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


In April, Social Security announced 52 new Compassionate Allowances conditions to the growing list of severe medical
conditions that qualify for expedited medical decisions. The new conditions include many neurological disorders, cancers, and
rare diseases.

The Compassionate Allowances initiative is a way of quickly identifying diseases and other medical conditions that invariably
qualify as “disabled” based on minimal medical information. Compassionate Allowances allow Social Security to quickly
identify the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that we can obtain

The announcement of 52 new conditions, effective in August, will increase the total number of Compassionate Allowances
conditions to 165. That list continues to grow as Social Security, the National Institutes of Health, and a number of patient
organizations help identify new conditions that clearly warrant quick approvals.

“Social Security will continue to work with the medical community and patient organizations to add more conditions,”
Commissioner Astrue said. “With our Compassionate Allowances program, we quickly approved disability benefits for nearly
61,000 people with severe disabilities in the past fiscal year, and nearly 173,000 applications since the program began.”

Social Security develops the list of Compassionate Allowances conditions from information received at public outreach
hearings, comments received from the disability community, counsel of medical and scientific experts, and research with the
National Institutes of Health. Also, we consider which conditions are most likely to meet our definition of disability.
For more information on the Compassionate Allowances initiative, please visit

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Summertime is here, and that means blockbuster movies are in season. This summer — and throughout the end of the year —
moviegoers can catch some of the usual heroes on the silver screen.

Take Batman. He’ll be back on the big screen in another surefire blockbuster. The superhero first gained fans in the comics
back in 1939. He could be taking advantage of delayed retirement credits — the power to receive bigger payments for delaying
retirement benefits beyond one’s full retirement age. The credit could be worth as much as eight percent a year until age 70.
Learn more about this super power available to anyone at

Dark Shadows will be making a big screen debut, based on the popular television series. The main character, Barnabas, is
more than two centuries old. Surely, he would qualify for benefits if he would just go online and apply.

Then there are the marvelous superheroes of the “silver age” of comics, several of whom are appearing in The Avengers.
Captain America was born in 1941, making him not only fit for leading but also ripe for retiring. The Hulk and Thor both came
onto the scene in 1962; Iron Man and Nick Fury joined them in 1963. They, along with 1962’s Spiderman (also enjoying a movie
reboot this year) don’t qualify for retirement benefits yet, but they might want to plan ahead by taking a look at the online
Retirement Estimator at, where they can get an instant, personalized estimate of future
retirement benefits.

From Batman to Spiderman, Captain America to The Hulk, making a decision to retire does not mean hanging up your
costume. Today’s retirees are more active than ever, even as they collect benefits.

If you’d like to learn more about your own future retirement benefits, take a break from the big screen and take a look at your
computer screen. Visit to receive a picture of your own future retirement.

Ready to start the sequel now? Let the opening credits on your retirement begin; apply for benefits right over the computer. Just
visit and click the “retirement” tab.

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You can probably think of a number of times when you asked your dad for a little extra help. Now, with Father’s Day right around
the corner, is the perfect time to offer a little extra help for Dad. People across the nation are helping their dads save nearly
$4,000 a year on the cost of Medicare prescription drugs. You can help your dad too — and it won’t cost you a dime.

The high cost of prescription medication can be a burden on fathers (or anyone) who have limited income and resources. But
there is Extra Help — available through Social Security — that could pay part of his monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and
prescription co-payments. That Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 a year.

To figure out whether your father is eligible, Social Security needs to know his income and the value of his savings, investments,
and real estate (other than the home he lives in). To qualify for the Extra Help, he must be enrolled in Medicare and have:

•        Income limited to $16,755 for an individual or $22,695 for a married couple living together. Even if his annual income is
higher, he still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. Some
examples where income may be higher include if he or his spouse:
     —Support other family members who live with them;
     —Have earnings from work; or
     —Live in Alaska or Hawaii.
•        Resources limited to $13,070 for an individual or $26,120 for a married couple living together. Resources include such
things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. We do not count his house and a car (if he has one) as resources.

Social Security has an easy-to-use online application that you can help complete for your dad. You can find it at
www. 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.

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).

Think of all the times you’ve asked Dad for some extra help. This Father’s Day, give your dad a little extra help he can use year-
round — a savings of up to $4,000 a year on his Medicare prescription drugs through Extra Help available from Social Security.

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When you are away from home, one thing you don’t want to worry about is how you will receive your next monthly Social Security
payment. That is why it is important for everyone receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to
sign up for electronic payments.

These days, almost everyone gets benefit payments electronically. Today, about 90 percent of all Social Security and SSI
beneficiaries receive their payments electronically. That number is increasing because the law requires that by March 1, 2013
all federal benefit payments, including Social Security and SSI payments, be made electronically. Whether you receive Social
Security or SSI, you can depend on your payment arriving in your account on time, every time. If you don’t already receive
electronic payments, there are many good reasons to sign up. For one, less money and time spent driving to the bank to cash
your check helps you save. Second, fewer paper checks, envelopes, and stamps, and less fuel to deliver the checks means
savings for the government.

