirement/Medicare” link in the middle of the page.
And be sure to catch TV’s most famous identical cousins and the whole family at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.
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TENS OF THOUSANDS TO BENEFIT FROM FASTER DISABILITY APPLICATION PROCESS
Tens of thousands more people will benefit from a faster and more efficient process when applying for disability benefits, thanks to an expansion in Social
Security’s Compassionate Allowances.
Compassionate Allowances are a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that clearly qualify for Social Security and
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits — allowing for faster decisions in the most obvious cases.  
Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, announced 38 more conditions that are being added to the Compassionate Allowances list.  This
expands the original list of 50 conditions (25 rare diseases and 25 cancers) that was announced in October 2008.  The new conditions range from adult
brain disorders to rare diseases that primarily affect children.  
“The addition of these new conditions expands the scope of Compassionate Allowances to a broader subgroup of conditions like early-onset Alzheimer’s
disease,” Commissioner Astrue said.  “The expansion we are announcing today means tens of thousands of Americans with devastating disabilities will now
get approved for benefits in a matter of days rather than months and years.”
In developing the expanded list of conditions, Social Security held public hearings and worked closely with the National Institutes of Health, the Alzheimer’
s Association, the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), and other groups.
"The diagnosis of Alzheimer's indicates significant cognitive impairment that interferes with daily living activities, including the ability to work," said Harry
Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association.  "Now, individuals who are dealing with the enormous challenges of Alzheimer's won't also have
to endure the financial and emotional toll of a long disability decision process."
“This truly innovative program will provide invaluable assistance and support to patients and families coping with severely disabling rare diseases,” said
Peter L. Saltonstall, President and CEO of the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).  “On behalf of those patients and families, I want to thank
Commissioner Astrue and his enthusiastic team for creating and now expanding a program that will have a direct impact on the quality of life of thousands
of individuals."
“We will continue to hold hearings and look for other diseases and conditions that can be added to our list of Compassionate Allowances," said
Commissioner Astrue.  “There can be no higher priority than getting disability benefits quickly to those Americans with these severe and life-threatening
conditions.”
To learn more, and to see a complete list of the 38 new conditions, read the press release at
www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/cal021110-pr.html.
For a complete list of the 88 Compassionate Allowance conditions, visit
www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

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SAVE ON A RAINY DAY
You’ve heard the saying before: save for a rainy day.  We’d like to suggest you save on a rainy day.  Just as April’s showers bring May’s flowers, your savings
today can help make your retirement savings flourish in the future.
According to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 43 percent of Americans have saved less than $10,000 for retirement; 27 percent
have saved less than $1,000.  
If you haven’t started already, now is the time to begin saving for your retirement — no matter what your age.  If retirement is near, you’ll want to jump into
the fast lane right away.  If you’re younger and retirement seems a lifetime away, it’s still in your best interest to begin saving now, as compound interest will
work to your advantage.  Investors and financial advisors agree that saving when you’re young will make a world of difference when the time comes to draw
on your retirement savings.
Don’t take our word for it.  You can check out the numbers yourself.  A great place to start figuring out how much you will need for retirement is to learn
how much you could expect from Social Security.  You can do that in minutes with Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator.
The Retirement Estimator offers an instant and personalized estimate of your future retirement benefits based on your earnings record.  Try it out at
www.
socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
We encourage saving for retirement, but there are reasons to save for every stage of life.  A great place to go for help is
www.mymoney.gov.  MyMoney.gov
is the U.S. government's website dedicated to teaching Americans the basics about financial education.  Whether you are planning to buy a home,
balancing your checkbook, or investing in your 401(k) plan, the resources on www.MyMoney.gov can help you do it better.  Throughout the site, you will
find important information from 20 federal agencies government wide.
Another excellent resource is the Ballpark Estimator at
www.choosetosave.org/ballpark.  This online tool takes complicated issues, like projected Social
Security benefits and earnings assumptions on savings, and turns them into language and mathematics that are easy to understand.
These online resources are a great way to spend a rainy day.  And if you’re hungry for more, dive into a wealth of further information at
www.socialsecurity.
gov.

