Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
Milwaukee, WI
JUNE 2014

National Family Month takes place each year from Mother’s Day in May to Father’s Day in June, and coincides with the end of the
school year when families are able to spend even more time together. It is the perfect time to spend more time focusing on each
member of your family.
Social Security has your entire family in mind when it comes to coverage and benefits. We’re here to help everyone in the family—
during every stage of life.
Most people think of retirement benefits when they think about Social Security, and that certainly is a big part of what we do. In fact,
most of the benefits we pay go to retirees and their families—about 41 million people. But Social Security is more than retirement.
Just read on.
If you work and pay Social Security taxes during your lifetime, you can look forward to a strong foundation of income in retirement
from Social Security. Of course, Social Security was never intended to be your sole source of retirement income. It is a foundation
upon which you build with pensions, savings, and other income.
But what if you become disabled before you retire and you are unable to continue working to support your family? Social Security
has you covered with disability benefits. If you have a disability that is expected to last a year or longer, or result in death, you
should apply for disability benefits.
Your work and taxes cover not only you, but your entire family, too. Family benefits can include retirement, disability and, in the event
of your death, survivors benefits. This coverage includes everyone in your family who depends on you for support, such as your
minor children who are under age 18, or age 19 if still in secondary school, as well as your spouse. It also can include older
children who have severe disabilities that began before age 22. In some cases, parents and grandchildren can qualify for family
benefits if they depend on your income and you are their only means of support
If you want to learn more about how Social Security benefits the younger members of your family, visit
gov/youngpeople. This page has information for you even if you don’t have children and are a young worker yourself.
So whether through survivors, disability, or retirement benefits, Social Security is here to help you and your entire family when the
need arises.
And the best way to apply for benefits is online at Perhaps another popular family member—the family
pet—can best explain why applying online is the best option for you. Check out our creative videos on our YouTube channel for
sound advice from the four-legged members of the family. Just visit and select the YouTube button at the
bottom of the page.
Want to learn more? Read or listen to the publication, Understanding the Benefits, at

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June 27 is Helen Keller Day, a commemorative holiday established by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 on her 100th birthday. The
first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, Helen Keller was a world-famous speaker, author, and advocate for
people with disabilities. She undoubtedly would have appreciated all that Social Security does for the disabled community and
their families.
Not only does Social Security provide disability benefits for people who qualify, but we make great efforts to communicate with
people in alternative formats to make our resources and services accessible to everybody. We are committed to providing world-
class customer service to everyone we serve. One of our long-standing commitments is to ensure that people with disabilities
have meaningful access to our programs and services. All of the pages on our website,, are easy to
access for people with disabilities.
We are pleased to build on this commitment with the introduction of our new Center for Section 504 Compliance. Section 504 of
the Rehabilitation Act prohibits federal agencies and programs that receive federal funding from discriminating against individuals
with disabilities. The 504 Center provides guidance to Social Security offices nationwide to ensure that our customers with
disabilities have meaningful access when conducting business with us.
The 504 Center's toll-free number is 1-844-881-9061 and its business hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday
through Friday (except federal holidays).
In addition, we offer our publications and notices in alternative formats for those who request them. The most popular ways for the
public to read our publications are by PDF and streaming audio file at However, the public also can
request our publications in Braille, audio cassette tape, audio CD, or enlarged print at
Learn about our special notice options at
Find out more by visiting And, by the way, you’ll find that all of our web
pages are easily accessible for people with disabilities.

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This year, we observe National Men’s Health Week from June 9 to 15. Each year we observe Men’s Health Week the week prior to
Father’s Day, focusing on awareness, prevention, education and family.
And, June 8 is Best Friends Day, so if your dad happens to be your best friend too, all the more reason to celebrate.
Social Security encourages you to support fathers and friends everywhere in their efforts to stay healthy. The right balance of diet,
exercise, regular visits to doctors and health care providers, and overall healthy living can go a long way to help everyone remain a
part of your daily life for years to come.
Avoiding stress helps folks stay healthy. That’s why we’d like to suggest that you advise the men in your life (and everyone for that
matter) to avoid scams and phishers. Fathers and best friends may like to go fishing, but make sure they aren’t the catch of the day
when a criminal offers alluring bait.
For example, Social Security will not call or email you for your personal information such as your Social Security number or banking
information. If someone claiming to be from Social Security contacts you and asks for this information, do not give out your
personal information without calling us to verify the validity of the request. The caller may be an identity thief phishing for your
personal information. Just call the local Social Security office or Social Security’s toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-
If you receive a suspicious call, please report it to our Fraud Hotline. You also can report such calls online at
gov/report or by telephone at 1-800-269-0271 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. If possible, please include the
following details:
•        The alleged suspect(s) and victim(s) names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, if
•        Description of the fraud and the location where the fraud took place;
•        When and how the fraud was committed;
•        Why the person committed the fraud (if known); and
•        Who else has knowledge of the potential violation.
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of an identity thief, the
place to contact is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at Or, call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-
Whether you go fishing, play some ball, or take a hike, we encourage you to enjoy some healthy time with your father and with your
best friend. But make sure no one falls victim to the wrong kind of phishing. Learn more by reading our publication, Identity Theft
And Your Social Security Number available at

