For Your Benefit 2013
For Your Benefit 2013, brought to you by The Indianapolis Star. Social Security information and more!
THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR • INDYSTAR.COM 1S T WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2013 • H1 A custom advertising publication of The Indianapolis Star • Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013 BENEFIT YOUR GUIDE TO SOCIAL SECURITY PROGRAMS AND BENEFITS FOR YOUR Reflecting on 78 years of Social Security By Carolyn W. Colvin Acting Commissioner of Social Security There are special moments — birthdays, reunions, holidays, anniversaries — when people look back and evaluate a life or an era. Time is, after all, the simple stringing together of events — some small, others significant. These events can speed by quickly, but each one can have an effect on the greater whole. A lifetime of seemingly mundane events can pass in what seems like the blink of an eye … until one looks back to examine them and realizes just how much has filled the space. When I think about Colvin Social Security, I am amazed by the significant difference it has made, one event at a time, one person at a time. Over Social Security’s long history, every single monthly payment has made a difference to an American somewhere. But when you string those payments together, it’s remarkable what a huge and positive effect Social Security has had on the people and economy of our nation. Social Security has been a cornerstone, Today, Social Security is much more touching the lives of almost every American than a retirement program. We provide at one time or another for 78 years. It’s the benefits to disabled individuals and their most successful domestic program in our families. We provide survivors benefits to nation and, arguably, the world. widows, widowers and the minor children of When President Franklin D. Roosevelt deceased workers. We provide Supplemental signed the Social Security Act into law on Security Income to aged and disabled people Aug. 14, 1935, he said, “The civilization of who have low income and few resources. the past hundred years, with its startling We provide incentives to help people work. industrial changes, has tended more and We even provide Extra Help with Medicare more to make life insecure. Young people prescription drug costs. In so many ways, have come to wonder what would be their lot when they came to old age. The man with Social Security benefits America. Milestones come and a job has wondered how long the Social Security has milestones go. But looking job would last.” back over the past 78 years of made a difference The same can be said of the the nation’s most important current information age, with in the lives of program, those millions of our digital revolution and periods Americans — and individual moments — the of economic instability. Social that is something monthly benefit payments Security is a safety net cast to help to celebrate. — have made a tremendous those who need it. difference. In good times and Roosevelt knew the cornerstone bad, in sickness and health, Social Security of his administration would offer security, has helped Americans. Each payment has yet he also understood that Social Security helped someone, somewhere. But placed side would need to evolve as changes challenged by side, Social Security has made a difference the nation. in the lives of Americans — and that is “This law, too, represents a cornerstone in something to celebrate. a structure which is being built but is by no Learn more about Social Security’s rich means complete,” he admitted. “It is, in short, history at www.socialsecurity.gov/history. a law that will take care of human needs and Become a part of Social Security’s history at the same time provide the United States by doing business with us online at an economic structure of vastly greater www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. ★ soundness.” A note from the regional commissioner By Marcia R. Mosley Regional Commissioner Social Security Administration ★ I am pleased to present you with a Social Security supplement to this issue of The Indianapolis Star. The Social Security program touches all people of all ages, income levels, races and nationalities. It is an invaluable resource that is by far the most successful domestic program in the history of the U.S. As you read the pages of this publication, you’ll see how Social Security — which started in 1935 as a retirement program — plays an integral part in meeting the needs of people of all ages. Each year, we send benefits totaling about $775 billion to some 60 million beneficiaries. Social Security’s mission is to deliver Social Mosley Security services that meet the changing needs of the public we serve. Our award-winning website — www. socialsecurity.gov — continues to be an increasingly popular option. We also deliver services through a network of more than 1,400 offices nationally, which includes regional offices, field offices, Social Security card centers, teleservice centers, processing centers, states’ disability determination services, hearing offices and the Appeals Council. In the Chicago region, our 222 field offices are located in six states: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. The offices are the primary