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Spouses’ Benefits Paid Separately

September 12, 2013
By REBECCA MILLER - For Boomers & Beyond

Question: If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits based on our own work records, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?

Answer: No. We independently calculate each person's Social Security benefit amount. Each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. Couples are not penalized simply because they are married. If one member of the couple earned low wages or did not earn enough Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse. Learn more about Social Security at

Question: I need to get a benefit verification letter. Do I need to come into the office?

Answer: No, you can get it online. There's no need to fight traffic and visit a busy government office in order to obtain proof of your benefits. To get your benefit verification letter, simply visit us online at and set up a my Social Security account. After you've spent a few minutes to establishyour account, it will be simple to get your benefit verification letter immediately and much more, at any time. For example, in addition to getting another benefit verification letter in the future, you can check your benefit and payment information, as well as your earnings record. You also can change your address, phone number, and direct deposit information. Get your benefit verification now at myaccount.

Question: Are Social Security numbers reassigned after a person dies?

Answer: No. We do not reassign Social Security numbers. In all, we have assigned more than 460 million Social Security numbers. Each year we assign about 5.5 million new numbers. There are over one billion combinations of the nine-digit Social Security number. As a result, the current system has enough new numbers to last for several more generations. For more information about Social Security, visit our website at

Question: Is it true that if you have low income you can get help paying your Medicare premiums?

Answer: Yes. If your income and resources are limited, your state may be able to help with your Medicare Part B premium, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts. State rules vary on the income and resources that apply. Contact your State or local medical assistance, social services, or welfare office, or call the Medicare hotline, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), and ask about the Medicare Savings Programs. If you have limited income and resources, you also may be able to get Extra Help paying for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D. Learn more at www.socialsecurity. gov/prescriptionhelp. Also, see our publication, Medicare, at Type the title of the publication in the publication search box on the left side of the page. For even more information, visit our website at

Question: I know I am eligible to apply for disability benefits based on my earnings record. But how does Social Security decide whether I am disabled?

Answer: Overall, we use a five-step evaluation process to decide whether you are disabled. The process considers any current work activity you are doing. It also considers the severity of your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. To be found disabled:

Social Security pays only for total disability. We do not pay benefits for partial or short-term disability. For more information, read our publication, Disability Benefits, by visiting and typing the title of the publication in the search box on the left side of the page.

Question: If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: No, Social Security has several work incentive programs to help people who want to work. You may be able to receive monthly benefits and continue your health care coverage during a trial work period. For information about Social Security?s work incentives and how they can help you return to work, you should:

For more information, visit our website at or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


Question: If I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits, what is the effect on my benefits if I work?

Answer: In most cases, your return to work would reduce your benefit amount. Unlike Social Security disability, there is no "trial work period" for people who get SSI disability benefits. If your only income besides SSI is from your work, you can earn up to $1,505 in a month (in 2013) before we stop your payments. We have several publications about SSI, including Reporting Your Wages When You Receive Supplemental Security Income, available at Simply type the title of the publication into the publication search box on the left side of the page. Note that there are other work incentives that can help you return to work when you receive SSI. You can read about them in What You Need To Know When You Get Supplemental Security Income (SSI), also available at For more information, visit our website at

Question: I am receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Can my children receive dependent?s benefits based on my benefits?

Answer: No. SSI benefits are based on the needs of one individual and are paid only to the qualifying person. Disabled children are potentially eligible for SSI, but there are no spouse's, dependent children's, or survivor's benefits payable as there are with Social Security benefits. For more information, see our publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), available online at Simply type the title of the publication in the publication search box on the left side of the page. You also may want to read Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI), available at For even more information, visit our website at

Rebecca Miller is the manager of the Social Security Administration office in Wheeling.

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