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

Mom has always been there to nurture and take care of you.  Mother’s Day is the perfect time to give back and look out for her.  If she’s having a hard
time paying for her prescription drugs, tell her about the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan and the extra help available through Social Security.  
If your mother, or any special woman in your life, is covered by Medicare and has limited income and resources, she may be eligible for extra help to
pay her monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.  The extra help is worth an average of $3,900 per year.  
Perhaps you’ve looked into the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for Mom before, and discovered that she did not qualify due to her income or
resources.  In 2010, the law has changed.  As Chubby Checker will tell you, a new “twist” in the law makes it easier than ever to qualify for the extra
It’s easy to figure out whether Mom is eligible for the extra help.  To qualify, she must be receiving Medicare and:
•        Have income limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21, 855 for a married couple living together.  Even if her annual income is higher, she still
may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.  Some examples in which income may be
higher include if she or her husband:
   —Support other family members who live with them;
   —Have earnings from work; or
   —Live in Alaska or Hawaii; and
•        Have resources limited to $12,510 for an individual or $25,010 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank
accounts, stocks and bonds.  We do not count her house or car as resources.
Thanks to this a “twist” in the law, we no longer count any life insurance policy she has as a resource, and we no longer count as income any
financial assistance she receives regularly from someone else to pay her household expenses like food, mortgage or rent, utilities or property taxes.  
Don’t take our word for it, see Chubby Checker’s rocking message at
While you’re there, you can fill out an easy-to-use online application for your mom at  To apply by phone or
have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Help with Medicare
Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020).  Or go to the nearest Social Security office.
If you’d like to learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, visit or call 1-800-
MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).  
Maybe it’s been a few years since Mom has taken to the dance floor to do The Twist.  But saving an extra $3,900 a year on prescription drugs may
cause her to jump up and dance.  What better gift could you give her this Mother’s Day?
# # #

When you hear about disability benefits, you probably think about adults. But disability benefits are not just for grown-ups. In some cases, children can
receive benefits too.
If your child who lives with you has a disability, and you also have limited income and resources, your child may be able to receive Supplemental
Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. SSI is another program run by Social Security.  SSI is a needs-based program funded through general tax
To qualify for SSI, your child must meet the following requirements:
•        Under age 18
•        Not be working and earning more than $1,000 a month in 2010. (This earnings amount changes every year.) If he or she is working and earning
that much money, we will determine that your child is not disabled.
•        Have a physical or mental condition (or a combination of conditions) those results in “marked and severe functional limitations.” This means
that the condition(s) must very seriously limit your child’s activities.
•        Have a condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, at least 12 months, or is expected to result in death.
Once your child reaches age 18, SSI disability benefits might still be payable as an adult. Also, an adult who was disabled before reaching age 22
might be eligible for Social Security benefits as a “disabled adult child.” For a disabled adult to become entitled to this “child” benefit, one of his or
her parents:
•        Must be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits; or
•        Must be deceased and have worked long enough to be covered under Social Security.
Are you ready to get started with an application for your child? The best way to begin is by checking out the Disability Starter Kit at
You can apply for Social Security or SSI payments for your child by calling Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or by
visiting your local Social Security office. If you are applying for SSI payments for your child, you should have his or her Social Security number and
birth certificate with you when you apply.  We also will ask you for your Social Security number.
Learn more by reading Social Security’s online publication, Benefits For Children With Disabilities, at
# # #

We’ve been telling people how quick and easy it is to apply for Medicare benefits online — even if you’re not ready to apply for retirement benefits.
And our celebrity spokespeople — the television family of The Patty Duke Show — have been spreading the word in a series of public service
announcements. Reunite with television’s favorite identical cousins, and the whole family, at
But perhaps the best advocates we have for the online Medicare application are the people who are using the application and discovering that it
really does take less than 10 minutes.  Just ask your average John.
John from Wisconsin told us, “filing for Medicare online was simple and I couldn't believe what little time it took to complete."
John from Indiana said, “This month I filed for Medicare at Filing online took less than five minutes from start to finish.
Finding the place to start my application, answering its simple questions, and submitting my claim was an easy process. I will recommend using
Social Security Online to others who want to apply for Medicare.”
You don’t have to be named John to appreciate the application. Kim of Wisconsin said, “I am so impressed with your website. It was possibly the
easiest website I have ever navigated. I had put this off for a few months thinking it would be difficult with it being the federal government, but I am
stunned and amazed at how quick and easy this really was.”
Even if you decide to wait until after you’re age 65 to apply for retirement benefits, most people should apply for 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 for Medicare; they will be
automatically enrolled.
If you’re within four months of age 65 or older, you can apply right now. Visit and select the “Retirement/Medicare” link in the
middle of the page.
Go online to apply for Medicare benefits, even if you’re not ready to retire. It takes less than 10 minutes!

