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A Social Security Benefits Primer

Applying online, retirement timing, Supplemental Security Income, disability

October 3, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Question: I'm doing more things online, including shopping and paying bills. What are some things I can do at

Answer: Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to take a look at your Social Security Statement, which allows you to check your earnings record and get an estimate of your future benefits. Revisit your statement annually, around your birthday for example.

If you're ready to apply for benefits, you can do that online as well. Applying for Social Security retirement benefits online can take as little as 15 minutes. Once you've submitted your electronic applications, in most cases, you're done! Also online, you can find more than 100 publications with information about Social Security and its programs. Most of these publications are also available in Spanish, and some of the most popular are available in 14 other languages.

You also can estimate your future retirement benefit using our Retirement Estimator, which allows you to get personalized estimates based on different retirement ages and scenarios.

Question: I usually get my benefit payment on the third of the month. But what if the third falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday? Will my payment be late?

Answer: Just the opposite. Your payment should arrive early. For example, if you usually get your payment on the third of a month, but it falls on a Saturday like it does this November, we will make payments on Friday, Nov. 2. Find more information about the payment schedule for 2012 at htm.

If you do ever miss a payment, be sure to wait three days before calling to report it missing. Of course, if you get your payments electronically, you'll get your payment without having to wait for the mail. Find out more about electronic payments at

Question: I'm trying to decide when to retire. Can Social Security help?

Answer: The best place to start is with a visit to the online Social Security Statement. The statement provides you with estimates of benefits for you and your family as well as your earnings record and information you should consider about retirement and retirement planning. Find out more about the statement - and get yours - at statement.

The "right" time to retire is different for everyone and depends on your individual situation. To help you make your own decision, we offer an online fact sheet with some of the factors to consider at pubs/10147.html.

Question: I've decided I want to retire. Now what do I do?

Answer: The fastest and easiest way to apply for retirement benefits is to go to www.socialsecurity. gov/onlineservices.

Use our online application to apply for Social Security retirement or spouses benefits. To do so, you must:

Question: My only income is Supplemental Security Income. My sister recently died and left me a little money. Will this extra money affect my SSI benefits?

Answer: It depends on the amount. You must report the inheritance to Social Security by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). SSI is a needs-based program for people 65 or older, blind, or disabled who have limited income and resources. We consider your inheritance as income for the month you received it. Accordingly, we may have to adjust your benefit for that month. If you keep the money into the next month, the money then becomes a part of your resources. A person with more than $2,000 or a couple with more than $3,000 in total resources cannot receive SSI, although there are exceptions. For more information, visit our website at

Question: My mom receives Supplemental Security Income. She soon will be coming to live with me. Do we have to report the move to Social Security?

Answer: Yes. She must report a change in living arrangements within 10 days of moving. The change may affect her benefit amount, and she could be penalized if she does not report the change on time. Also, we need her correct address so we can send correspondence, even if she receives her payments electronically. Please have your mom call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I need to apply for disability benefits. Where do I start?

Answer: Begin by looking at our Disability Starter Kit. You can find it online at or you can request a copy by calling 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). The Disability Starter Kit will help you prepare for your application and interview. When you are ready, you can apply online at or make an appointment to apply in person at a local Social Security office. And remember: Our online disability application is convenient and secure. Don't stand in line, go online, at

Question: My husband has been in poor health for some time, and doctors have recently diagnosed him with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease. I've heard Social Security has a "fast track" for some people who are disabled. Can you tell me about it?

Answer: We have two processes to "fast track" applications for disability benefits. Our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast-track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities. There are 165 different types of disabilities that qualify for this expedited decision, including ALS, and that list continues to expand. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances and see the full list of conditions at compassionateallowances.

Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at disabilityresearch/qdd. htm.

Question: My aunt is considering applying for Extra Help with Medicare Part D prescription drug costs, but she has about $10,000 in the bank. Would she still be eligible with this much money?

Answer: Based on the resources you mentioned, it sounds like she may qualify. However, there are other factors to consider. In most cases, recipients of Extra Help are limited to $13,070 (or $26,120 if married and living with a spouse) in resources in 2012. Resources include the value of the things you own, such as real estate (other than the place you live), cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and retirement accounts.

To learn more, visit the Medicare link at

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

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