On Memorial Day, as we pay tribute to the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, we also share some news about Social Security disability benefits for veterans with disabilities: a new expedited disability process. We believe it is important to recognize those who currently serve in the military as well as those injured in the line of duty and consider it an honor and a duty to serve them. Whether the injury is physical or mental, getting a decision about Social Security disability benefits from your government shouldn’t add to the problems faced by the injured. Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, recently unveiled a new initiative to expedite disability applications from veterans with a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability compensation rating of 100 percent Permanent and Total (P&T). Under the new process, Social Security will treat these veterans’ applications as high priority and issue expedited decisions, similar to the way we currently handle disability claims from wounded warriors. “Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and it is only right that we ensure they have timely access to the disability benefits they may be eligible for and deserve,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. Learn more about the new expedited process for veterans at www.socialsecurity.gov/pressoffice/pr/2014/expedited-dib-process2- pr.html Read about this new service at www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability-pt.htm. Also, you’ll want to visit our Wounded Warriors page at www.socialsecurity.gov/woundedwarriors. There you’ll find informative webinars, a Disability Planner, an overview of our disability programs and the convenient online disability application.
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OLDER AMERICANS BENEFIT FROM MY SOCIAL SECURITY
Each May, groups and organizations around the nation join in celebrating Older Americans Month. Established in 1963, Older Americans Month provides an opportunity for our nation to recognize seniors for their many contributions and share important information to help them stay healthy and active.
This year’s theme is “Safe Today, Healthy Tomorrow.” Social Security has something to help keep you safe and healthy: a suite of online services. Rather than driving or taking public transportation to a local office, you can use our secure, free online services to handle much of your Social Security business. With the amount of time you save, you’ll have more time to spend with the grandkids or have time for a brisk walk around the neighborhood or local park.
Before going for that walk, though, visit www.socialsecurity.gov. Whether you already receive benefits or you’re just starting to think about retirement, it’s a great time to open a my Social Security account.
What’s my Social Security? It’s a secure online account that allows you immediate access to your personal Social Security information. During your working years, you can use my Social Security to view 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. Check it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
After you check your online Social Security Statement, be sure to visit our Retirement Estimator. Like a my Social Security account, you can use it as many times as you’d like. The Estimator lets you change variables, such as retirement date options and future earnings. You may discover that you’d rather wait another year or two before you retire to earn a higher benefit. To get instant, personalized estimates of your future benefits just go to www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Deciding when to retire is a personal choice and depends on a number of factors. To help, we suggest you read our online fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. If you’re ready to retire, the online service you’ve been waiting for is our online application for retirement benefits, which allows you to complete and submit your application in as little as 15 minutes at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline. Once you complete and submit the electronic application, in most cases, that’s it—no papers to sign or documents to provide.
Are you already receiving benefits? You can use my Social Security to immediately get your proof of benefits letter, change your address or phone number on our records, start or change your direct deposit information and check your benefit and payment information.
We encourage you to take advantage of our online services and resources, freeing up more time for activities you really enjoy. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.
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RACE TO RETIREMENT
And they’re off!
Wanda Worker takes the lead as she visits my Social Security and gets a handle on her retirement planning. John Q. Public gains ground as he uses Social Security’s Retirement Estimator to get a clearer picture of his future retirement benefits. It’s neck and neck. But wait—Average Joe picks up speed as he applies for retirement benefits on his laptop from the comfort of his recliner and takes the reins of his retirement.
May celebrates races. Whether you plan to watch the Kentucky Derby in early May or the Indy 500 later in the month, May is a month for those with the need for speed.
In the 15 minutes that pass as Average Joe tunes into the Kentucky Derby, he’s able to go from worker to retiree. By the time the Indy 500 rolls around, he’ll know how much his monthly benefit will be.
Race enthusiasts will be pleased to know that, although they should never make a speedy decision about when to retire, they can apply for retirement in a flash using our online services at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
Jump into our Retirement Estimator to get an instant estimate of your future benefit amount. You can take pit stops and change the scenarios (as easily as pit crews change tires) to see how your benefit amount will change with different retirement dates and future earnings estimates. Get a jump start on your retirement planning at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Zip over to my Social Security to open your secure online account, allowing you immediate access to your personal Social Security information. During your working years, you can use my Social Security to view 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 get benefits, use my Social Security to get your proof of benefits letter, change your address or phone number on our records, start or change your direct deposit information and check your benefit and payment information. Kick start your account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Ready to sprint to the finish line? Complete the online application for retirement in as little as 15 minutes at www.socialsecurity. gov/applyonline. Once you complete and submit the electronic application, in most cases, that’s it—no more papers to sign or documents to provide.
Mother’s Day is right around the corner. It’s always nice to give Mom a card, flowers or candy, but this year, people all over the country are helping their moms save an estimated $4,000 annually on the cost of Medicare prescription drugs. You can help your mom too—and it won’t cost you a dime.
If your mother has Medicare coverage and has limited income and resources, she may be eligible for Extra Help—available through Social Security—to pay part of her monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments.
To figure out whether your mother is eligible, Social Security needs to know her income and the value of her savings, investments and real estate (other than the home she lives in). To qualify for the Extra Help, she must receive Medicare and have:
• Income limited to $17,505 for an individual or $23,595 for a married couple living together. Even if your mom’s annual income is higher, she still may be able to get some help. Some examples where income may be higher include if she and, if married, her spouse: —Support other family members who live with them; —Have earnings from work; or —Live in Alaska or Hawaii.
• Resources limited to $13,440 for an individual or $26,860 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.
We have an easy-to-use online application that you can help Mom complete. You can find it at www.socialsecurity. gov/prescriptionhelp. 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).
To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800- MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).
