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


This January marks a historic moment: our Nation’s first baby boomers are turning 65.
For many baby boomers, it’s time to hit the computer.  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, it’s important that you apply within three months of reaching age 65.  But
don’t worry about the time and effort it will take to apply for Medicare — it’s fast and easy!  You can do it online at
in as little as 10 minutes.
Why apply online 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
To learn more about Medicare benefits, visit
To learn more about Medicare and the online application, visit  While you’re there, take a look at the Patty Duke
Show reunion video as they talk about turkey, pie, and Medicare online.
And happy birthday to all the baby boomers turning 65 in 2011.  
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The holiday season is, for many people the busiest time of year with gift lists and to-do lists, feast planning and party preparation. The busy schedule, like
the gift lists, often can get out of hand.
If you’re planning on retiring sometime early in the new year, we suggest you wrap up your retirement application now before wrapping any holiday gifts. It’
s so easy and can take as little as 15 minutes. Just go to
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.
Before you start your application, you may want to spend a few minutes to get an estimate of your retirement benefit at
The Retirement Estimator uses your personal employment history to estimate your retirement benefit.
Then, jump right into the retirement application. 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;
•        Want to start your benefits in the next four months; and
•        Live in the United States.
Before filing online for retirement, 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 earned last year and this year. If you are filing 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
•        A copy of your Social Security Statement.
Even if you don't have all the information we need at your fingertips, you should go ahead and apply now.
Applying online means there is no need for you to go to a Social Security office or wait for a scheduled appointment with a Social Security representative.
Besides, retiring online is so easy. You can apply in as little as 15 minutes. That translates to more time for holiday shopping and activities.
So beat the holiday rush and wrap up your retirement application today 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 about the many benefits and the
wealth of information Social Security has available for veterans and military personnel.
In September, the agency published final rules about the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) Act.  The HEART Act changes the way we
treat some cash payments to members of the uniformed services and veterans under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  As Social Security
Commissioner Michael Astrue noted at the time, “This law allows the men and women of our armed forces, veterans, and their families to keep more of
their military-related payments while also maintaining eligibility for valuable cash and healthcare benefits.”
The HEART Act does the following:
•        Treats most cash military compensation as earned income for SSI purposes, which generally provides a higher benefit to the service member as a
result of the SSI program's more favorable consideration of earned income.
•        Excludes certain State annuity payments to disabled, blind or aged veterans from countable income and resources used to determine SSI eligibility.
•        Excludes any cash or in-kind payments provided by AmeriCorps State and National and AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps from
countable income.
Social Security also makes it easy to get information about benefits for wounded warriors. The first place to go is 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 and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Please pay special attention to the fact sheets available on that
website, Disability Benefits for Wounded Warriors and Expediting Disability Applications for Wounded Warriors.

You will also find a “webinar” that explains the Social Security disability application process and expedited processing available to wounded warriors.
This outreach program provides general information about Social Security disability benefits as well as topics unique to wounded warriors, and is a great
way to orient yourself to disability benefits for veterans and active duty military.
It’s important to note that benefits available through Social Security are different than those from the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate
Military service members are covered for the same Social Security survivors, disability, and retirement benefits as everyone else.  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
To learn more about Social Security for current and former military service members, read Military Service and Social Security. You can find the
publication online at
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When you think of November, you may imagine such things as turkey dinners, family gatherings, Veterans Day, or the start of the holiday shopping season.
But newly entitled and current Medicare beneficiaries, who are considering changes to their Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan, might think of
November as the time for thinking about Medicare. That’s because the Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program Open Season this year runs from
November 15 to December 31.
Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage. Some people with limited
resources and income are eligible for Extra Help to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. To qualify for this Extra
•        You must reside in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia;
•        Your resources must be limited to $12,510 for an individual or $25,010 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank
accounts, stocks, and bonds. We do not count your house and car as resources; and
•        Your annual income must be limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21,855 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is
higher, you still may be able to get some help. Some examples where your income may be higher are if you or your spouse:
o        Support other family members who live with you;
o        Have earnings from work; or
o        Live in Alaska or Hawaii.
And, as our celebrity spokesperson Chubby Checker will tell you, a new “twist” in the law makes it easier than ever to qualify. Social Security no longer
counts as a resource any life insurance policy. We also no longer count as income the help you may receive when someone else provides you with food
and shelter, or someone else pays your household bills for food, mortgage, rent, heating fuel or gas, electricity, water, and property taxes.
To apply for Extra Help, complete the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020) online at
gov/extrahelp. You also can call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Social Security representatives can help you apply over the phone or mail an
application to your home. Or, visit your local Social Security office.
To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plan, visit or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

