Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
Milwaukee, WI
JUNE 2010

Who says you can’t teach an old dad new twists?  All across the nation this Father’s Day weekend, people are telling their fathers, grandfathers, and other
special men in their lives about a new “twist” in the law that may help them qualify for extra help paying for costs associated with their prescription drugs.
When you’re spending time with Dad this weekend, ask him if he can use some help paying for his prescription drugs.  If so, tell him about the Medicare
Prescription Drug Plan and the extra help available through Social Security.  
If Dad is covered by Medicare and has limited income and resources, he might be eligible for extra help to pay for his monthly premiums, annual
deductibles, and prescription co-payments.  The extra help is worth an average of $3,900 per year.  
If you’re met with a resistant, “No, I’ve looked into it before and I don’t qualify,” then let him know the law changed in January 2010.  As volunteer
spokesman Chubby Checker will tell you, a new “twist” in the law makes it easier than ever to qualify for the extra help.
Thanks to this new "twist" in the law, we no longer count any life insurance policy he has as a resource, and we no longer count as income any financial
assistance he receives regularly from someone else to pay his 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
To qualify, he 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 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 in which income may be higher
include if he or his wife:
     —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 his house or car as resources.
You can help Dad fill out an easy-to-use online application 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.
You and your dad can 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 Dad did the Twist.  But saving an extra $3,900 a year on prescription drugs may help put a new spring in his step.  

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There’s good news for Americans who want help getting a handle on their finances.  The official government website dedicated to teaching all Americans
the basics of financial education,, is now loaded with more information and is even easier to use.
The new site has enhanced interactive features and provides more resources to Americans seeking information that can help with their personal financial
The new website creates an online point of access to financial information from the 21 federal agencies, departments, and bureaus --
including Social Security -- that comprise the Financial Literacy and Education Commission. Visitors to the site can find information about how to plan,
financially, for a host of life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child, home ownership, or retirement.  Users also can find information targeted to
their personal or professional situation.  For instance, the site offers resources for teachers, military service members, women, parents, youth, and
employers. The site also provides money management tools including a financial savings calculator, worksheets for establishing a household budget,
and a college preparation checklist. The site also is available in Spanish. The effort to make the website as helpful and useful to Americans will be
ongoing, with improvements expected to continue.
In addition to being a member of the commission responsible for this site, Social Security offers other ways to help you with your finances. For example,
you can use the online Retirement Estimator to get a personalized, instant estimate of what your future retirement benefits will be in different situations.
The estimator is available at
Learn more about Social Security at
For more about the basics of financial education, whether you’re buying a house or balancing your checkbook, visit
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With age comes wisdom.  
Clearly, there is a lot of knowledge and experiences that grandparents can pass along to their children and grandchildren.  But there’s one place where
young people can teach grandma and grandpa a thing or two:  online.  
Show your grandparents how they can use to avoid unneeded trips to a Social Security office.  Take them to the online
Retirement Estimator, a tool that helps them figure out how much they may get in monthly benefits depending on when they retire. It’s available at
You also can show them our library of online publications containing all the information they need to know on an array of Social Security, retirement, and
Medicare subjects. The publications can be found at  If they were thinking about retirement, you may want to
show them just how knowledgeable you are by suggesting they read the publication When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits at
Now you’ve done it! You’ve been so helpful that they’ve decided they’re ready to retire right away. When they grab their hats and try to drag you to the local
Social Security office, remind them that all they have to do is drag the mouse across the mouse pad. Take them to,
where they can apply online for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes — that may be less time that it would have taken to lock the front door and
start up the car. Once they click the “submit” button, they’re done. (And so are you.)
While you’re online with them, here’s an excuse to visit Facebook and Twitter.  Show them how to follow Social Security on both! The icons are right on
our main page,
So many of the things grandparents (and even parents) may want to do at a Social Security office can be done online these days.  See for yourself.  Even
better, help someone less web-savvy than you check it out Social Security online.

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It seems that these days everyone is on Facebook. It’s hard to believe that as recently as 2006, Facebook didn’t even exist. Now, even if you don’t have a
Facebook account of your own, you’re almost certainly “connected” to someone who does.
If you are a part of this social network phenomenon, we’d like to have you connect with us!  Facebook is a great way to stay informed about Social
Security and what it means to you.
With more than 400 million active users worldwide, Facebook was ranked as the most-used social network website in the world according to a 2009
study. What better place than Facebook to join Social Security’s network and stay in the know?
In addition to a Facebook page, Social Security also has started “tweeting.”
If you’re not connected to us on Facebook (or even if you are), be sure to follow Social Security on Twitter. Social Security news and information is
presented in easily digestible, 140-character bits!
Coincidently, Twitter found its beginnings in 2006 as well. It was ranked as the third most popular social networking website in 2009 and boasts six
million unique monthly visitors and 55 million visits a month.
Whether you’re a fan of Facebook or you tend toward Twitter, we hope these electronic avenues will help us reach more people who can benefit from our
online information and services.
To follow us on Facebook, go to and click “like.”
To follow us on Twitter, go to and select “Follow Social Security” to receive our messages.
Or, visit and look for the Facebook and Twitter icons. While you’re there, take a look at the icon that links to our YouTube page
where you can watch Social Security videos, including public service announcements featuring rock and roll icon Chubby Checker and academy award
winning actress Patty Duke.

