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

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, winter arrives at 6:12 a.m. eastern standard time on December 21.

For many people, winter means shorter days, chillier temperatures and more time indoors. There are many ways you can use that
extra time inside.

For example, you may want to spend a few minutes checking your earnings history and getting an estimate of your future Social
Security benefits at, where you can access your online Social Security Statement.  

If you’re planning to apply for Social Security retirement benefits, you can do that without going outside or visiting an office.  Instead,
brew yourself a cup of coffee or tea and sit down at your computer from the comfort of your home to apply online.

Chances are your hot beverage will last longer than the time it takes to apply online for retirement benefits. Our website makes the
retirement application process quick, easy, and secure. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re
done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and
contact you if any further information is needed.

You can use the online application to apply for Social Security retirement or spouses benefits if you:
•        Are at least 61 years and 9 months old; and
•        Want to start your benefits in the next four months.

Before starting, we suggest you have the following information on hand:
•        Your date and place of birth and Social Security number;
•        Your bank or financial institution's routing transit number and the account number for direct deposit of your benefits;
•        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 also will need to estimate next year's earnings;
•        The name and address of your employer(s) for this year and last year;
•        The beginning and ending dates of any active U.S. military service you had before 1968;
•        The name, Social Security number, and date of birth or age of your current spouse and any former spouse. You also should
know the dates and places of marriage and dates of divorce or death (if appropriate); and
•        Your Social Security Statement. (Remember you can get your Social Security Statement online at www.socialsecurity.

So if you are staying indoors this winter, visit  Your time online may brighten even the darkest day of the

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If you’re in your sixties, you probably know that the age to receive full retirement benefits has changed. But it’s important to
remember that the age to begin receiving Medicare has not — it is still 65. Even if you have decided to wait until after you are age 65
to apply for retirement benefits, most people should start getting Medicare coverage at age 65.

If you would like to begin your Medicare coverage when you first become eligible, we suggest that you apply within three months of
reaching age 65.  You can do it online in as little as 10 minutes at

At the website, you’ll find more than just the online Medicare application. You’ll also find information about Medicare, and have the
opportunity to watch some short videos about applying for Medicare online. One is a family reunion for the cast of The Patty Duke
Show. In another, Patty Duke and George Takei go boldly where you should be going — online.

Why go online to apply for Medicare? Because it’s fast, easy, and secure. You don’t need an appointment and you can avoid waiting
in traffic or in line. As long as you have ten minutes to spare, you have time to complete and submit your online Medicare application.

People who started receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits before age 65 do not need to apply; they will be
automatically enrolled in Medicare.

There is no additional charge for Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) since you already paid for it by working and paying Medicare
tax. However, there is a monthly premium for medical insurance (Part B). If you already have other health insurance when you
become eligible for Medicare, you should consider whether you want to apply for the medical insurance. To learn more about
Medicare and some options for choosing coverage, read the online publication, Medicare, at
html or visit

To learn more about applying for Medicare Only using the online application, please visit
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It’s very likely that during the holiday season you’ve been spending a bit of time and money getting gifts for everyone on your
shopping list. Why not take a moment and give yourself a holiday gift? We have a suggestion, and while it won’t cost you a penny, it
could be one of the best (and easiest) financial steps you ever take for your future.

Give yourself the gift of your own Social Security Statement. You can get yours online at

The online Social Security Statement is simple, easy to use, and provides estimates you can use to plan for your retirement. It also
provides estimates for disability and survivors benefits, making the Statement an important financial planning tool.

Your Statement also allows you to determine whether your earnings are accurately posted to your Social Security records. This
feature is important because Social Security benefits are based on average earnings over your lifetime.
To get a personalized online Statement, you must be age 18 or older and must be able to provide information about yourself that
matches information already on file with Social Security. In addition, Social Security uses Experian, an external authentication
service provider, for further verification. You must provide identifying information and answer security questions in order to pass this
verification. Social Security will not share your Social Security number with Experian, but the identity check is an important part of this
new, thorough verification process.
When your identity is verified, you can create a “My Social Security” account with a unique user name and password to access your
online Statement. In addition, your online Statement includes links to information about other online Social Security services, such
as applications for retirement, disability, and Medicare.
This holiday season, it’s likely you’ll be hearing some of your friends and family saying “you shouldn’t have” as they receive their
gifts from you. That’s something to look forward to. But be sure that you don’t find yourself saying “I should have” when it comes to
planning your own financial future. Get your online Social Security Statement and look it over. Do it again next year. It may be the best
gift you can give to yourself in the long run.
Your free gift is waiting at

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The summer of 2007 felt like a bad dream for Terry Anderson. Reeling from a recent cancer diagnosis, she was downsized from the
company where she’d worked for 11 years. “There was no severance. I had no insurance,” she said. “I was terrified.”

