Tricounty News

Social Security questions and answers

General Question: I think I saw Patty Duke in an ad for Social Security. Was that really her? Answer: Yes. Patty Duke reprised her roles as cousins Patty and Cathy Lane from the hit 1960's sitcom "The Patty Duke Show" for a series of television, radio, print and Internet ads to promote retiring online. You can complete the new online application in as little as 15 minutes. And filing online means there's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. If you want to retire online, go to and click on "Applying Online for Retirement Benefits." To see the video public service announcements featuring Patty Duke, visit Question: When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, who is eligible for survivor benefits? Answer: Social Security survivor benefits can be paid to: • A widow or widower-full benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60; • A disabled widow or widower-as early as age 50; • A widow or widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased's child who is under age 16 or disabled, and receiving Social Security benefits; • Unmarried children under 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending high school full time. Benefits can be paid to adopted children and, under certain circumstances, to stepchildren, or grandchildren; • Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled; and • Dependent parents age 62 or older. Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivor benefits from a deceased spouse. For more information, visit Question: I'm 72 and get Social Security. Is it true that I no longer need to take mandatory IRA withdrawals? Answer: For 2009, yes. Mandatory withdrawals from certain retirement accounts have been waived for tax year 2009. Usually, anyone age 70 1/2 or older is required to withdraw funds from their retirement plans each year, even if the money isn't needed. These plans include 401(k)s, 403(b)s, some 457(b)s as well as IRAs and IRA-based plans such as Simple IRAs and SEPs. However, The Worker, Retiree and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 waives the requirement to withdraw funds in 2009. To learn more, visit Retirement Question: What is a Social Security "credit?" Answer: During your working years, earnings covered by Social Security are posted to your record. You earn Social Security credits based on those earnings. Each year the amount of earnings needed for one credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2009, you receive one credit for each $1,090 of earnings. You can earn up to a maximum of four credits per year. For 2008, you received one credit for each $1,050 of earnings. Most people need a total of 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. To learn more about Social Security, visit Question: I've heard you can apply for retirement benefits online.  But isn't it easier just to go into an office? Answer: Filing online means there's no need to travel to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative.  Retiring online is easy and convenient. You can apply in as little as 15 minutes. In most cases, that's it--no papers to sign or mail in. Want to learn more?  Visit and click on the "Retirement" tab in the top, left corner. Our Web site will: • Walk you through the application process; • Tell you what information you'll need to answer the questions on the application; and • Describe the documents you may need to present after you apply. So what are you waiting for?  Get started now at   Question: I'm aware the full retirement age is going up, but what is the earliest age that I can begin receiving retirement benefits? Answer: You can get a reduced benefit as early as age 62.  The 1983 Social Security Amendments raised the full retirement age beginning with people born in 1938 or later from 65 to 67.  But it did not change the minimum age for retirement.  Visit to learn more about Social Security and to find out your own full retirement age. Disability Question: My husband recently had his leg amputated as a result of his diabetes.  He applied for disability benefits based on his diabetes a few years ago and was denied because he could still work.  Now that his condition has worsened, can he get disability benefits? Answer: He should certainly apply for Social Security disability benefits if his condition prevents him from working.  We will need to make a new disability determination.  Under Social Security law, a person is eligible for disability benefits if he has a severe medical condition that is expected to prevent him from working for at least 12 months, or will end in death.  To learn more, visit Social Security's website at, or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).   Question: I am only in my early thirties.  Last month I was severely injured and I'm unable to work.  How old do you have to be to get Social Security disability benefits? Answer: There is no minimum age, but you must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security to earn the required number of work credits.  You can earn up to four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels go up.  The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled.  In some cases for a very young worker, you may only need six work credits--as little as 18 months of work.  You can find out exactly how many credits you need to qualify for disability benefits on our Web site, at If you don't have enough work credits, you may still qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits if you are disabled and have limited income and resources. To learn more about benefits, visit Supplemental Security Income Question: What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Answer: SSI is a program designed to help aged, blind and disabled people who have limited income and resources. It provides payments to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. Although it is run by Social Security, SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). You can learn more about SSI at Question: My sister recently left me some money.  Will this inheritance affect my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits? Answer: For SSI purposes, we consider the money to be income in the month you receive it.  That could make you ineligible for SSI during that month, depending on the amount of the inheritance.  If you keep the money into the next month, it then becomes a part of your resources.  You cannot have more than $2,000 in resources and remain eligible for SSI.  You should call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and report the income from your inheritance.  We will tell you whether your SSI eligibility or amount will be affected by the inheritance and let you know what would be required for you to remain eligible.  You can learn more about SSI at Medicare Question: Who is eligible for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs? Answer: People who currently have Medicare coverage can get extra help if they have limited income and resources.  The extra help can save them money.  It pays part of the monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments under the new Medicare prescription drug program.  The extra help is estimated to be worth an average of $3,900 per year.  You can help someone qualify and apply at