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How do you replace a damaged Social Security card?
While you can replace your Social Security card for free if it is lost or stolen, you may not have to do so. Knowing your Social Security number is what is
most important. You may need a new card if you are starting a new job and your employer asks to see the card. For more information about getting a
replacement card, go to

How much of a difference will it make if I defer retirement benefits until age 70?
It can be significant. Let’s say your full retirement age is 66 and your monthly benefit starting at that age is $1,000. If you choose to defer receiving benefits
until age 70, you would increase your monthly benefit amount to $1,320. That’s almost an extra $4,000 each year for the rest of your life. This increase is
from delayed retirement credits you get for your decision to postpone receiving benefits past your full retirement age. The benefit amount at age 70, in this
example is 32 percent more than you would receive per month if you chose to start getting benefits at full retirement age. And, this higher benefit would
continue for as long as you live. You can estimate your future benefits at different ages using our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.

I was told Social Security will pay Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits to children who were born prematurely. Is this true?
SSI is for people with low income and resources and in most cases the income and resources of the parent(s) would be considered for a child.  For
children who meet the income and resource requirements, Social Security does provide SSI disability benefits to certain low birth weight infants, whether
or not they are premature. Children who weigh less than 1,200 grams (about 2 pounds, 10 ounces) at birth can qualify for SSI on the basis of low birth
weight. Children who weigh between 1,200 and 2,000 grams at birth (about 4 pounds 6 ounces) and who are considered small for their gestational age
also may qualify.
Even if children who were born prematurely do not fall into one of the low birth weight categories, they still may qualify for SSI if the evidence in their
record shows that they meet the definition of disability for children for another reason. Go to for more

I receive my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments on the first of the month. What happens when the first of the month falls on a Saturday?
If you receive an SSI payment on the first of the month, and the first of the month falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, your payment should arrive
on the previous banking day. For more information, visit our Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments at
Keep the reference handy. And remember, if you have direct deposit, you’ll never have to wait for your payment to arrive in your mailbox; it will be directly
deposited into your account.

Why is there a five-month waiting period for Social Security disability benefits?
The law provides for a five-month waiting period to ensure that during the early months of disability, we only pay benefits to persons who have long-term
disabilities. Social Security disability benefits can be paid only after you have been disabled continuously throughout a period of five full calendar months.
Therefore, Social Security disability benefits will be paid beginning with the sixth full month after the date your disability began. You are not entitled to
benefits for any month in the waiting period. Learn more by reading our online publication, Disability Benefits, at
I applied for disability benefits three months ago and still haven't received an answer. When should I expect to be notified of the decision?
The length of time it takes to receive a decision on your disability claim is usually from three to five months. It can vary depending on several factors, but
primarily on:
•        The nature of your disability;
•        How quickly we obtain medical evidence from your doctor or other medical source;
•        Whether it is necessary to send you for a medical examination to obtain evidence to support your claim; and
•        Whether your claim is randomly selected for quality assurance review of the decision.
The more information you can provide about your disability and medical providers during the initial application, the more likely the process will go faster.
The best way to prepare for a disability application is to use the Disability Starter Kit located online at

When is open season for enrolling in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan?
The Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Program Open Season this year runs from November 15 to December 31. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan
is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage. Some people with limited resources and income are eligible for Extra
Help to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plan, visit
www. or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048). To apply for Extra Help, complete the Application for Help with Medicare
Prescription Drug Plan Costs online at