Terry began receiving Social Security disability benefits and took an extended period of time away from work.  Later, Terry learned
about ‘one-stop career centers’ that provide free employment-related support services through Social Security’s Ticket to Work
program to people receiving Social Security benefits. She decided to see what the Iowa Workforce Development Center, her local
one-stop, had to offer. There are more than a thousand one-stop career centers across the nation.

The one-stop staff explained that the Ticket program is designed for people who receive Social Security disability benefits and are
committed to achieving self-sufficiency through eventual full-time employment. Through the Ticket program, Iowa Workforce helped
Terry coordinate her career preparation and job hunt. She updated her computer skills and built confidence in her prospects for
long-term success. “They offered workshops on interview skills,” she said. “I had my resume refurbished. I learned fresh strategies.
At first, I was too proud to ask for help. I’m glad that I did.”

While Terry was eager to move on, she was apprehensive about finding work and losing her benefits.  Terry learned about special
Social Security rules called “work incentives,” that help people who receive disability benefits transition to the workforce and become
financially self-sufficient.

For example, people receiving disability benefits can keep their Medicare coverage and their cash benefits while gaining work
experience during the Trial Work Period. Terry was relieved to learn about another Work Incentive called ‘expedited reinstatement,’
allowing her Social Security cash benefits to restart without a new application if she has to stop work within five years because of
her disability.

Another helpful Work Incentive, known as a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS), allows Social Security disability recipients who
meet the income rules for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to set aside money to pay for items or services they need to reach a
specific work goal. These can include educational expenses, training, job-related transportation, business startup costs, tools and
equipment, child-care costs and even the cost of job interview clothes. By approving a PASS, Social Security agrees to exclude
certain income that would normally lower an SSI payment amount. At the same time, the person agrees to go to work, with the goal
of eventually leaving disability benefits behind and becoming financially self-sufficient.  

In 2009, Terry found work as a Loan Servicing Specialist and a second job in retail where she trains cashiers and enjoys interacting
with customers. Terry was grateful that Social Security helped her “get through the storm.” She built a better life through work. She
no longer receives Social Security disability benefits.  “Now I’m healthy. I have two jobs. I love both of them. Life is good.”

With support from Ticket to Work and Iowa Workforce Development Center, Terry found her path to self-sufficiency.  To learn more
about the Ticket to Work program, call the Ticket to Work help line at 1-866-968-7842 (TTY/TTD, 1-866-833-2967) or visit

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December 1 is World AIDS Day.

If you have HIV/AIDS and cannot work, you may qualify for disability benefits from Social Security. Your medical condition must be
serious enough to prevent you from working for at least 12 months or expected to result in death.

We pay disability benefits under two programs: the Social Security disability insurance program for people who paid Social Security
taxes; and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for people who have little income and few resources. You may qualify
for one or both of these programs.

The easiest and most convenient way to apply for disability benefits is online, at

We process all applications we receive from people with HIV/AIDS as quickly as possible. Social Security works with an agency in
each state called the Disability Determination Services.
The state agency will look at the information you and your doctor give us and decide if you qualify for benefits.
We can pay you SSI benefits right away for up to six months before we make a final decision on your claim if:
•        You are not working;
•        You meet the SSI rules about income and resources; and
•        Your doctor or other medical source certifies that your HIV infection is severe enough to meet our medical eligibility rules.
You can help speed up the processing of your claim by having certain information when you apply. This includes information about:
•        The names and addresses of any doctors, hospitals, or clinics you have been to for treatment;
•        How HIV/AIDS has affected your daily activities, such as cleaning, shopping, cooking, taking public transportation, etc.; and
•        The kinds of jobs you have had during the past 15 years.

If you or someone you know has  HIV/AIDS and is unable to work due to their condition, read our publication Social Security For
People Living With HIV/AIDS. It’s available at

Social Security joins the President and government leaders, agencies, and organizations around the world in raising awareness of
HIV infection and AIDS.

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One of the most popular traditional holiday songs is “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” It’s been a holiday favorite since it was
published in 1780. Last year, we introduced our own classic: “The Twelve Sites of Social Security.” It was a big hit, so we’ve remixed
it for the new holiday season.

For the first site of Social Security, we present to you: our home page, It’s the place to go for all things Social
Security. Everything you could want — from online services and benefit screening tools to publications and press releases — you
can find easily from this starting place.

For the second site of Social Security, we present to you: our brand new online Statement. You’ll find it at www.socialsecurity.
gov/mystatement. The Statement provides you with a personalized estimate of future Social Security benefits — retirement,
disability, and survivors. It also provides your earnings record for your lifetime, allowing you to check to make sure your earnings are
posted correctly.

For the third site of Social Security, we present to you: an easy way to learn how to replace your Social Security card at

For the fourth site of Social Security, we present to you: an online application for retirement benefits that you can complete and
submit in as little as 15 minutes at  

For the fifth site of Social Security, we present to you: five estimates of your future Social Security benefits! Or one, or as many
estimates as you would like using different scenarios. Get instant, personalized estimates of your future benefits at

For the sixth site of Social Security, we present to you: a secure, convenient way to apply for disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.