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If you’re crazy about juggling, there’s a holiday just for you: Juggling Day on June 17. The International Juggling Association created
this holiday in 1947, earmarking a day for everyone from juggling junkies to inexperienced novices to try their hand at juggling.
These days, with busy schedules and constant multi-tasking, it seems the most common kind of juggling for people is managing
the multiple chores and obligations of everyday life. That’s why Social Security created a suite of online services that makes doing
business with us a snap.
The best way to juggle a multitude of Social Security tasks online is by creating a personal my Social Security account. It’s easy to
register for your personalized online account, and, once you do, you can complete a number of tasks. Check it out at
Your account gives 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. Are you already receiving benefits? You can use your online
account to immediately get your proof of benefits letter, change your address or phone number on our records, start or change your
direct deposit, and check your benefit and payment information.
In addition to using my Social Security, there are a number of other things you can do online with Social Security. For example, you
can use the Retirement Estimator to plug in different numbers, retirement dates, and scenarios to help you decide the best time for
you to retire. It’s available at
And when that time comes, you can apply for retirement benefits online at It can take
as little as 15 minutes from start to finish. In most cases, once you submit your electronic application, that’s it, you’re done—no
papers to sign or documents to submit.
From getting the skinny on how to get a replacement Social Security card to an online application for disability benefits, the place to
go for juggling all of the services and information offered by Social Security is our website:
Regardless of how many Social Security tasks you may have, leave the juggling to the jugglers and take care of business the easy
way at

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It’s summertime, and that means it’s time for popcorn, snacks, and blockbuster movies on the silver screen. Have you noticed that
many of the heroes in theaters this year seem to be of a certain age? In fact, some of them are old enough they could easily be
getting Social Security retirement benefits even as they continue to work—saving the world or otherwise.
These days, retirement isn’t what it used to be. Modern day retirees are more likely to be traveling, volunteering, and being active—
even continuing to work—while collecting retirement benefits. That’s likely the case with many of the actors we’ll see in this year’s
Take The Expendables 3. Expendables Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, and Arnold Schwarzenegger are all old enough to be
eligible for retirement benefits.
Captain America returned to the big screen this year. Even though he’s still out saving the world, he first appeared on the job in a
comic book in 1941, making him a likely candidate for collecting Social Security retirement payments.
Spiderman, also back on the big screen this summer, is a little younger, first appearing in 1962. But he is old enough to plan for
his retirement by using our Retirement Estimator at And although he’s not old enough for
retirement yet, it’s likely he could get disability benefits, along with Rhino, Electro, and Green Goblin. Their conditions are all
expected to last more than a year.
Another group with unusual conditions: the X-Men, returning to the big screen for the summer. Professor X and Magneto are surely
old enough to receive full retirement. In addition to X-Men like Wolverine and Beast, there are a number of X-Women, such as
Mystique, Storm, Rogue, and Kitty Pryde, who could possibly qualify for Social Security benefits. While none of them appear old
enough to apply for retirement, they should consider applying for disability benefits given their severe conditions.
If any of these on-screen heroes and villains need advice on the best way to apply for benefits, perhaps Johnny Depp could lead
the way. In his new film Transcendence, he finds himself online—literally.
How long does it take to apply for benefits online? This year’s Fast and Furious 7 seems slow by comparison. You can complete
and submit the online application for benefits in as little as 15 minutes from start to finish.
Whether you’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider or find yourself reaching the latter years in life, the place to go for all of your
Social Security information and business is our website at

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I stumbled onto your YouTube channel while looking at funny cat videos. Why does Social Security produce cat videos?
It’s just one of many ways for us to connect to people where they already spend time. It’s important for us to let everyone know
about all we do for Americans, and we’re especially interested in getting the word out about our easy, convenient, and secure
online services. That’s why we look for creative ways to reach people, young and old. Our popular YouTube videos are not only a hit
with viewers, but they let people know the best way to apply for benefits—online. See the videos for yourself at
gov . Just select the YouTube link at the bottom right side of the page.  By the way, the cat videos have already received more than
one million views.

