Social Security questions and answers

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GENERAL

Question:

What should I do if an employee gives me a Social Security number but cannot produce the card?

Answer:

Seeing the card is not as important as putting the correct information on the worker’s Form W-2. You can verify employee Social Security numbers by using the Social Security Number Verification Service. Just go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/bso. This online service allows registered employers to verify employee Social Security numbers against Social Security records for wage reporting purposes. If the employee recently applied for a Social Security number but does not yet have a card when you must file the paper Form W-2, enter the words “Applied for” on the Form W-2. If you are filing electronically, enter all zeros (e.g., 000-00-0000) in the Social Security number field. When the employee receives the card, file Copy A of Form W-2C, Corrected Wage and Tax Statement with Social Security to show the employee’s number.

Question:

I worked for the last 10 years and I now have my 40 credits. Does this mean that I get the maximum Social Security retirement benefit?

Answer:

The 40 credits are the minimum number you need to qualify for retirement benefits. However, we do not base the amount of the benefit on those credits; it’s based on your earnings over a lifetime of work. For details on how your benefit is figured go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement/howfigured.htm

RETIREMENT

Question:

How can I estimate my retirement benefit at several different ages?

Answer:

It’s easy! Use our Retirement Estimator at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to get a retirement benefit estimate based on current law and real time access to your earnings record. The Retirement Estimator also lets you create additional “what if” retirement scenarios to find out how changes in your situation might change your future benefit amount. It’s also available in Spanish at http://www.segurosocial.gov/calculador.

Question:

If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?

Answer:

No. We calculate lifetime earnings independently to determine each spouse’s Social Security benefit amount. When each member of a married couple meets all other eligibility requirements to receive Social Security retirement benefits, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. Couples are not penalized because they are married. 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 based on the spouse’s work record. Learn more about spouse benefits at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/­retire2/yourspouse.htm.

DISABILITY

Question:

I am receiving Social Security disability benefits. Will my benefits be affected if I work and earn money?

Answer:

It depends. We have special rules called “work incentives” that help you keep your monthly payments and Medicare coverage while you test your ability to work. For example, you can receive full benefits regardless of how much you earn, as long as you report your work activity and continue to have a disabling impairment during a trial work period. For more information about work incentives, we recommend that you read our publication, Working While Disabled-How We Can Help at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10095.html.

Question:

Is there a time limit on how long I can receive Social Security disability benefits?

Answer:

Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you still cannot work. We will review your case at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled. If you are still disabled when you reach your full retirement age, we will convert your disability benefit to a retirement benefit at the same amount. You can learn more about Social Security disability benefits at our website: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY

INCOME

Question:

Is it true that a person can own a home and still be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

Answer:

Yes, even though SSI is a needs-based program, a person who owns the home they live in can be eligible for SSI benefits. People who receive SSI must be age 65 or older, blind, or disabled and have limited income and resources. But a personal residence is not counted as a resource for SSI purposes. For more information, read our booklet, Supplemental Security Income at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000.html.

Question:

I understand that you need to have limited resources to receive Supplemental Security Income. But what is considered a “resource?”

Answer:

Resources are things you own that you can use to support yourself. They include cash, real estate, personal belongings, bank accounts, stocks, and bonds.

To be eligible for SSI a person must have $2,000 or less in countable resources. A married couple must have $3,000 or less in countable resources. If you own resources over the SSI limit, you may be able to get SSI benefits while trying to sell the resources.

Not all of your resources count toward the SSI resource limit. For example:

The home you live in and the land it’s on do not count;

Your personal effects and household goods do not count;

Life insurance policies may not count, depending on their value;

Your car usually does not count;

Burial plots for you and members of your immediate family do not count;

Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse may not count; and

If you are blind or have a disability, some items may not count if you plan to use them to work or earn extra income.

You may also wish to read information on “resources” in the booklet, Understanding SSI at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/text-understanding-ssi.htm.

MEDICARE

Question:

What’s the best way to apply for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs?

Answer:

The fastest and most convenient way to apply for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs is online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp. Medicare beneficiaries with limited income and resources may qualify for extra help, which pays part of the monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments under the Medicare prescription drug program. The extra help is estimated to be worth an average of $4,000 per year.

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