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HERE’S TO A GREEN PLANET IN RETIREMENT; HOW SOCIAL SECURITY IS HELPING
Social Security has been practicing environmental stewardship long before “going green” was a fashionable catch-phrase.  Here’s just one example.
When it became necessary to renovate one of the largest buildings at the Social Security headquarters complex, we used sustainable design practices.  
The result was an environmentally sensitive facility where more than 75 percent of the construction materials were salvaged, and energy use was reduced
by 13 percent.
This is just one of several buildings that Social Security has given the green makeover.  Other environment-friendly buildings are located in Chicago,
Philadelphia, Birmingham, Richmond, Calif., and Jamaica, N.Y.
There are things you can do to go green too.  For example, you could plant a tree, and recycle your plastic, glass, and paper.  But what’s even better than
recycling your paper is not having any paper to begin with.
Going green is yet another of the many reasons to complete your business transactions with Social Security online.  You can complete all of your
“paperwork” without using any paper!
Whether you want to get an estimate of your future retirement benefits, apply for retirement benefits, apply for Medicare, request a replacement Medicare
card, report a change of address or direct deposit if you are currently receiving benefits, or take charge of your retirement planning, you can do it on our
website.
There’s no need to drive to your local Social Security office.  Don’t wait in traffic when you can do Social Security business from the comfort of your home
or office.  Save a trip (and the gas and carbon emissions that go along with it) and go to
www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices to get started.
Doing business with Social Security online is fast, easy, and secure.  It’s also environmentally the cleanest, greenest way to do your Social Security
business.  Many of our online services are available as automated phone services as well.  Just call 1-800-772-1213 to take advantage of them.  
Not everyone can give their home or office an environmental makeover.  But anyone can use our online services or automated phone services.  For more
information, visit
www.socialsecurity.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

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CALL SOCIAL SECURITY TOLL-FREE ANYTIME
Telephones certainly have made our lives easier.  Have you ever thought about what your life would be like without your cell phone?  Now imagine life
without telephones at all.  
Social Security’s nationwide, toll-free phone service makes conducting business with the agency more convenient.  Did you know you can call Social
Security day or night at 1-800-772-1213?
You can talk with a Social Security representative from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.  But today, telephones are used for so much more than talking.  
You can access recorded information and many automated services 24 hours a day — including weekends and holidays.  
For those currently receiving benefits, you can use these automated services to report a change of address or telephone number, start or change direct
deposit of benefits, and request a proof of income letter or a replacement Medicare card.  In addition, everyone can use the automated services to request
important Social Security forms such as an application for a replacement Social Security card or a Social Security Statement, and order some of our most
popular public information pamphlets.
It’s hard to imagine life without phones — or Social Security without a nationwide toll-free phone number.  Social Security is never more than a phone
call away: 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

GENERAL

Question:
I applied for a replacement Social Security card last week but have not received it.  When should I expect to receive my new card?

Answer:
It takes approximately 10 to 14 days to receive your replacement Social Security card.  We're working harder than ever to protect you, prevent identity
theft, and ensure the integrity of your Social Security number.  To do that, we have to verify documents you present as proof of identity.  In such cases, we
must verify the documents before we can issue the card.  For more information about your Social Security card and number, visit
www.socialsecurity.
gov/ssnumber.

Question:
What can I do if I think someone has stolen my identity?

Answer:
You should do several things, including:
•        File a report with the local police or the police department where the identity theft took place, and keep a copy of the police report as proof of the
crime;
•        Notify the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-ID-THEFT or 1-877-438-4338);
•        File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at
www.ic3.gov; and contact the fraud units of the three major credit reporting bureaus:
Equifax (800-525-6285); Trans Union: (800-680-7289); and Experian: (888-397-3742).
If your Social Security card has been stolen, you can apply for a replacement card.  But you usually don’t need a new card as long as you know your
number.  
To protect yourself in the future, treat your Social Security number as confidential and avoid giving it out.  Keep your Social Security card in a safe place
with your other important papers.  Do not carry it with you.  Learn more by reading our publication, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, at
www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html.   

RETIREMENT

Question:
How should I decide when to start receiving my Social Security retirement benefits?

Answer:
The decision regarding when to start receiving retirement benefits is highly personal and depends on a number of factors, such as your current cash needs,
your health and family longevity, whether you plan to work in retirement, and the amount of your future Social Security benefit.  You may start receiving
benefits as early as age 62.  However, if you start benefits early — before your “full retirement age” — your benefits are reduced for each month before your
full retirement age.  For help in making your decision, as well as all the factors to consider, read our publication When To Start Receiving Retirement
Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html.  