This Mother’s Day, give your mom a gift she can really use without spending a dime—savings of around $4,000 a year on her Medicare prescription drug costs! Flowers wither and candy won’t last long, but the Extra Help through Social Security will keep on giving throughout the year. And keep in mind as Father’s Day approaches, you can get the same “free gift” of Extra Help for Dad! Learn more by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.
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KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF WITH SOCIAL SECURITY’S ONLINE SERVICES
May 8 is National No Socks Day. It may be a good day to visit Social Security online at www.socialsecurity.gov, because we have some online services that will knock your socks off.
National No Socks Day is a day for celebrating the freedom of the foot. We encourage you to walk around your house barefoot all day and to take care of your business online. If you have Social Security business, it’ll be as easy as a barefoot walk in the park.
What can you do at www.socialsecurity.gov? Try these online services on for size.
Create an online my Social Security account, and you can use it to do all kinds of Social Security activities. During your working years, you can use my Social Security to view 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 get benefits, you can use my Social Security to get a proof of benefits letter, change your address or phone number on our records, start or change your direct deposit information and check your benefit and payment information. Get your feet wet at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Apply for retirement benefits with an online application that you can complete and submit in as little as 15 minutes at www. socialsecurity.gov/applyonline. Once you complete and submit the electronic application, in most cases, that’s it—no more papers to sign or documents to provide.
Want to get a leg up on what Social Security can do for you? We have an entire library of free publications in both PDF and audio format at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. You can read our publications on your computer, tablet or mobile device whenever it’s convenient for you.
As you’re wiggling your toes and barefooting around the house, you may just want to do some fun things online. We’ve got those, too. For example, read about the most popular baby names of the year, decade or century at www.socialsecurity.gov/ babynames. You can even plug in your birth year to see where your name stands.
You can do business with us over the Internet on any day—not just National No Socks Day. But if you do, be careful—our online services are likely to knock your socks off any time you visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
GENERAL Question: I lost my Social Security card, but I remember my number. Do I really need a new card? Answer: No, probably not—but it is important to know your number. The only time you may need the Social Security card is if your employer asks for it when you get a new job. If you do decide to get a new card or your lost one turns up, don’t carry it with you. Keep it with your other important documents. Generally, you are limited to three replacement cards a year and 10 cards during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. Keep in mind this is a free service. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.
Question: I noticed that my date of birth in Social Security’s records is wrong. How do I get that corrected? Answer: To change the date of birth shown on our records, take the following steps: • Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5); • Show us documents proving: • U.S. citizenship (if you have not previously established your citizenship with us); • Age; and • Identity; and • Take (or mail) your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office. Note 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 the documents you’ll need, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ss5doc.
RETIREMENT Question: What type of information will I need to provide if I’d like to apply online for Social Security retirement benefits? Answer: Whether you apply for retirement benefits online, by phone or in an office, we suggest that you have the following information at hand when you do it—it will make completing the application easier for you. • Your birthdate, place of birth and 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 in the months of September through December, you may also need to provide an estimate of what you expect to earn next year if you plan to continue working; • 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; and • The name, Social Security number and date of birth of your current and any former spouses. Depending on your situation, you may need to provide additional documentation with your application. We’ll give you instructions on how to mail or bring it to us. To get started, visit our Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2.
Question: I am 65 and my wife is 62 and receiving spouse's benefits. When will she qualify for Medicare benefits? Answer: Most people must wait until age 65 to qualify for Medicare benefits. Some people can get Medicare at any age, including those who: • Have been getting Social Security disability benefits for 24 months or more; • 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). You can apply online for Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/medicareonly.
DISABILITY Question: What are the requirements for receiving disabled widow’s benefits? Answer: You may be able to get disabled widow(er)’s benefits at age 50 if you meet Social Security’s disability requirement. Your disability must have started before age 60 and within seven years of the latest of the following dates: the month the worker died; the last month you were entitled to survivors benefits on the worker’s record as a parent caring for a surviving minor child; the month your previous entitlement to disabled widow(er)’s benefits ended because your disability ended. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity. gov/dibplan/dqualify9.htm.
Question: I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must last at least a year or be expected to result in death. But I’m disabled now. Does this mean that I must wait a year after becoming disabled before I can receive benefits? Answer: No. You do not have to wait a year after becoming disabled. If you’re disabled and expect to be out of work for at least a year, you should apply for disability benefits right away. It can take months to process an application for disability benefits. If we approve your application, your first Social Security disability benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to Disability Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME Question: If I get approved, how much will I receive in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits? Answer: The amount of your SSI benefit depends, in part, on the amount of other income you have. For 2014, the basic, maximum federal SSI payment is $710 per month for an individual and $1,082 per month for a couple. However, some states add money to the basic payment. Other monthly income you have would begin to reduce the basic SSI payment. Other things, such as where you live and who you live with, can affect your payment amount. Learn more about SSI by reading SSI publications at www.socialsecurity. gov/pubs. Enter “SSI” in the search box.
Question: I moved in with my parents until I get back on my feet. Why did my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment decrease? Answer: If you receive SSI, your living arrangements can affect your monthly payment. When you live in another person’s home and do not pay your fair share of the living expenses, that is counted as “in-kind” income and can reduce your SSI payment. You must report any changes in your living arrangement to Social Security within 10 days of the change. When reporting a change in living arrangement, you need to tell us your address, who you live with and what you contribute toward the household bills and expenses. You also need to report if you move into a private or public hospital or nursing home, an institution run by the government, jail, another person’s home or a new place of your own. Report changes in your living arrangement at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325- 0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Learn more about SSI and the things you need to report when you get it at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.
Question: I thought there were just two parts to Medicare, but my mom said there are more. 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 Part A and Part B to enroll in Part C; and • Part D (prescription drug coverage) is voluntary and helps cover the costs of prescription medications. 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.