By Bob Trotter Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Milwaukee, WI
HISPANIC HERITAGE IS AT THE HEART OF SOCIAL SECURITY’S MISSION
From September 15 to October 15, people across the country will join in celebrating the many contributions of Hispanic Americans during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Social Security is no stranger to celebrating Hispanic heritage and culture. Social Security’s website is a trailblazer when it comes to providing information and services in Spanish. Our site offers the same great service in Spanish on your tablet or laptop when you’re on the go. Try it out at www.segurosocial.gov. There, you can learn all about our programs and online services and view more than 100 Spanish-language public information pamphlets, leaflets, and fact sheets.
We offer several of our most popular online services in Spanish, as well. One of the most personalized features of the site is the Spanish-language Retirement Estimator at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador. The Retirement Estimator allows visitors to receive an instant estimate of future retirement benefits. Try out different scenarios, like changing your future wage estimates or retirement dates, and see how your future benefits could change. The Retirement Estimator is an indispensable, personalized tool for planning your financial future, and you won’t find it anywhere else.
When you’re ready to retire, you can apply online for retirement benefits — all in Spanish — and in as little as 15 minutes! Once you complete the online application for benefits, in most cases, that’s all there is to it. There are no papers to sign or documents to provide. Give it a try when you’re ready to retire at www.socialsecurity.gov/espanol/soliciteporinternet.
If you need to visit an office and speak with someone in Spanish, we have free interpreter services available if there is not a Spanish-speaking representative working in the office. To learn about our interpreter services, visit www.socialsecurity. gov/espanol/interpreter.htm.
In addition, our national toll-free number (1-800-772-1213) provides automated prompts in Spanish. Toward the beginning of the call, you’ll be asked to continue in English or Spanish to get service in your language of choice.
So, whether you’re on a computer or tablet, calling us on our national 800 number, or visiting one of our offices, Social Security remains committed to providing quality service to you and all of our customers.
This National Hispanic Heritage Month, visit www.segurosocial.gov to learn about Social Security’s resources for Spanish speakers.
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THIS FALL, EASE INTO RETIREMENT, ONLINE
September 23 marks the first day of fall. During this season, many people reflect on the gradual passing of time as green leaves turn gold and pine needles blanket lawns. You are also slowly changing, and those golden years of retirement are one season closer.
We want you to be as prepared as possible, and making applying for retirement easy is one of Social Security’s top priorities. In fact, applying for retirement benefits has never been easier. You can do it all online. Unlike the leaves that take many weeks to change, you can complete Social Security’s online retirement application in as little as 15 minutes. Better yet, you can apply from the comfort of your home or office. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. Simply go to www.socialsecurity.gov/retire/apply.html.
Most of the time, after your online application is submitted, you're done. There are no forms to sign, and we usually require no additional documentation. Social Security will process your application and contact you if we need further information. Planning for retirement is much like preparing for colder weather — you want to protect yourself and your loved ones as best you can with the best resources possible. One important, but easy way to do this is to check your Social Security Statement using your secure online my Social Security account. Set up your account easily by answering a few questions to prove your identity. After you have an account, you can check your Statement anytime, day or night. Your Social Security Statement shows your lifetime earnings so you can make sure those records are correct. This way, you’ll know your retirement benefit will be accurate. In addition, there are some useful things you can do with your personal my Social Security account, such as: • Get an estimate of your future benefits if you’re still working; • Print a letter with proof of your benefits if you currently receive them; and • Manage your benefits: o Change your address; o Start or change your direct deposit; o Get a replacement Medicare card; and o Get a replacement SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S for tax season. Beginning the season of retirement can be exciting and scary at the same time. At Social Security, we make it easier by providing the tools and information you can use to help you make the best decision for you and then apply for benefits online. And, when you’re done, you’ll have more time to rake up those pine needles and leaves! Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/retire/apply.html to start that new season in your life today.
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THIS CHILDHOOD CANCER AWARENESS MONTH, BE AWARE OF BENEFITS AVAILABLE
Cancer can affect any one of us, at any time. Sadly, thousands of people under the age of 20 are diagnosed with cancer every year, and it remains the leading cause of disease-related death for children. In September, we honor the strength and courage of children who are battling the many forms of cancer, as well as the young Americans who have lost their lives to these terrible diseases.
Social Security provides benefits for children who suffer from many disabling diseases, including some forms of cancer. These benefits could help with the additional costs of caring for an ill child. The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled children who have limited income and resources.