For the seventh site of Social Security, we present to you: an online application for Medicare that you can complete in as little as 10
minutes, at

For the eighth site of Social Security, we present to you: Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. You can learn more and
apply online at

For the ninth site of Social Security, we present to you: our convenient publication library with online booklets and pamphlets on
numerous subjects, at

For the tenth site of Social Security, we present to you: America’s most popular baby names. Learn about popular baby names and
trends based on Social Security card applications over the years at

For the eleventh site of Social Security, we present to you: a way to get your Social Security forms online, at

On the twelfth site of Social Security, we present to you: services for people who are currently receiving benefits, like the ability to
replace your Medicare card, get or change a password, request a proof of income letter, or check your Social Security information or
benefits. You can do these and other things at

And a partridge in a pear tree. Find it all (except the partridge and pear tree) at
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I applied for a replacement Social Security card last week but have not received it. When should I expect to receive my new card?
On average, it takes approximately 10 to 14 days to receive your replacement Social Security card. However, if we need to verify
documents you present as proof of identity, it could take longer in some cases. For more information about your Social Security card
and number, visit

What can I do if I think someone has stolen my identity?
You should do several things, including:
•        File a report with the local police or the police department where the identity theft took place, and keep a copy of the police
report as proof of the crime;
•        Notify the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-ID-THEFT or 1-877-438-4338);
•        File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at; and contact the fraud units of the three major credit
reporting bureaus: Equifax (800-525-6285); Trans Union: (800-680-7289); and Experian: (888-397-3742).

Learn more by reading our publication, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, at  

I’m reaching my full retirement age and thinking about retiring in early 2013. When is the best time of year to apply for Social Security
If you are planning to retire in early 2013, you can apply now. You can apply as early as four months prior to when you want your
monthly benefits to begin. To apply, just go to Applying online for retirement benefits from the
convenience of your home or office is secure and can take as little as 15 minutes. It’s so easy!

My wife and I live in Minnesota, but plan to spend the winter in New Mexico. My wife will turn 62 while we are down south. Can she
apply for benefits in New Mexico, or do we have to wait until we get back home to apply for retirement at our local Social Security
These days, you don’t even have to be near a Social Security office to apply for benefits. Regardless of where you and your wife are
living, 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. If she prefers, your wife can file a retirement benefit application at any Social
Security office — including the one closest to you in Minnesota, New Mexico, or wherever you happen to be.

I am about to apply for Social Security disability benefits. I have two children, ages 9 and 12. If my application is approved, will they
get benefits, too? Or do the children also have to be disabled to qualify for benefits on my record?
If you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your children may receive dependent’s benefits based on your work record, even if
they’re not disabled themselves. As long as you receive benefits, their benefits will continue until they reach age 18, or until age 19 if
they are still in high school. If your children are disabled, however, at the time that they reach age 18, they may be able to continue
receiving benefits into adulthood. For more information, visit our website on disability benefits at

I am 57 years old and I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. Can I still get my regular Social Security retirement
benefits when I reach full retirement age?
If you are still receiving Social Security disability benefits when you reach your full retirement age, we will automatically switch you
from disability benefits to retirement benefits at that point. The money amount will remain the same. For more information, visit our
website on disability benefits at


I’m 38 years old and have been approved to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits. I was surprised to learn
that my payment will be reduced because I live with my mom. Why’s that?

SSI is a needs-based program, so any other income you receive — including non-monetary income such as help with your bills or
other expenses — can have an effect on your benefit payment. Your SSI payments may be reduced if you are receiving food, shelter,
or monetary assistance. If you move, or if the situation in your mom’s household changes, be sure to contact Social Security. For
more information, visit
I am trying to save up for a truck. I have $1,200 in the bank now and need a little more. How much cash can I have in the bank
without affecting my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility?

The resource limit is $2,000. Unless you have other valuable resources, this means you could save up to $2,000 before you would
become ineligible for SSI. We generally do not count your primary car, the home you live in or certain amounts set aside for burial
expenses as resources. In some cases, if the vehicle you’re saving for is part of a plan to return to work, you can have higher
resources — but Social Security would need to approve your plan in order to exclude those resources. For more information, you
can visit our webpage about SSI at


I heard recently that it was open season for Medicare Part D enrollment. Is there still time to apply?
Yes — but act fast, because open season ends soon! If you’re a Medicare beneficiary who has not enrolled in the new Medicare
Part D Prescription Drug Program, you may do so during the open season, which began October 15 and ends December 7. If you
are covered by Medicare and have limited income and resources, the Extra Help available through Social Security can help ease the
burden of Medicare prescription drug costs. You can apply for the Extra Help anytime — not just during open season. To learn more
about the Extra Help and to apply, visit Social Security’s website at For Medicare Part D
information, visit

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