When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, who is eligible for survivors benefits?
Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:
•        Widows or widowers—unreduced benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60;
•        Disabled widows or widowers—as early as age 50;
•        Widows or widowers at any age if they take care of the deceased's child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social
Security benefits;
•        Unmarried children under age 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending secondary school full time. Under certain
circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren and grandchildren;
•        Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled; and
•        Dependent parents age 62 or older.
Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivors benefits. For more information, go to


What is a Social Security “credit?”
During your working years, earnings covered by Social Security are posted to your record. You earn Social Security credits based
on those earnings. The amount of earnings needed for one credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2014, you receive one
credit for each $1,200 of earnings. You can earn up to a maximum of four credits a year. Most people will need 40 credits (or 10
years of work) to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by reading the online publication How You Earn Credits at

I’ve heard you can apply online for retirement benefits. But isn’t it easier just to go into an office?
Retiring online is the easier way to go. There’s no need to fight traffic to travel to a local Social Security office and wait for an
appointment with a Social Security representative. You can apply in as little as 15 minutes. Just visit Once
you submit your electronic application, you’re done. In most cases there are no forms to sign or documents to mail. Join the
millions of people who already retired online. Visit

What is the earliest age that I can begin receiving retirement benefits?
You can get a reduced benefit as early as age 62. The 1983 Social Security Amendments raised the full retirement age for people
born in 1938 and later. But it did not change the minimum age for retirement. Keep in mind that your monthly benefit amount could
be about 33 percent higher if you wait until your full retirement age and about 76 percent higher if you defer payments until age 70.
Visit our Retirement Estimator to find out how much you can expect to receive depending on the age at which you want to retire. You
can find it at


How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?
For an adult to be considered disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to do the work you did before and that,
based on your age, education, and work experience, you are unable to adjust to any other work that exists in significant numbers in
the national economy. Also, your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Social Security
pays for total disability only. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability (less than a year). For more
information, we recommend you read our publication, Disability Benefits, available online at

What is the earliest age that I can receive Social Security disability benefits?
There is no minimum age as long as you meet the Social Security definition of disabled and you have sufficient work to qualify for
benefits. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked under Social Security long enough under to earn the required
number of work credits and some of the work must be recent. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The
amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels go up, and, currently, the amount is $1,200.
The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on the age you become disabled. For example, if you are
under age 24, you may qualify with as little as six credits of coverage. But people disabled at age 31 or older generally need
between 20 and 40 credits to qualify, and some of the work must have been recent. For example, you may need to have worked 5
out of the past 10 years. Learn more at


What is the purpose of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI?
The purpose of SSI is to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little income and few resources to support themselves. It
provides financial assistance to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. You can receive SSI even if you have not worked
and paid into Social Security. SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security
taxes). Find out more at

My brother recently left me some money. Will this inheritance affect my SSI benefits?
We consider the money inherited from your brother as income for the month you receive it. That could make you ineligible for SSI
that month, depending on the amount of the inheritance. If you keep the money into the next month, it becomes a part of your
resources. You cannot have more than $2,000 in resources and remain eligible for SSI. You should call Social Security at 1-800-
772-1213 (TTY number, 1-800-325-0778) and report the inheritance. Representatives can tell you how the inheritance might affect
your SSI eligibility. You can call between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Find out more about how income and
resources affect SSI benefits at

I pay my monthly premium directly to my Medicare prescription drug plan provider. Why can’t I also pay my income-related monthly
adjustment amount directly to my Medicare prescription drug plan provider?
By law, we must deduct your income-related monthly adjustment amount from your Social Security payments. If the amount you
owe is more than the amount of your payment, or you don't get monthly payments, you will get a separate bill from another federal
agency, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or the Railroad Retirement Board. Read our publication, Medicare
Premiums: Rules for Higher-Income Beneficiaries, for an idea of what you can expect to pay. You’ll find it at

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