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


Succulent turkey. Savory stuffing. Green bean casserole. Sweet potato and pumpkin pie. Every family has its Thanksgiving dinner
traditions. With a carefully followed recipe, everyone around the table can enjoy their favorite dishes.

If you plan poorly and wait to throw the bird in the oven at the last minute, you will end up with a turkey of a dish. The same can be
said for financial planning and preparing for retirement. Follow the perfect recipe and you’ll be rewarded with a juicy retirement.

Ingredients: one part Social Security earnings, one part savings, a pinch of planning.

First, start your retirement casserole with a visit to the Retirement Estimator. As useful as a food processor, the Estimator gives
you an instant projection of what you can expect to receive in retirement benefits. Just plug in some simple information and the
Estimator uses your past earnings and estimated future earnings to project about how much you’ll get when you retire. Like an
experienced cook, you can experiment with the recipe and plug in different future earnings and retirement dates until it’s just the
way you want it.

Next, fold in the savings. The earlier you begin, the better off you will be. Social Security replaces about 40 percent of the average
worker’s pre-retirement earnings. Most financial advisors say you will need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live
comfortably. To supplement Social Security you also will need savings, investments, pensions, or retirement accounts to make
sure you have enough money to enjoy retirement. Visit the Ballpark Estimator for tips to help you save.

If you have a pension from your employer or a 401k, IRA or similar retirement fund, be sure to add that into the mix.

Like to taste as you cook? Then you’ll want to set up a my Social Security account so you can log in anytime to check your reported
earnings and projected benefit estimates. If something doesn’t taste just right — if your earnings are reported incorrectly or you
find you need to save more to meet your retirement goals — there’s still time to make corrections before your retirement
casserole is done.

Once you’ve added the ingredients of Social Security earnings, personal savings, and any pensions you may have, it’s time to let
the retirement casserole bake.

If you pull the retirement casserole out to find it a little underdone, just put it back in for a bit longer. Delaying retirement can
increase your benefits and give you more time to build up your savings. To learn more, read our publication entitled When To Start
Receiving Retirement Benefits. It provides helpful information regarding the things you should consider when making a decision
on when to collect retirement benefits. You will find it, along with our other useful publications, at
When the retirement casserole is ready, enjoy it! You deserve a comfortable retirement. Following a traditional Thanksgiving
recipe carefully can ensure a satisfying meal. In the same way, following our financial planning recipe will help you achieve a
more fulfilling retirement. Learn more at

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Baseball fans across the nation (and around the world) have just enjoyed the 109th World Series. Many fans are already looking
forward to spring training, followed by cheering crowds filling giant stadiums as the new season gets under way.

Baseball is America's pastime. In the same way, Social Security is America's cornerstone. Virtually every American knows about
baseball, and just about every person in America benefits from Social Security.

These days, more baseball fans watch on their television sets than in person. Many fans have even taken to watching their
favorite team play online. Did you know that more people apply for their Social Security retirement benefits online instead of going
way out into left field to visit an office and apply in person? In fact, more than fifty percent of people apply for retirement benefits

But just how many people is that?

Imagine your favorite full-sized baseball stadium packed full of cheering fans. Now imagine your second-favorite full-sized
stadium, also packed full. That's a lot of people, but not even close. Try to picture over 140 full-sized stadiums brimming full of
fans. That's how many people have applied online for Social Security retirement benefits. More than six million people!

It's as easy to understand why people prefer our online application at versus applying in an office as it is
to understand why so many people love baseball. Applying online is convenient — you can do it from the comfort of your home or
office with the baseball game on your radio or television set. And applying online is like watching a game on TV — there's no
traffic, no lines, and you can wear whatever you want.

Need to step away to refresh your snacks? You can stop and restart your application at any time. But you probably won't need to
since it can be completed, from start to finish, in as little as 15 minutes. Once you electronically submit your application, that's it.
You can sit back and enjoy the rest of the game.