Question:
Will my retirement pension from my job reduce the amount of my Social Security benefit?

Answer:
If your pension is from work where you also paid Social Security taxes, it will not affect your Social Security benefit amount.  However, a pension based on
work that is not covered by Social Security (for example, some federal, state, local, or foreign government retirement systems) probably will reduce the
amount of your Social Security benefit.  For more information, read Windfall Elimination Provision (Publication no. 05-10045) and Government Pension
Offset (Publication no. 05-10007).  You can find both of these publications online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs under the “Retirement Benefits” section.

DISABILITY

Question:
Someone told me that my mom might be able to qualify for a “compassionate allowance” because of her Alzheimer’s.  Is this true?

Answer:
She might, but the only way to know for sure is for her to submit an application for disability benefits.  Compassionate Allowances are a way of quickly
identifying diseases and other medical conditions that clearly qualify for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits.  The
process allows us to identify and make speedy decisions for the most obviously disabled individuals.  Recently 38 more conditions were added to our
original list of 50 conditions — 25 rare diseases and 25 cancers.  The expansion of the list means tens of thousands of Americans with devastating
disabilities, such as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, now can get approved for benefits in a matter of days, rather than months or years.  To learn more, and
to see a complete list of the Compassionate Allowance conditions, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.  

Question:        
I’m blind and can’t read my mail.  Is there any other way you can send me correspondence?

Answer:
Yes.  You can choose from five different ways to receive information from us if you are blind or have a visual impairment:
•        Standard print notices by first-class mail;
•        Standard print notices by certified mail;
•        Standard print notices by first-class mail, followed by a telephone call within five work days to read the information to you;
•        Standard print notices and Braille by first-class mail. (Delivery begins on April 15, 2010); or
•        Standard print notices and compact disc by first-class mail.  The compact disc will play only on a computer with software that can read Microsoft
Word files.  (Delivery begins on April 15, 2010).

In addition, if you have a question about a Social Security notice you receive, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 and ask us to read the
notice to you, or ask about receiving notice in one of the alternative formats.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME

Question:
      
My mother receives supplemental security income (SSI) benefits.  She may have to enter a nursing home to get the proper care she needs.  Will this affect
her SSI benefits?

Answer:        
Moving to a nursing home can affect your mother's SSI benefits, but it depends on the type of facility it is.  In many cases, the SSI payment will be
reduced or stopped.  Be sure to notify Social Security when your mother enters or leaves a nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, skilled nursing
facility, or any other kind of institution.  Call Social Security's toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question:
I’m a noncitizen.  Can noncitizens receive supplemental security income (SSI) benefits?

Answer:
You might be eligible receive SSI if:
•        You were lawfully living in the United States on August 22, 1996, and you are blind or disabled;
•        You were receiving SSI on August 22, 1996, and you are lawfully living in the United States; or
•        You were lawfully admitted for permanent residence under the Immigration and Nationality Act and have a total of 40 Social Security work credits in
the United States.  (Your spouse’s or parent’s work also may count.)
There are other categories of noncitizens that may be eligible for payments.  If you are a noncitizen and want to apply for SSI benefits, it is best to contact
us to see if you are eligible.  To learn more, read the online factsheet, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) For Noncitizens, at www.socialsecurity.
gov/pubs/11051.html.

MEDICARE

Question:
How many parts to Medicare are there?

Answer:
There are four parts to Medicare:
•        Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care and other services;
•        Part B (doctor insurance) helps pay for doctors' fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical services and supplies that are not covered by Part A;
•        Part C (Medicare Advantage) plans, available in some areas, allow you to choose to receive all of your health care services through a provider
organization.  These plans may help lower your costs of receiving medical services, or you may get extra benefits for an additional monthly fee.  You must
have both Parts A and B to enroll in Part C; and
•        Part D (prescription drug coverage) is voluntary and the costs are paid for by the monthly premiums of enrollees and Medicare.  Unlike Part B in
which you are automatically enrolled and must opt out if you do not want it, with Part D you have to opt in by filling out a form and enrolling in an
approved plan.

More information may be found in our publication Medicare at
www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html  or by visiting www.medicare.gov.