Social Security column
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in
MEDICARE: GENERAL ENROLLMENT AND GENERAL INFORMATION
Need Medicare Part B? If you’re eligible, now is the time to sign up. The general enrollment period for Medicare Part B runs from January 1 through March 31.
Before you make a decision about general enrollment, let us fill you in on some general information.
Medicare is a medical insurance program for retired and disabled people. Some people are covered only by one type of Medicare; others opt to pay extra for
more coverage. Understanding Medicare can save you money; here are the facts.
There are four parts to Medicare: Parts A, B, C and D. Part A helps pay for inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing care, hospice care, and other services. Part B
helps pay for doctors' fees, outpatient hospital visits, and other medical services and supplies not covered by Part A. Part C allows you to choose to receive all
of your health care services through a provider organization. These plans, known as Medicare Advantage Plans, may help lower your costs of receiving
medical services, or you may get extra benefits for an additional monthly fee. You must have both Parts A and B to enroll in Part C. And Part D is the Medicare
Prescription Drug Program.
Most people first become eligible for Medicare at age 65, and there is a monthly premium for Medicare Part B. In 2011, the standard premium is $115.40.
Some high-income individuals pay more than the standard premium. Your Part B premium also can be higher if you do not enroll during your initial
enrollment period, or when you first become eligible.
There are exceptions to this rule. For example, you can delay your Medicare Part B enrollment without having to pay higher premiums if you are covered
under a group health plan based on your own current employment or the current employment of any family member. If this situation applies to you, you can
sign up for Medicare Part B without paying higher premiums:
• Any month you are under a group health plan based on your own current employment or the current employment of any family member; or
• Within eight months after your employment or group health plan coverage ends, whichever comes first.
If you are disabled and working (or you have coverage from a working family member), the same rules apply.
Remember: Most people are automatically enrolled in Medicare Part B when they become eligible. If you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B when you first
become eligible to apply and you don’t fit into one of the above categories, you'll have to wait until the general enrollment period, which is January 1 through
March 31 of each year. At that time, you may have to pay a higher Medicare Part B premium.
For more information about Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D, visit the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website at www.medicare.gov. Or read
our publication on Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html.
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GETTING YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY INCOME VERIFICATION IS EASY
There are a number of reasons you may need written verification of your Social Security benefit amount. You may need to provide it to an energy assistance
program or for subsidized housing. Perhaps you’re ready to make a major purchase and you’re trying to get a loan from a bank or financial institution. Or maybe
you’re applying for state benefits or moving into a new apartment or home.
Whatever your reason, if you need verification of your income from Social Security, obtaining it is easy and convenient. Please go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
Then look in the left column under “Top Services,” open the “Services for people currently receiving benefits” section, and select “Request a Proof of Income
letter” to get a letter that verifies your Social Security benefit information.
You can use this letter for any reason that someone requires proof of your income. In addition to offering proof of your income, the letter is an official
document that verifies your Medicare coverage, retirement or disability status, and age.
From the time that you complete the online request, it will take about 10 days for you to receive the proof of income letter in the mail. If you need one sooner,
you’ll want to call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office.
For most people, requesting the proof of income online is the most convenient way to get what you need. Get your benefit verification by visiting www.
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BUSINESSES: FILE YOUR W-2s ONLINE
If you own a business and have employees, you know the law requires you to file W-2 forms each year for them.
Depending on the size of your business and amount of time you have, that could leave you feeling like you’re drowning in paperwork. But Social Security
offers more than a life preserver — we offer you a way to file your W-2s without any paper at all! File your W-2s the fast, convenient, and paperless way —
Filing your W-2s electronically is free, fast, and secure! And there’s an added bonus: when you file electronically, you receive an extra month to file because
electronically filed W-2s aren’t due until March 31st. You’ll also receive an electronic acknowledgement receipt. And when you file electronically, you can
print out your W-2s for your employees.
