QUESTION: Will my son be eligible to receive benefits on his retired father's record while going to college?
ANSWER: No. At one time, Social Security did pay benefits to eligible college students. But the law changed in 1981. We now pay benefits only to students taking courses at grade 12 or below. Normally, benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled. However, if children are still full-time students at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, benefits generally can continue until they graduate or until two months after they reach age 19, whichever is first. If your child is still going to be in school at age 19, you'll want to visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ schools.
QUESTION: How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?
ANSWER: We base Social Security benefits on work credits. Anyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. You can earn up to four credits a year, so you will need to work at least 10 years to become eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by reading the publication How You Earn Credits at www.socialsecurity.gov/ pubs/10072.html.
QUESTION: My brother had an accident at work last year and is now receiving Social Security disability benefits. His wife and son also receive benefits. Before his accident, he helped support another daughter by a woman he never married. Is the second child entitled to benefits?
ANSWER: The child may qualify for Social Security benefits even though your brother wasn't married to the second child's mother. The child's caretaker should file an application on her behalf. For more information, visit us online at www.socialsecurity.gov.
QUESTION: What is the "definition of disability" for children filing for Supplemental Security Income?
ANSWER: A child is disabled if he or she:
To determine whether your child meets the definition of disability, we look at medical and other information (such as information from schools and from you) about the child's condition. We also consider how the condition affects the child's daily activities. We consider: what activities is your child not able to do, or is limited in doing; the type of extra help and how much extra help your child needs to perform age-appropriate activities - for example, special classes at school, medical equipment; and whether the treatment interferes with your child's day-to-day activities.
Remember that SSI is a needs-based program where family income and resources also play a role in determining eligibility for benefits.
For more information, read Benefits For Children With Disabilities at www.socialsecurity.gov/ pubs/10026.html.
QUESTION: I'm going to visit relatives outside the country for two weeks during the holidays.
Can I still get Supplemental Security Insurance payments while I'm there?
ANSWER: Your SSI usually will stop if you leave the United States for 30 consecutive days or more. Because you are going to be away for only two weeks, your SSI should not be affected.
However, it's important that you tell Social Security the date you plan to leave and the date you plan to come back. Then we can let you know whether your SSI will be affected.
QUESTION: How do I obtain a copy of the form, Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs?
ANSWER: If you wish to apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs, we recommend you use our online application at www.socialsecurity.gov/i1020/. Meanwhile, you can view a sample at www.socialsecurity.gov/ prescriptionhelp.
There, you also can find instruction sheets in 15 different languages to help you understand the English application. Soon, the online application also will be available in Spanish.
If you prefer not to fill out this application on the Internet, you can call our toll-free number to ask for a paper application. Also, you can make an appointment at your local Social Security office to apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs.
Rebecca Miller is the manager of the Social Security Administration office in Wheeling.