If you wish to apply for benefits for your child, you’ll need to complete both an application for SSI and a Child Disability Report. The report collects information about your child’s disabling condition, and about how it affects his or her ability to function. Here are the steps to apply. • Review the Child Disability Starter Kit. This kit answers common questions about applying for SSI benefits for children, and includes a worksheet that will help you gather the information you need. You can view the starter kit at www.ssa. gov/disability/disability_starter_kits_child_eng.htm.
• The SSI program is a “needs-based” program for people who have low family income and resources. SSI has strict limits on the amount of income and assets you can have and still be eligible for SSI. Contact Social Security right away to find out if the income and resources of the parents and the child are within the allowed limits, and to start the SSI application process.
• Fill out the online Child Disability Report. At the end of the report, we’ll ask you to sign a form that gives the child's doctor(s) permission to give us information about his or her disability. We need this information to make a decision on your child’s claim. You can access the Child Disability Report at secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/i3820/main.html. Social Security also has an obligation to provide benefits quickly to applicants whose medical conditions are so serious that they obviously meet our strict disability standards.
Social Security’s Compassionate Allowances program enables us to identify diseases and other medical conditions quickly that invariably qualify under the Listing of Impairments based on minimal objective medical information. The Compassionate Allowances list allows Social Security to identify the most seriously disabled people for allowances based on objective medical information that we can obtain quickly. Compassionate Allowances is not a separate program from the Supplemental Security Income program. You can learn more about Compassionate Allowances at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
No matter what month it is, Social Security is here to provide benefits those with severe disabilities. If you or anyone in your family needs assistance, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
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LABOR DAY ISN’T YOUR ONLY REWARD FOR HARD WORK
On Labor Day, many Americans enjoy a long weekend to commemorate the hard work they do the rest of the year, as well as those who support working people. With barbecues and ballgames, beach trips and fireworks, this annual holiday often marks the unofficial end of summer. Established in 1882, Labor Day has become a timeless American tradition that many look forward to all summer.
Labor Day also reminds us that all our hard work is paying off in more ways than one — including paying into a retirement fund that makes you eligible to collect monthly benefits after you reach retirement age. If you work 10 years, and receive four credits each year for a total of 40 credits, you’ll enjoy the security of Social Security retirement benefits. Remember, those years don’t have to be consecutive. You can check your Social Security Statement and make sure you have enough credits by opening a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Credits are the building blocks we use to find out if you have the minimum amount of covered work to qualify for each type of Social Security benefit. If you stop working before you have enough credits to qualify for benefits, your credits will stay on your record. If you return to work later on, those credits will be added so that you can qualify. We pay benefits to anyone who has enough credits.
When a worker files for retirement benefits, the worker's spouse may be eligible for a benefit based on the worker's earnings. Another requirement is that the spouse must be at least age 62 or have a qualifying child in her or his care. By a qualifying child, we mean a child who is under age 16, or who is eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits.
The spousal benefit can be as much as half of the worker's full retirement benefit, depending on the spouse's age at retirement. If the spouse begins receiving benefits before "normal” (or “full”) retirement age, the spouse will receive a reduced benefit. However, if a spouse is caring for a qualifying child, we don’t reduce the spousal benefit. If a spouse is eligible for a retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings, and if that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, then we pay the retirement benefit based on the worker’s own record. Otherwise, we pay the spousal benefit. In other words, we pay the higher of the two benefit amounts.
The best way to see what those benefits might be is to visit Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity. gov/estimator The Retirement Estimator is an easy way to get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits. The Estimator uses your actual earnings history to compute a benefit estimate.
In the past, applying for benefits could be laborious, requiring you to drive to a Social Security office, wait, and fill out paperwork. Now, you can visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline to find out everything you need to know about applying online for retirement benefits. And, when you’re ready, you can securely file the application online in as little as 15 minutes.
In most cases, after you submit your online application electronically, that’s it. There are no additional forms to sign or paperwork to complete. In rare cases, we’ll need additional information, and a representative will contact you.
Labor Day might mean something a little different once you’re retired, but that’s a pretty fair trade off when you’re no longer laboring. Spend a few moments considering what your hard work has earned in the form of Social Security protection for you, your family, and working people everywhere.
Maybe someday you plan to scuba dive the deepest depths of the ocean, or take an oil painting class. Perhaps someday you plan to drive across the United States, or sail around the world. All of these goals take preparation.
On September 6, we mark Fight Procrastination Day and we challenge you to take the first steps to realizing your “someday.”
Someday, you probably want to retire. If you’re beginning your career or are midway through, it’s never too late to start planning for retirement. Even if you’re just starting your career, “someday” isn’t that far away. You’re going to want to see what your future Social Security benefits will be, and check your earnings for accuracy, since the amount of your future monthly benefit is based on the amount of your earnings over your career.
