Q & A about your social security

By Becky Whitlow, Social Security District Manager, Springfield

QAndAHeadingC1504_V_v_C_YBefore standing in line at your local Social Security office, you may find that the answers to your

questions are only a click away on your computer. At
socialsecurity.gov you can learn about disability ­coverage, review your online earnings statement, and get a ­personalized estimate of your future benefits. Here are just a few answers to common questions, but you can find much more by going to our website.

General

Question:

I can’t seem to find my Social Security card. Do I need to get a replacement?

Answer:

In most cases, knowing your Social Security number is enough. But, if you do apply for and receive a replacement card, don’t carry that card with you. Keep it with your important papers. For more information about your Social Security card and number, and for information about how to apply for a replacement, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. If you believe you’re the victim of identity theft, read our publication Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Question:

I own a small business. How can I verify employees’ Social Security numbers?

Answer:

Employers can use our Social Security Number Verification Service to verify the names and Social Security numbers of current and former employees for wage reporting ­purposes. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/ssnv.htm.

Retirement

Question:

What can Social Security do to help me plan for my retirement?

Answer:

Social Security has some great online financial planning tools you can use to make an informed decision about your retirement. Social Security’s online Retirement Planner and our online Retirement Estimator are both tools you can access at any time. These will let you compute estimates of your future Social Security retirement benefits. They also provide important information on factors affecting ­retirement benefits, such as military service, household earnings, and federal employment.

You can access our Retirement Planner at
www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2. And, you can use the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Question:

How do I earn Social Security credits, and how many do I need to qualify for benefits?

Answer:
We use your total yearly earnings to figure your Social Security credits. The amount needed for a credit in 2015 is $1,220. You can earn a maximum of four credits for any year. The amount needed to earn one credit increases ­automatically each year when average wages increase.

You must earn a certain number of credits to qualify for Social Security benefits. The number of credits you need depends on your age when you apply and the type of ­benefit application. No one needs more than 40 credits for any Social Security benefit.

Question:

What is substantial gainful activity?

Answer:

We use the term “substantial gainful activity,” or “SGA,” to describe a level of work activity and earnings. Work is ­“substantial” if it involves doing significant physical or mental activities or a combination of both.

If you earn more than a certain amount and are doing ­productive work, we generally consider that you are ­engaging in substantial gainful activity. For example, the monthly SGA amount for 2015 is $1,090. For statutorily blind individuals, that amount is $1,820. You would not be eligible for disability benefits. You can read more about substantial gainful activity and if your earnings qualify as substantial gainful activity at www.socialsecurity.gov/oact/cola/sga.html.

Question:

Will my disability benefits be reduced if I get workers’ compensation or other public disability benefits?

Answer:

If you get either workers’ compensation or public disability benefit payments, we may reduce Social Security benefits for you and your family.

Public disability benefit payments paid under a federal, state, or local government law may affect your Social Security benefit. This includes civil service disability benefits, temporary state disability benefits, and state or local government retirement benefits based on disability. Disability payments from private sources, such as a ­private pension or insurance benefits, don’t affect your Social Security disability benefits. However, in some cases, ­private disability insurers may require you to apply for Social Security disability benefits before they pay you. You may want to check to find out about your private insurer’s policy.

We reduce the Social Security disability benefits you and your family get if the combined total amount, plus your workers’ compensation payment, plus any public ­disability payment you get, exceeds 80 percent of your average ­earnings before you became injured or ill.

See the publication What You Need To Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs for more information.

Supplemental Security Income

Question:

What is the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability?

Answer:

Social Security is responsible for running two major ­programs that provide benefits based on disability. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on prior earnings. SSDI is financed through the taxes you pay into the Social Security program. To be eligible for an SSDI benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be “insured” for Social Security purposes. SSDI benefits are payable to eligible blind or disabled workers, the widow(er)s of a disabled worker, or adults ­disabled since childhood.

SSI disability payments are made based on financial need to adults or children who are disabled or blind, have ­limited income and resources, meet the living arrangement ­requirements, and are otherwise eligible. SSI is a program financed through general revenues. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question:

What is a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS)?

Answer:

A PASS helps Supplemental Security Income disability beneficiaries return to work. It is a written plan of action for getting a particular kind of job or starting a business. In it, you identify:

• the job or business (this is your work goal);

• the steps you will take and the things you will need in order to achieve your work goal (for example: ­education or training, transportation, child care, or assistive technology);

• the money you will use to pay for these things (this may be any income, other than SSI benefits or assets, such as Social Security benefits, wages from a current job, or ­savings); and

• a timetable for achieving your goal.

For more information, visit our publication on the subject at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Medicare

Question:

What can I do if my Medicare prescription drug plan says it won’t pay for a drug that my doctor prescribed for me?

Answer:

If your Medicare prescription drug plan decides that it won’t pay for a prescription drug, it must tell you in ­writing why the drug isn’t covered in a letter called a “Notice of Denial of Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage.” Read the notice carefully because it will explain how to ask for an appeal. Your prescribing doctor can ask your Medicare drug plan for an expedited redetermination (first level appeal) for you, if the doctor tells the plan that waiting for a standard appeal decision may seriously harm your health. For more information, visit www.medicare.gov.

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