When you are up to bat for retirement, join the millions who have applied the easy way: online. You're sure to hit a home run at

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On November 11, we honor our Nation’s veterans for their service to America. What better time than now to tell you — and for you
to help spread the word — about the many benefits and wealth of information Social Security has available for veterans and
military personnel?

Social Security recognizes those who put their lives on the line for our freedoms. Members of the armed forces receive expedited
processing of their Social Security disability applications. The expedited process is available for any military service member who
became disabled during active duty on or after October 1, 2001, regardless of where the disability occurs. Some dependent
children and spouses of military personnel may also be eligible to receive benefits.

Visit our website designed specifically for our wounded veterans: There, you will find
answers to a number of commonly asked questions, as well as other useful information about disability benefits available under
the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Please pay special attention to the fact sheet available on
that website, Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors.

You’ll also find a webinar that explains the faster disability process available to wounded warriors. The program covers general
information about Social Security disability benefits as well as topics unique to wounded service members. The online video is
less than three minutes and a great introduction to disability benefits for veterans and active duty military.

On the same webpage, you’ll also find links to useful Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense websites. The requirements
for disability benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and
require a separate application.

Military service members are covered for the same Social Security survivors, disability, and retirement benefits as everyone else.
Although the expedited service is relatively new, military personnel have been covered under Social Security since 1957, and
people who were in the service prior to that may be able to get special credit for some of their service.

To learn more about Social Security for current and former military service members, read Military Service and Social Security. It’s
available in our digital library at

But first, take a look at the wounded warrior page at The webinar, factsheet, and
pertinent links will brief you on everything you need to know to “maneuver” your way through the Social Security process.

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The holiday season has arrived — a time of year that is steeped in tradition. Different families may have different holiday
traditions, but most have roots in a society or culture and thus are observed by many people. Essentially, tradition is all about
passing along certain beliefs and customs from one generation to the next.

We’d like to suggest that you start a new tradition. No, we’re not suggesting you do away with the Christmas tree or menorah.
Break the tradition of trudging to an office when you need to do business with Social Security. Replace the old-fashioned way of
doing business and embrace the new, easier, more convenient way — online.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to break an old tradition and make a new one. Some traditions evolve. Many of the things your
parents or grandparents did in a Social Security office you can now do online. For example, if you’re not receiving benefits, you
can request your Social Security Statement or use the Retirement Estimator to get an accurate picture of what your future benefits
will be. You can read or listen to our publications, find out whether you qualify for benefits — even apply for Social Security
disability, retirement, and spouses benefits online from the comfort of home.

Set up an online my Social Security account to get your benefit verification letter, check your information, benefits, and earnings
record, change your address or phone number, and start or change your direct deposit. You also can go online to get a
replacement Medicare card or appeal a medical decision made about your disability claim. You can do all this and more at www.

The holiday season is a time filled with family and tradition. Go ahead and enjoy the light displays and holiday music. Maybe even
cut a slice of fruitcake to go with your egg nog. But when it comes to doing business with Social Security, join the millions of
people and start a new tradition: forego the sleigh ride to the office by going to

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I got an email that says it’s from Social Security, but I’m not so sure. They want me to reply with my Social Security number, date of
birth, and mother’s maiden name for “verification.” Did it really come from Social Security?
No. Social Security will not send you an email asking you to share your personal information, such as your Social Security
number, date of birth, or other private information. Beware of such scams — they’re after your information so they can use it for
their own benefit. When in doubt, or if you have any questions about correspondence you receive from Social Security, contact
your local Social Security office or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to see whether we really need any information
from you.

I run a small business and I am hiring a few employees. How can I recognize a valid Social Security card?
There are more than 50 different versions of the Social Security card, all of which are valid. Although there are several versions of
the card in circulation, all prior versions of the card are valid. The number is what is most important. The best way for you and
other employers to verify a name and Social Security number is to use the free Social Security Number Verification Service
(SSNVS). Once you register for Business Services Online at, you can start using SSNVS. SSNVS
allows you to quickly verify whether a person's name and number match Social Security's records.