Social Security’s free electronic filing option is available for any small business. It allows you to prepare and submit up to 20 W-2s (per report) over a secure
Internet service. When you register to file electronically, here’s what you get:
• Freedom from buying paper forms;
• W-2s for your employees and for your records;
• Electronic receipts you can use as proof that you filed on time; and
• Extension to March 31 to file.
You can register now to get started on your 2010 W-2s. Just take these seven simple steps:
1. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/employer;
2. Select "Business Services Online" (BSO);
3. Select the "Register" button;
4. Complete the registration form,
5. Select your own password;
6. Select "Request access to BSO Services;" and
7. Complete the wizard for selecting the applications you want to access in BSO.
To learn more, visit Social Security’s Business Services Online at www.socialsecurity.gov/bso.
You also may want to review the 2010 Electronic W-2 Filing Handbook, available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/bsohbnew.htm.
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CLAIM THOSE TAX DEDUCTIONS:
SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS FOR KIDS
There’s good news for tax filers in 2011. The due date for your 2010 Federal income tax returns is Monday, April 18, 2011, instead of the usual date of April
15. As you prepare your tax documents, don’t forget you’ll need Social Security numbers for your children if you want to claim them as dependents on your
In most cases, parents request a Social Security number for their child when applying for a birth certificate. The state agency that issues birth certificates
shares the child’s information with us and we mail the Social Security card to you. However, if you didn’t apply for a number at the hospital, you must apply at
a Social Security office or by mail. To do so you will need :
• A completed Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5);
• Original documents proving your child’s:
o U.S. citizenship;
o Age; and
o Identity; and
• Original documents proving your identity.
After you apply, we will verify the child’s birth record and mail your child’s Social Security card to you. If you do not get a Social Security number for your
child before the April 18 tax filing deadline but you still need to claim the child as a deduction on your tax return, you can:
• File your income tax return without claiming the child and then file an amended income tax return when the child has a Social Security number; or
• File with the Internal Revenue Service to extend the deadline for filing your tax return.
Parents can claim their adopted child for tax purposes while the adoption process is still pending. You will need to contact the Internal Revenue Service for
Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions. We can assign your adopted child a Social Security number before
the adoption is complete, but you may want to wait. Then, you can apply for the number using your child’s new name, with your name as parent.
Remember, a Social Security number is not just for taxes. Your child also may need a Social Security number for government benefits or other reasons, such
as opening a bank account or obtaining medical coverage.
If you need to apply for your child’s Social Security card and number, now’s the time.
To learn more, read our online publication, Social Security Numbers For Children, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10023.html.
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ONLINE RETIREMENT ESTIMATOR AVAILABLE IN SPANISH
Social Security, which has a wealth of information in Spanish at www.segurosocial.gov, has launched its first interactive online service in Spanish: the
Retirement Estimator. To publicize the website and the new Spanish-language service, Social Security has enlisted the help of the widely popular and well-
respected host of Sábado Gigante, Don Francisco.
“I ask my many friends to go to www.segurosocial.gov, not only for themselves but also to help their loved ones,” said Don Francisco. “There is a lot of great
information there. Estimating your benefits and learning about Social Security online in Spanish is so easy.” (Watch a short video with Don Francisco at www.
The Retirement Estimator is interactive and allows the user to compare different retirement options by changing retirement dates or expected future earnings.
It protects the user’s personal information by providing only retirement benefit estimates — it does not show the earnings information used to calculate the
benefit estimate, nor does it reveal other identifying information. In the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), the Retirement
Estimator beat out top consumer online sites in the public and private sectors.
To learn more about the Retirement Estimator in Spanish, read our publication online at www.socialsecurity.gov/espanol/10516.html.
“The Spanish-language Retirement Estimator and the other information available on www.segurosocial.gov will help us provide a broader audience with
important information they need to plan for a secure retirement,” said Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. “The Retirement Estimator is the first
of our online services available in Spanish, but we are not stopping there. We are working to make our online retirement application and Medicare Extra Help
application available in Spanish in 2011. Until then, visit www.segurosocial.gov to estimate your benefits and learn more about Social Security.”
