Social Security column/Karyl Richson
SOCIAL SECURITY AND PUBLIC SERVICE
By Karyl Richson
Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in Milwaukee, WI
Public Service Recognition Week takes place from May 1 to May 7, 2011. We at Social Security appreciate the hard work and
dedication of not only our own employees but all people who serve the American public.
Celebrated the first week of May since 1985, Public Service Recognition Week is a nationwide public education campaign
honoring the men and women who serve our nation as Federal, State, county and local government employees — such as
school teachers, police officers, and fire fighters — and who ensure that our government is the best in the world.
Recognition of public service goes back further than 1985. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy said, “Let the public service be a
proud and lively career. And let every man and woman who works in any area of our national government, in any branch, at any
level, be able to say with pride and with honor in future years: 'I served the United States Government in that hour of our nation's
Social Security employees consider it a privilege to serve the American public. You only need to visit an office, call our toll-free
number, or visit www.socialsecurity.gov to see that when it comes to serving the public, we want to be the best.
A convenient service option for many Americans is our web site. For example, if you need to obtain general information about
Social Security, apply for benefits, or get an estimate of your future benefits, visit us online at www.socialsecurity.gov or go
directly to our online services page at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.
You also can call Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office. If you’
re not sure where the nearest office is located, just visit www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices and select the “Social Security
Office Locator” at the left side of the page. Learn more about Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov.
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ONE MORE HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT
If you’re one of the many teenagers or young adults planning to get a summer job or start a career this summer, you may be
surprised to see what’s deducted from your paystub. If you don’t know already, it’s time to learn what your Social Security taxes
are all about.
By law, employers must withhold from a worker’s paycheck Social Security taxes. While usually referred to on an employee’s
pay statement as “Social Security taxes,” sometimes the deduction is labeled as “FICA taxes” which stands for Federal
Insurance Contributions Act, a reference to the original Social Security Act.
The taxes you pay now translate to a lifetime of protection, for retirement in old age or in the event of disability. And when you die,
your family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work as well.
Right now you probably have family members — grandparents, for example — who already are enjoying Social Security benefits
which your Social Security taxes help provide.
Because you’re a long way from retirement, you may have a tough time seeing the value of benefit payments that could be many
decades in the future. But keep in mind that the Social Security taxes you’re paying can provide valuable disability or survivors
benefits in the event the unexpected happens. Studies do show that of today’s 20-year-olds, about one in four will become
disabled and about one in eight will die before reaching retirement.
Warning: if an employer offers to bend the rules and pay you “under the table,” you should refuse. They may try to sell it as a
benefit to you since you get a few extra dollars in your pay. But you’re really only allowing the employer to cheat you out of your
Social Security credits. It’s also illegal.
Another tip: don’t carry your Social Security card around with you. It’s an important document that should be safeguarded and
protected. And it can be a valuable tool for an identity thief, if it’s lost or stolen.
If you’d like to learn a little more about Social Security and exactly what you’re building up for yourself by paying Social Security
taxes, take a look at our online booklet, How You Earn Credits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html.
Do you prefer videos to reading? Check out our webinar, "Social Security 101: What's in it for me?" The webinar explains what
you need to know about Social Security. You can find it, along with other informative webinars, at www.socialsecurity.
You can also learn more by surfing the web at www.socialsecurity.gov.
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A VALUABLE GIFT FOR MOM
Mother’s Day is right around the corner. It’s always nice to give Mom a card, flowers, and candy. But this year people all over the
country are helping their moms save nearly $4,000 a year on the cost of prescription drugs. You can help your mom too — and it
won’t cost you a dime.
The high cost of prescription medication can be a burden on mothers (or anyone) who have limited income and resources. But
there is Extra Help — available through Social Security — that could pay part of her monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and
prescription co-payments. That Extra Help is worth an average of almost $4,000 a year.