What are the benefit amounts for which a spouse may be entitled?
A spouse receives one-half of the retired worker's full benefit if the spouse retires at full retirement age. If the spouse begins
collecting benefits before full retirement age, we reduce those benefits by a percentage based on how much earlier the spouse
retires. However, if a spouse is taking care of a child who is either under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security
benefits, a spouse gets full (one-half) benefits, regardless of age. If you are eligible for both your own retirement benefit and for
benefits as a spouse, we always pay your own benefit first. If your benefit as a spouse is higher than your retirement benefit, you'll
receive a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse's benefit. Learn more at

My wife and I plan on visiting the grandchildren over the winter, during which time my wife will turn 62. Can she apply for
retirement benefits in another state, or do we have to wait until we get back home to apply for retirement at our local Social
Security office?
These days, you don’t have to be near a Social Security office to apply for benefits. Regardless of where you and your wife are
living or traveling, you can apply for retirement benefits online at It’s so easy to do, and it can
take as little as 15 minutes to complete and submit the application. In most cases, once you submit your application
electronically, you’re done. You can go back to enjoying your grandchildren.


How do I apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits?
The best first step is to start at Then take a look at the Adult Disability Starter Kit. This kit
answers common questions about applying for benefits. It includes a worksheet that will help you gather the information you
need. Then, fill out the online Adult Disability Report at At the end of the report, we will
ask you to sign a form that gives your doctor permission to send us information about your disability. We need this information so
we can make a decision on your claim. Finally, complete your application for SSI disability benefits by calling our toll free number
(1-800-772-1213) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may choose to apply for benefits either by phone or in
person at a local Social Security office. One of our representatives will help you apply. Please have your Social Security number
handy when you call. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778. You also may visit an office
without making an appointment, but your wait to speak to a representative will be longer.

Are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments only paid to people with disabilities?
No. SSI payments also are made to people who are blind or who are age 65 or older — as long as they meet all the qualifications
including having low income and limited resources. SSI benefits are available for both adults and children who are blind or
disabled. You can learn more about SSI benefits and who can receive them by reading our online publications. To begin, refer to
the online booklet, Supplemental Security Income, available to read or listen to in our online library at


I'm thinking about getting a disability insurance policy from a private company. If I become disabled and have a private policy,
would it reduce my Social Security disability benefit?
No. Your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits is not affected by any private insurance you may have. However, worker's
compensation and certain other public disability payments may affect your Social Security benefit. For more information go to or call our toll free number 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

I had a serious leg injury three years ago and received disability benefits for about 19 months until I could return to work.
Unfortunately, my leg problems have returned and I may not be able to continue working much longer. When I first applied for
benefits, I waited five full months before I was eligible to receive my first check. If I reapply for benefits, will I again be subject to
this waiting period?
No. If you become disabled a second time within five years after your previous disability benefits stopped, there is no five-month
waiting period before benefits start. If your claim is approved, you can receive benefits for the first full month of disability. However,
it can take from three to five months to get a decision on a disability claim, depending on how long it takes to obtain your medical
records and any other information we need to decide whether you are disabled. You can help shorten this time by providing as
much information as possible when you apply for benefits. For more information about applying for benefits, we suggest that you
review our booklet, Disability at You can apply online at


How do I obtain a copy of the form, Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs?
If you wish to apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs, the best way is to use our online application at
www. You’ll find it is convenient and easy to apply for Extra Help. Keep in mind that this application does not
enroll you in a Medicare prescription drug plan; you’ll need to enroll directly with an approved Medicare prescription drug provider
for coverage, which you can learn more about at or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (TTY 1-877-486-2048). If you
are already enrolled, visit to learn whether you’re eligible for Extra Help — and to complete and
submit the application.

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