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I applied for my child's Social Security card in the hospital but have not received it. How long does it take?
In most states it takes an average of three weeks to get the card, but in some states it can take longer. To check for the average wait time in your state, consult
the chart at http://ssa-custhelp.ssa.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/74. If you have not received your child's card, and the time frame has expired, please visit your
local Social Security office. Be sure to take proof of your child’s citizenship, age, and identity as well as proof of your own identity. And remember, we cannot
divulge your child’s Social Security number over the phone. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Is it illegal to laminate your Social Security card?
No, it is not illegal, but we discourage it. It’s best not to laminate your card. Laminated cards make it difficult, sometimes even impossible, to detect important
security features and an employer may refuse to accept them. The Social Security Act requires the Commissioner of Social Security to issue cards that cannot
be counterfeited. We incorporate many features that protect the card’s integrity. They include highly specialized paper and printing techniques — some
visible to the naked eye and some not. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. Learn more at
I have two minor children at home and I plan to retire next fall. Will my children be eligible for monthly Social Security benefits after I retire?
Monthly Social Security payments may be made to your children if:
• They are unmarried and under age 18;
• Age 18 or 19 and still in high school; or
• Age 18 or older, became disabled before age 22, and continue to be disabled.
Children who may qualify include a biological child, adopted child, or dependent stepchild. (In some cases, your grandchild also could be eligible for
benefits on your record if you are supporting them.). For more information, see our online publication, Benefits For Children, at www.socialsecurity.
Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that affect me?
It depends on your age. If you are full retirement age and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can choose to file and receive benefits on just
your spouse's Social Security record and delay filing for benefits on your own record up until age 70. By filing for just benefits as a spouse, you may receive a
higher retirement benefit on your own record later based on the effect of delayed retirement credits. You can earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70 as
long as you do not collect your own benefits — and those credits can increase your benefit by as much as 8 percent for each year you delay. You can use our
online Retirement Estimator to test out different scenarios. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME
I saw a poster that advised individuals 65 or over with limited income and resources to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Next month I'll turn 65
and I thought I'd be eligible for SSI. I planned to apply until my neighbor told me I probably would be turned down because I have children who could help
support me. Is this true?
Whether your children are capable of helping to support you does not affect your eligibility. SSI eligibility depends solely on your income and resources (the
things you own). If you have low income and few resources, you may be able to get SSI. However, if you are receiving support from your children or from
anyone living inside or outside of your home, it may affect your eligibility or the amount you can receive. Support includes any food or shelter that is given to
you, or is received by you because someone else pays for it. Learn more about SSI at www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/ssi.htm.
I just got a notice from Social Security that said my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case is being reviewed. What does this mean?
Social Security reviews every SSI case from time to time to make sure the individuals who are receiving payments should continue to get them. The review
also determines whether individuals are receiving the correct amounts. You can learn more about SSI by visiting our website on the subject at www.
What is the difference between the disability application and the disability report? Do I have to complete both?
A disability application is a claim for Social Security disability benefits. A disability report provides information about your current physical or mental
condition that we need to process your disability application. To establish a claim for disability benefits, you need to file a disability application, submit a
disability report, and provide an authorization to release medical records. The best place to start is at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.
I’ve been turned down for disability benefits. How do I appeal?
It’s easy to appeal the decision online. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov and select “Appeal a disability decision” in the “Top Services” section on the left side of
the page. This is the starting point to request a review of our medical decision about your eligibility for disability benefits. There are two parts to this Internet
1) An Appeal Request Internet form; and
2) An Appeal Disability Report that gives us more information about your condition.
You can complete both forms online.
How do I apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs?
You have several options for applying. You can:
• Apply online by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov and select “Get extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs” in the “Top Services” section on the left
side of the page;
• Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to apply over the phone or request an application; or
• Apply at any local Social Security office.
Anyone who has Medicare can get Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Some people with limited resources and income are eligible for Extra Help to
pay for the costs—monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co–payments—related to a Medicare prescription drug plan. Learn more at www.