To figure out whether your mother is eligible, Social Security needs to know her income and the value of her savings,
investments, and real estate (other than the home she lives in). To qualify for the Extra Help, she must be enrolled in Medicare
• Income limited to $16,335 for an individual or $22,065 for a married couple living together. Even if her annual income is
higher, she still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments.
Some examples where income may be higher include if she or her spouse:
—Support other family members who live with them;
—Have earnings from work; or
—Live in Alaska or Hawaii; and
• Resources limited to $12,640 for an individual or $25,260 for a married couple living together. Resources include such
things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. We do not count her house and car as resources.
Social Security has an easy-to-use online application that you can help complete for your mom. You can find it at www.
socialsecurity.gov. Just select the link on the left of the page that says, “Get extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs.” To
apply by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for
the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020). Or go to the nearest Social Security office.
To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-
MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).
So this Mother’s Day, give your mom a gift she can really use year-round — a savings of up to $4,000 a year on her prescription
drugs. Flowers whither and candy is consumed, but the Extra Help through Social Security will keep on giving throughout the
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CONNECTING TO OLDER AMERICANS
Older Americans Month is an occasion to show appreciation and support for our seniors as they continue to enrich and
strengthen our communities. This May, the theme — Older Americans: Connecting the Community — pays homage to the many
ways in which older adults bring inspiration and continuity to the fabric of our communities and highlights how technology is
helping older Americans live longer, healthier, and more engaged lives.
Social Security uses technology to make dealing with Social Security easier for seniors. We offer a variety of services at www.
socialsecurity.gov. Just look at the “top services” column to the left of the page to see the wide range of services that technology
allows us to offer online.
Social Security has a special relationship with American seniors since we pay benefits, at one time or another, to just about
every one of them. Nine out of ten Americans aged 65 or older receive Social Security benefits.
Here are some more statistics to consider. Among older Social Security beneficiaries, 52 percent of married couples and 72
percent of unmarried persons receive half or more of their income from Social Security. Older Americans are a growing group,
too. Life expectancy continues to rise, and by 2035, it’s estimated that there will be twice as many older Americans as there are
Older Americans, as well as people who don’t expect to retire anytime soon, who use Social Security’s website give it
consistently high customer satisfaction ratings. Right now you can get an estimate of your future retirement benefits, plan your
retirement, even apply for retirement benefits right over our website. Visit us online at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Learn more about what you can do to celebrate Older Americans Month by visiting the organization’s website. www.
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SOCIAL SECURITY INFORMATION FOR THOSE WHO SERVE IN THE MILITARY
On Memorial Day, it’s important to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. We at Social Security
honor the heroism and courage of our military service members and mourn for those who have given their lives in defense of
It’s also important to recognize those service members who are still with us, especially those who have recently been wounded.
They’ve served us; likewise we serve them.
Earnings for active duty military service or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957. Social
Security also has covered inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) since 1988.
If you served in the military before 1957, you did not pay Social Security taxes, but we gave you special credit for some of your
You can get both Social Security benefits and military retirement. Generally, there is no reduction of Social Security benefits
because of your military retirement benefits. You’ll get your full Social Security benefit based on your earnings.
When you reach age 65, you’ll also be eligible for Medicare. If you have health care insurance from the Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) or under the TRICARE or CHAMPVA program, your health benefits may change or end when you become eligible for
Medicare. You should contact the VA, the Department of Defense, or a military health benefits advisor for more information.
If you’ve served in the Armed Forces and you’re planning your retirement, you’ll want to read our publication, Military Service and
Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10017.html.
You also may want to visit the Military Service page of our Retirement Planner, available at www.socialsecurity.
Finally, find out about expedited benefits for wounded warriors at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10131.html
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I can’t seem to find my Social Security card. Do I need to get a replacement?
In most cases, knowing your Social Security number is enough. But if you do apply for and receive a replacement card, do not
carry that card with you. Keep it with your important papers. For more information about your Social Security card and number
and for information about how to apply for a replacement, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. If you believe you’re the victim
of identity theft, read our publication Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html.