Hurricane season is here for some areas of the country. Other regions bear the brunt of flooding. Some areas of the nation are
plagued by tornadoes, and still others must deal with wildfires, severe thunderstorms, or even earthquakes. If you are
unfortunate enough to be in the path of a natural disaster, the last thing you want is for your income to be interrupted because of
an evacuation or a missing mailbox. With electronic payments, you know your money will be in your account on time no matter

When on vacation, an electronic payment ensures payments will be deposited into your account on time, so there’s no reason
to worry about the safety of your benefit or to ask a neighbor to look out for your check when you are away.
As an added bonus, many banks offer free checking accounts for people who use direct deposit because it saves the bank the
cost of processing paper payments.
Skip the line at the bank, save money, get your payment faster, and know you can depend on your payment being in the bank no
matter what happens or where you are. You can do all of this with electronic payments. Learn more about it at

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I’m getting married later this month and plan to change my name. What documents do I need to apply for a new Social Security
card with my new name?
To change your name for any reason in Social Security’s records, and on your Social Security card, you’ll need to provide proof
of your U.S. citizenship (if you have not previously established it with us) or immigration status. You’ll need to show us evidence
of your legal name change by showing us documentation of your old and new names. Such documents could include a court
order for a name change, marriage certificate, divorce decree, or Certificate of Naturalization. Finally, you’ll need to show us
proof of identity. All documents submitted must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept
photocopies or notarized copies of documents. Visit our website about your Social Security card and number at
www. where you can get more information and fill out your application. Or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY

Recently, I was told I shouldn’t be carrying my Social Security card around. Is that true?
We encourage you to keep your Social Security card at home in a safe place. Do not carry it with you unless you are taking it to a
job interview or to someone who requires it. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, and the best way to
avoid becoming a victim is to safeguard your card and number. To learn more, visit our Social Security number and card page at


I just started my first job and my paycheck is less than I expected. Why am I paying for retirement benefits when I have a lifetime
to live before retirement?
Besides being required by law, you are securing your own financial future through the payment of Social Security and Medicare
taxes. The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection, whether you retire or become disabled. And when you die, your
family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work as well. Aside from all the benefits in your
own future, your Social Security and Medicare payments also help today’s retirees. To learn more, visit our website at www.

My father receives Social Security retirement benefits, and I will be in charge of his estate when he dies. Should that occur, do I
need to report his death to Social Security or will benefits automatically stop?
When your father dies, please notify Social Security as soon as possible by calling us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-
0778). Another person, such as a spouse, may be eligible for survivors benefits based on his record. Also, we might be able to
pay a one-time payment of $255 to help with funeral expenses. We suggest reading a copy of our online publication, How Social
Security Can Help You When A Family Member Dies, at


I have been getting Social Security disability benefits for many years. I’m about to hit my full retirement age. What will happen to
my disability benefits?
When you reach “full retirement age” we will switch you from disability to retirement benefits. But you won’t even notice the
change because your benefit amount will stay the same. It’s just that when you reach retirement age, we consider you to be a
“retiree” and not a disability beneficiary. To learn more, visit our website at


My 15-year-old sister has been blind since birth. I think she should apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), but my
parents think because she's a minor, they're responsible for her and she won't qualify.  Who is right?
To qualify for SSI, an individual must meet certain income and resource limits. Since your sister is a minor, some of your
parents' income and resources will determine whether your sister is eligible for SSI. Once your sister turns 18, their income and
resources won’t be considered when deciding her eligibility and payment amount. Tell your parents they can check at any Social
Security office to see if your sister qualifies. To learn more, visit our website at or call us at 1-800-772-
1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

I’m on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and live with my two brothers in an apartment. My SSI payment is cut by one-third
because the Social Security office says I don’t pay enough of the household expenses. How much of the expenses must I pay in
order to get the full SSI rate?
Under the rules of the program, you must be paying an equal share of the expenses. Because there are three of you in the
household, you must pay one-third of the expenses. If you are not paying an equal share of the rent, utilities, groceries, and
other household expenses, your SSI payment must be reduced. To learn more, visit our website at


I can’t find my Medicare card and I need a replacement. Do I need to come into the office?
You can get your Medicare card replaced without leaving your home. Just go online to http://www.socialsecurity.
gov/medicarecard/ and get your new Medicare card sent to your home. Simply fill out the requested information and you’ll get
your new Medicare card within 30 days; it will be mailed to your address on record. If you need temporary proof of Medicare
coverage, call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 to request a letter and you will receive it in the mail within 7 to 10 days. If
you need immediate proof of your Medicare coverage, please visit your local Social Security office.

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