# # #

Summer is right around the corner. Now is the time to plan for that summer job you really want. Whether you find the perfect outdoor job at a summer
camp or as a golf caddy, or you get to practice your people skills in retail, fast food, or an amusement park, one thing’s for sure: nothing’s better than
having fun this summer while earning a few extra dollars.
No matter how cool the job may be, make sure to look at the tax deductions when your first pay check is issued.  Some of the taxes you’re paying as
an employee will help you quality for Social Security benefits later.
To learn more about your Social Security number or how you earn credits for Social Security coverage, visit us at
Here’s another important thing to know as you go out to find summer employment: your Social Security number. Knowing your Social Security number
is important as you enter the workforce. Treat your number as confidential information and keep it protected. Memorize your number and do not carry
your Social Security card with you unless you need to show it to your employer. Keep it in a safe place with your other important papers.
If your employer wants to see your card and you don’t know where it is, it’s easy to apply for a new one.  Simply complete an Application For a Social
Security Card (Form SS-5) and show us original documents proving your U.S. citizenship or immigration status, age, and identity. The online
application includes examples of documents you may need; you can find the application at Then, take or mail
your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office. We will mail your Social Security card to you.
If your card is lost or stolen, you can apply for a replacement for free. However, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during
your lifetime.
Whether you find a job filing paperwork or cooking burgers, have fun this summer as you work and save for your future.
# # #        

Families of fallen military service members bear significant burdens from the loss of their loved one.   Lives are changed forever.   Aside from the
emotional devastation, the financial hardships placed on such families can be difficult.  Often, if a death occurs, a two-income household must make
do with one income.
Social Security provides income for surviving families of military service members.
Monthly Social Security benefits may be paid to widows or widowers and unmarried children who are younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are
attending elementary or secondary school full time).  Benefits may be payable to biological and adopted children, stepchildren, grandchildren, or step
grandchildren.  In addition, under certain circumstances, dependent parents also may qualify.  
Almost 2 million children receive Social Security survivors benefits with an average benefit payment of about $750 a month.  That’s nearly one and a
half billion dollars a month in survivors benefits for children.
More than 4.3 million surviving spouses and parents receive survivors benefits with an average monthly payment of about 1,100.  That’s more than
4.7 billion dollars a month in survivors benefits for spouses and parents.
You can apply for survivors benefits by telephone or at any Social Security office. To learn more about survivor’s benefits, read our publication,
Survivors Benefits. You can find it online at or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask that a
copy be mailed to you.
We at Social Security can never replace the love and life that has been lost. But we can and do honor armed forces members who have made the
ultimate sacrifice, and in many cases, we’re able to help families financially. On Memorial Day and every day, Social Security holds the highest
respect for all who have given their lives in defense of our nation.
# # #        


I lost my Social Security card, but I remember my number and I don’t plan to change careers anytime soon. Do I really need a new card?
The only time you may need the card is when you apply for a job and your prospective employer asks to see it.  If you do decide to get a new card or
your old one turns up, don’t carry it with you. Keep your card somewhere safe, with your other important papers. You are limited to three replacement
cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in
marital status that might require card updates do not count toward these limits. Also, you may not be affected by these limits if you can prove you need
the card to prevent a significant hardship. Learn more at

I recently noticed on my annual statement that my date of birth in Social Security’s records is wrong. How do I get that corrected?
To change the date of birth shown on our records you can take the following steps:
•        Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5); and
•        Show us documents proving:
•        U.S. citizenship or legal noncitizenship status (if you have not previously established your citizenship status with us);
•        Age; and
•        Identity.
•        Take (or mail) your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.
Remember that all documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of
documents. For details on acceptable documents, visit

What information will I need to have if I’d like to complete the online application for Social Security retirement benefits?
Although not required in all cases, we suggest that you have the following information at hand when you apply online for benefits. It will make
completing the application much easier for you.
•        Your date and place of birth, and your Social Security number;
•        Your bank account number and your bank's routing number, for direct deposit;
•        The amount of money you earned last year and this year. If you are applying for benefits between September and December, you may also need
to provide an estimate of what you will earn next year;
•        The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year;
•        The beginning and ending dates of any active military service you had prior to 1968;
•        The name, Social Security number, and date of birth of your current spouse, and, if applicable, any former spouses from marriages that lasted
more than 10 years or ended in death. You should also know the dates of marriage, places of marriage and the dates of divorce or death; and
•        A copy of your Social Security Statement.
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. To get started,

I am 65 and my wife is 62 and receiving spouse's benefits. When will she qualify for Medicare?
Most people must wait until age 65 to apply for Medicare. Some people can get Medicare at any age. This includes people who:
•        have been getting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months;
•        have kidney failure and require dialysis;
•        have had a kidney transplant; or
•        receive disability benefits because they suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease).
As someone who already receives retirement benefits, your wife will be enrolled automatically for Medicare coverage when she becomes eligible at
age 65.  Some people choose to delay filing for Medicare.  Such people can now apply online at by selecting the “Retirement/
Medicare” bar in the center of the page.

Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?
By law, Social Security disability benefits can be paid only after a worker has been disabled continuously throughout a period of five full calendar
months. The first benefit paid is for the sixth month of disability and is paid in the seventh month. This waiting period ensures that we pay benefits only
to persons with long-term disabilities and avoid duplicating other income protection plans (such as employer sick-pay plans) during the early months
of disability.  To learn more, read our online publication, Disability Benefits at

I just found out I qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).  How much will I receive in SSI benefits?
SSI is a needs-based program.  The benefit amount depends, in part, on other income and resources you might have.  The maximum federal SSI
payment nationwide throughout 2010 for an eligible individual is $674 a month, and for an eligible couple is $1,011 a month.  The amount of your SSI
benefit also depends, in part, on where you live.  Some states add money to the federal payment. Learn more by visiting our library of SSI publications
I get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  I plan to move to a new apartment this summer, but I have direct deposit.  Do I still need to notify
Social Security of my new address?
Yes.  Even though you have direct deposit, we may still need to contact you by mail. Someone who receives SSI needs to report any change in living
arrangements, income, or resources by calling our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or by visiting a local office within 10 days
after the month the change occurs.   If you call, you can speak to a representative from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on business days.  If you don’t notify us in a
timely manner, you could end up receiving an incorrect payment and have to pay it back.  To learn more about SSI and reporting responsibilities, read
our online fact sheet, What You Need To Know When You Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at

What happens to my Medicare coverage if my Social Security benefits stop because I go to jail?
If you were getting Medicare and monthly Social Security benefits before you went to jail, your benefits will stop but your hospital insurance (Part A)
coverage will continue. To keep your medical insurance (Part B) coverage, you must pay the premiums. If your coverage ends while you are in jail
because you did not pay your Medicare premiums, you will be able to enroll again during the next General Enrollment Period (January through March
of each year). Your coverage will start again in July of the year you reenroll. If you do reenroll, you will be responsible for any unpaid past-due
premiums and your ongoing premium may be higher.
Press Release:

Social Security Releases Open Government Plan

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, recently announced that the agency has released its Open Government plan.  The plan, available at, reflects the agency’s commitment to increase transparency, expand opportunities for citizen participation and
collaboration, and make open government sustainable at Social Security.  Three flagship initiatives are highlighted in the plan -- the Spanish-Language
Retirement Estimator, Online Service Enhancement, and an Online Life-Expectancy Calculator.  These initiatives support the agency’s mission, goals,
and objectives, as well as showcase the value of open government principles.

“I applaud President Obama’s commitment to opening the federal government to the people it serves and I am especially proud of the three flagship
initiatives we have chosen to implement by the end of this year,” said Commissioner Astrue. “These initiatives signify Social Security’s ongoing
commitment to transparency, citizen participation, and collaboration as we improve the services we provide to the public.”

Social Security’s Spanish-language Retirement Estimator will be the agency’s and the federal government’s first-ever non-English interactive Internet
application -- a tool that furthers transparency by offering the Spanish-speaking public an opportunity to get instant, personalized estimates of future
retirement benefits.  Last year, over three million people used the English-language version of this popular online service available at www.

As part of its Online Service Enhancement initiative, Social Security will unveil a new service-channeling tool that will help people more easily find the
information and services they seek on the agency’s website  A key feature will be the opportunity to go online to schedule an in-
office appointment for those who are unable to use our online services to conduct all of their business.  This idea was submitted by Christie Dickson, an
employee of Social Security, and was one of the finalists for the President’s SAVE award.  In developing this tool, the agency will collaborate with
members of the public as well as with industry experts.

The agency also is developing an Online Life-Expectancy Calculator -- a simple, but important tool to assist the public with retirement planning.  Many
people substantially underestimate life expectancy, and this new online service will add a measure of accuracy to retirement planning by providing
average life expectancies at different ages based on the person’s gender and date of birth, and drawing on assumptions provided in the annual Social
Security Trustees’ report.

“I look forward to continuing to translate the values of open government into lasting improvements in the way the agency makes decisions, solves
problems, and addresses its challenges,” said Commissioner Astrue.  “Social Security’s flagship initiatives will improve our services and further break
down barriers between the American people and their government.”

Social Security encourages feedback on its Open Government plan.  To view the plan and share your comments and ideas, please visit