My husband doesn't have enough work under Social Security to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits or Medicare. But I
am fully insured and eligible. Can he qualify on my record?
Yes. The answer applies to husbands as well as wives. Even if your spouse has never worked under Social Security, he (or
she) can, at full retirement age, receive a benefit equal to one-half of your full retirement amount. Your husband is eligible for
reduced spouses benefits as early as age 62, as long as you are already receiving benefits. For more information, visit www.
socialsecurity.gov and select the “Retirement” tab. If your spouse will receive a pension for work not covered by Social Security
such as government employment, the amount of his or her Social Security benefits on your record may be reduced. For more
information, read the fact sheet, Government Pension Offset, Publication No. 05-10007 at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10007.
What can Social Security do to help me plan for my retirement?
Social Security has some great online financial planning tools you can use to make an informed decision about your retirement.
Social Security's online Retirement Planner and our online Retirement Estimator are both tools you can access online at any
time. These will let you compute estimates of your future Social Security retirement benefits. They also provide important
information on factors affecting retirement benefits, such as military service, household earnings, and Federal employment. You
can access our Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2. Find the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.
How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?
Everyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security “credits” to be eligible. You can earn up to four credits a year. So, you
will need at least 10 years of covered employment or self-employment to become eligible for retirement benefits. During your
working years, we post earnings covered by Social Security to your record. You earn credits based on those earnings. The
amount of earnings needed for a credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2010, and 2011, you receive one credit for each
$1,120 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits a year. For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.
I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must be expected to last at least a year or be expected to
result in death. But I’m disabled now. Does this mean that I must wait a year after becoming disabled before I can receive
You do not have to wait a year after becoming disabled. If you’re disabled and expect to be out of work for at least a year, you
should apply for disability benefits right away. It can take months to process an application for disability benefits. If we approve
your application, your first Social Security disability benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began.
For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029) at www.
I get disability benefits. I would really like to try to work again, but I can’t risk losing my medical coverage. I understand Social
Security’s Ticket to Work might let me try working without endangering my benefits. What can you tell me about it?
Ticket to Work is a voluntary program that offers disabled Social Security beneficiaries a variety of choices in obtaining the
support and services they need to help them go to work and achieve their employment goals. If you receive Social Security or
Supplemental Security Income benefits based on disability or blindness and would like to work or increase your current
earnings, this program can help you get vocational rehabilitation, training, job referrals, and other ongoing support and services
to do so. For more information, visit our Ticket to Work website at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/work.
SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME
What is the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability?
Social Security is responsible for running two major programs that provide benefits based on disability. Social Security
Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on prior work and the taxes you pay into the Social Security program. To be eligible for a
SSDI benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be "insured" for Social Security purposes. SSDI
benefits are payable to eligible blind or disabled workers, the widow(er)s of a disabled worker, or adults disabled since
childhood. SSI disability payments are made on the basis of financial need to adults or children who are disabled or blind, have
limited income and resources, meet the living arrangement requirements, and are otherwise eligible. SSI is a program
financed through general revenues. For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us toll-free at 1-
800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits taxable?
No. Unlike Social Security benefits, which may be subject to income tax, SSI payments are not subject to Federal taxes, and you
will not receive an annual form SSA-1099. For more information, see Supplemental Security Income (Publication No. 05-
11000), visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
What can I do if my Medicare prescription drug plan says it won't pay for a drug that my doctor prescribed for me?
If your Medicare prescription drug plan decides that it won't pay for a prescription drug, it must tell you in writing why the drug isn't
covered in a letter called a "Notice of Denial of Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage." Read the notice carefully because it will
explain how to ask for an appeal. Your prescribing doctor can ask your Medicare drug plan for an expedited redetermination (first
level appeal) for you if the doctor tells the plan that waiting for a standard appeal decision may seriously harm your health. For
more information, visit www.medicare.gov.
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