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Benefits Can Be Suspended in Favor of Spouse

November 8, 2012
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Question: Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that work?

Answer: It depends on your age. If you are between full retirement age and age 70 and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can apply for retirement benefits and request the payments be suspended. Then, you can choose to receive benefits on your spouse's Social Security record. You then will earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70, as long as you do not collect benefits on your own work record. Later, when you do begin receiving benefits on your own record, those payments could very well be higher than they would have been otherwise, because you earned delayed retirement credits.

Question: My daughter applied for a Social Security card for my grandchild at the hospital, but the card came back with a misspelled name. What should she do?

Answer: She needs to find at least two original documents proving her child's U.S. citizenship and identity, as well as one proof of her identity as the parent. Then she should go to herr local Social Security office or card center to ask for a corrected card.

The documents she shows us must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. To find out more, visit www.socialsecurity. gov/ssnumber.

Question: What are some of the documents Social Security will accept as proof of identity for a child?

Fact Box

  • Contact Social Security: 800-772- 1213 (TTY 800-325-0778);

Answer: While you can use a birth certificate to prove age or citizenship, you cannot use it as proof of identity. For identity, we prefer to see the child's U.S. passport. If you don't have a passport, we may accept the child's:

We generally can accept a non-photo identity document if it has enough information to identify the child (such as the child's name and age, date of birth and parents' names). All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. To find out more, visit

Question: What is the earliest age that I can apply for my Social Security retirement benefits?

Answer: The earliest age to receive retirement benefits is 62, but you can apply up to three months beforehand. If you retire at age 62 today, your benefit would be about 25 percent lower than what it would be if you waited until you reach full retirement age.

Even if you are not ready to retire, you still should sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. You can do both online at applyonline.

Question: What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Answer: SSI provides monthly income to people 65 or older, blind or disabled, who also have limited income and financial resources. To be eligible, an individual also must be a U.S. citizen and resident of the United States or a noncitizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence. There are, however, some noncitizens granted a special immigration status who are eligible. To get SSI, an individual's financial resources (savings and assets) cannot be more than $2,000 ($3,000, if married). For more information, read our publications, Supplemental Security Income or Understanding Supplemental Security Income. Both are available at www.socialsecurity. gov/pubs.

Question: Are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits subject to federal income tax?

Answer: No. SSI payments are not subject to federal taxes. If you get SSI, you will not receive an annual form SSA-1099 from Social Security. However, your Social Security benefits may be subject to income tax. Learn more at

Question: I need to make changes to my Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. When can I do that?

Answer: Open season for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage runs from October 15 to December 7. The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary and participants pay an additional monthly premium.

While you are looking at changing your plan, you might want to revisit the Application for Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs. If you have limited income and resources, you also may be eligible for Extra Help to pay monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year.

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

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