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President Obama has called for greater transparency in government.  In response, Social Security has released its Open Government plan, which you
can read online at
The plan reflects Social Security’s commitment to expand opportunities for citizen participation and collaboration, and make open government more
sustainable at Social Security.  The agency is particularly proud of three flagship initiatives: a Spanish-Language Retirement Estimator, an Online Service
Enhancement Initiative, and an Online Life-Expectancy Calculator.  These three initiatives support the agency’s mission, goals, and objectives, and
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 Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security.
Social Security’s Spanish-language Retirement Estimator will be the federal government’s first 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,
more than three million people used the English-language version of this popular online service available at
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.
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 their life expectancy. 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.”
We encourage you to read Social Security’s Open Government plan at
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How many Social Security numbers have been issued since the program started?

Social Security celebrates its 75th anniversary on August 14, 2010. Since numbers were first issued in November 1936, we have assigned about 460
million numbers. There are more than one billion possible combinations of the 9-digit Social Security number.  Visit
gov/history/ssn/ssncards.html for a complete history of the Social Security number.

How do I change my citizenship status on Social Security’s records?

To change your citizenship status shown in Social Security records:
•        Complete an application for a Social Security card (Form SS-5), which you can find online at; and
•        Locate documents proving your:
•        New or revised citizenship status (Only certain documents can be accepted as proof of citizenship. These include your U.S. passport, a Certificate of
Naturalization, or a Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to see your current immigration documents);
•        Age; and
•        Identity.  Then,
•        Take (or mail) your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.
All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency.  We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. For
more information, visit


My husband and I are both entitled to our own Social Security benefits. Will our combined benefits be reduced because we are married?

No. When each member of a married couple works in employment covered under Social Security and both meet all other eligibility requirements to
receive retirement benefits, their lifetime earnings are calculated independently to determine their benefit amounts. Therefore, each spouse receives a
monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. If one member of the couple earned low wages or failed to earn enough Social Security credits
(40) to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse. To learn more about retirement, visit

I have never worked but my spouse has. What will my benefits be?
You can be entitled to as much as one-half of your spouse's benefit amount when you reach full retirement age. If you want to get Social Security
retirement benefits before you reach full retirement age, the amount of your benefit is reduced. The amount of reduction depends on when you will reach
full retirement age. For example, if you file at age 62, and  your full retirement age is 65, you can get 37.5 percent of your spouse's unreduced benefit; if
your full retirement age is 66, you can get 35 percent of your spouse's unreduced benefit; if your full retirement age is 67, you can get 32.5 percent of your
spouse's unreduced benefit.
The amount of your benefit increases if your entitlement begins at a later age, up to the maximum of 50 percent at full retirement age. If your full retirement
age is other than those shown here, the amount of your benefit will fall between 32.5 percent and 37 percent at age 62. However, if you are taking care of
a child who is under age 16 or who gets Social Security disability benefits on your spouse’s record, you get the full spouse’s benefits, regardless of your
age. Learn more about retirement benefits at


Can I receive Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits at the same time?

You may be able to receive SSI in addition to monthly Social Security benefits if your Social Security benefit is low enough for you to qualify for SSI.
Whether you can get SSI depends on your income and resources (the things you own). If you have low income and few resources, you may be able to
supplement your Social Security benefit with an SSI payment. You can find out more about SSI by going to and selecting the
“Supplemental Security Income (SSI)” banner at the top of the page.

What are the limits on what I can own to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income? Can I have money in the bank, a car, and a furnished house?

We count real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds toward the resource limits on what you can own. You may be able to get SSI if your
resources are worth no more than $2,000. A couple may be able to get SSI if they have resources worth no more than $3,000. Keep in mind that we
usually don’t count the house you live in, personal items such as furniture and clothing, or the car you drive. If you own valuable property you are trying to
sell, you may be able to get SSI while trying to sell it. You can find out more about SSI by going to and selecting the
“Supplemental Security Income (SSI)” banner at the top of the page.


How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?

There are two ways that you can apply for disability benefits. You can:
1. Apply at; or
2. Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local Social Security office or to
set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone.

If you schedule an appointment, a Disability Starter Kit will be mailed to you. The kit will help you get ready for your disability claim interview. If you are
applying online or want to get started on the kit right away, it is available online at

My doctor said he thinks I’m disabled. Who decides if I meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits?

We first will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for Social Security disability benefits, such as whether you worked
enough years to qualify.  Then we will send your application to the disability determination services office in your state, often called the “DDS” or “state
agency.” Your state agency completes the disability decision for us.  Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information
about your condition. They consider all the facts in your case.  They use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics, or institutions
where you have been treated and all other information.

The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is not available from your current
medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination. We prefer to ask your own doctor, but sometimes the exam may have to
be done by someone else. Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs. Learn more about disability benefits at


Who can get Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug coverage?

Anyone who has Medicare can get Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. If you have limited income and resources, you may be eligible for Extra
Help to pay for the costs—monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments—related to a Medicare prescription drug plan. To qualify
for Extra Help, you must reside in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Your resources must be 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 your house and car as
resources.) Your annual income must be limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21,855 for a married couple living together.

Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help. Learn more at

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