If you’re a procrastinator, we have good news. Opening a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount is one of the easiest and fastest things you can do to plan for retirement.
About 20 million people have already opened an account and are taking advantage of the benefits of my Social Security. Why are so many Americans opening accounts? Because my Social Security is fast, easy, and secure. It’s a convenient way to access your Social Security Statement, which you can use to verify your earnings record, get up-to-date, personalized estimates of retirement, disability, and survivors benefits, and more. With a my Social Security account, you can plan for your retirement and get help figuring out how to save for your future.
If you already receive benefits, you can manage them online by starting or stopping your direct deposit and changing your address. And, there’s more. You can get an instant proof-of-benefits letter and a replacement SSA-1099 for tax purposes, and even a replacement Medicare card.
Someone opens a new account just about every six seconds. No matter how modest or ambitious your “someday” is, fight procrastination and open a my Social Security account today to put you ahead of the crowd.
GENERAL Question: I applied for a replacement Social Security card last week but haven’t received it yet. When should I expect to receive my new card? Answer: You’ll usually receive your replacement card in about 10 days. We work hard to protect you, to prevent identity theft, and to ensure the integrity of your Social Security number. To do that, we have to verify documents you present as proof of identity. In some cases, we must verify the documents before we can issue the card. For more information about your Social Security card and number, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.
Question: How do I schedule, reschedule, or cancel an appointment with Social Security? Answer: For many things, you don’t need an appointment to transact business with Social Security. For example, you don’t need an appointment to file for benefits or appeal a disability decision. You can file for the following benefits online at www.socialsecurity. gov: • Retirement; • Medicare; • Spouses; and • Disability. If you don’t want to apply for benefits online, or if you need to speak to us for any other reason, you can schedule, reschedule, or cancel an appointment by • Calling us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; or • Contacting your local Social Security office.
Question: How far in advance should I apply for Social Security retirement benefits? Answer: You should apply three months before you want your benefits to start. Even if you aren’t ready to retire, you should still sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. When you’re ready to apply for retirement benefits, use our online retirement application for the quickest, easiest, and most convenient way to apply. Find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire.
Question: I heard that my future Social Security benefits are based on my earnings, and I want make sure my earnings have been accurately documented. How can I do this? Answer: Your online Social Security Statement gives you secure and convenient access to your earnings records. It also shows estimates for retirement, disability, and survivors benefits. Get started at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount by opening your personalized my Social Security account. DISABILITY
Question: I heard that my disability must be expected to last at least one year to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Does this mean I have to wait until I’ve been disabled an entire year before applying for disability? Answer: No. If you believe your disability will last a year or longer, apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. Processing your application can take an average of three-to-five months. If your application is approved, we’ll pay your first Social Security disability benefits for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For example, if your state agency decides your disability began on January 15, we’ll pay your first disability benefit for the month of July. We pay in the month following the month for which benefits apply, so you’ll receive your July benefit payment in August.
For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to our publication, Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity. gov/pubs
Question: How do I apply for disability benefits? And, how long does it take to get a decision after I apply for disability benefits? Answer: You can apply for disability benefits online at www.ssa.gov/disabilityssi/apply.html. To get a decision on your disability application usually takes three-to-five months to. The time frame can vary depending on • The nature of your disability; • How quickly we can get your medical evidence from your doctor or other medical source; • Whether it’s necessary to send you for a medical examination; and • Whether we review your application for quality purposes.
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME Question: Can a noncitizen get Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Answer: The laws and regulations concerning noncitizens differ for the Social Security and SSI programs. The Social Security administers both, even though they have different eligibility requirements. Some noncitizens do qualify for SSI. See Supplemental Security Income (SSI) For Noncitizens at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs for more information.
Question: Are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits taxable? Answer: No, SSI payments aren’t subject to federal taxes. We will not send you an annual form SSA-1099 to report your benefits to the Internal Revenue Service. However, Social Security beneficiaries may have to pay income tax on a portion of their benefits. If so, you may ask Social Security to withhold your federal taxes from your Social Security benefit payments. For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.
MEDICARE Question: How do I terminate my Medicare Part B (medical insurance)? Answer: You can voluntarily terminate your Medicare Part B (medical insurance). Because this is a serious decision that could have negative ramifications for you in the future, you’ll need to have a personal interview with a Social Security representative first. The representative will help you complete Form CMS 1763. This form isn’t available online. To schedule your interview, call us at 1- 800-772-1213 (TTY: 1-800-325-0778) Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., or contact your nearest Social Security office. For more information, go to www.medicare.gov.