points for face-to-face contact with the public. Readers in the nine counties listed below are served by seven field offices in central Indiana, spanning as far north as Anderson and south to Bloomington. As you look over the information provided by our employees in this supplement, you’ll easily see the difference Social Security has made in our neighborhoods and counties. Social Security has enjoyed a rich history in Indiana, and many of our employees grew up in the counties we serve. We are your neighbors, friends and family members, and we are committed to providing great customer service to you and your loved ones. Remember, as you approach the milestones of your life, we are here to assist you. Take a moment to visit our award-winning website — www.socialsecurity.gov — to see how Social Security can help you. ★ na Social Security in central Indiana County Boone Hamilton Hancock Hendricks Johnson Madison Marion Morgan Shelby Total Beneﬁciaries 9,270 35,025 13,730 22,360 25,305 31,235 147,160 14,525 9,030 307,640 Monthly beneﬁts eﬁ ﬁts $11.9 million $47.3 million $17.4 million $29.0 million $32.1 million $37.9 million $174.1 million $17.9 million $10.8 million n $378.4 million Source: Social Security Administration, Master Beneﬁciary Record, 2012. inside Retire on your own terms 2 Social Security myths 3 SHIP navigates Medicare 4 Postdisaster assistance 5 H2 • WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2013 1S T THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR • INDYSTAR.COM Share a Social Security tip with your wise elders By Phyllis M. Smith Deputy Regional Commissioner While the baby boom era is behind us, the effects will live on. The number of people reaching the autumn season of life is higher than ever. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that around 600 million people aged 60 and older are alive in the world today. That number is expected to double by 2025 — a short 12 years from now — and is expected to reach about 2 billion by 2050. In the U.S., 10,000 people reach retirement age every single day. The elders of a community often are known as wise sages whom younger people can go to for advice. Older people have the life experience and reflection that younger people lack. But given the fast-paced changes the world now experiences, with new technology becoming outdated in a matter of years or even months, younger people may have helpful insights to share with elders. For example, if you know someone who is nearing retirement age, tell them about www.socialsecurity.gov. They may not be aware of the helpful and easy-to-use tools available. It’s no exaggeration to say that even someone who doesn’t use the Internet regularly can plan their retirement and even complete a retirement application online in a matter of minutes — much less time than it takes to drive to a local Social Security office. The best starting place for anyone thinking about retirement is Social Security’s Retirement Estimator. Use it to get an instant, personalized estimate of future retirement benefits in a matter of minutes. Spend a few more minutes plugging in different information — such as different projected future wages and different retirement dates — to help make a wise decision on the best retirement date. The Retirement Estimator is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Then there’s the online retirement benefit application. In as little as 15 minutes, a person can apply for Social Security benefits and submit their application online. In most cases, once an individual submits the application, there is nothing more to do but wait for the first payment. It’s really that simple. And if someone decides to double-check information before submitting the application, that’s fine, too. The application can be paused and later restarted any time during the process. It’s all available at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline. It makes sense to go to our elders for advice and guidance. But in this technologydriven world, we may be able to offer advice to the sages as well. A good bet is to tell the older adults in your life about www.socialsecurity.gov. ★ Retire on your own terms By Vanessa McClendon SSA District Manager Most Americans are aware that they need to save for retirement. Yet the topic is easy to brush aside to a later date because, although the subject is important, it may not seem urgent. But the longer you put off basic retirement planning, the harder it is to catch up later. Now is the perfect time to give it some thought as we share a few important items about Social Security retirement benefits. When you decide to retire, the easiest and most convenient way to do it is from the comfort of your home or office computer. Go to www.socialsecurity. gov, where you can apply for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes. In most cases, there are no forms to sign or documents to send. Once you submit your electronic application, that’s it! In addition to using our awardwinning website, you can call us toll-free at (800) 772-1213 — the TTY number is (800) 325-0778 — or visit the Social Security office nearest you. Either way you choose to apply, be sure to have your bank account information handy so we can set up your payments to be deposited directly into your account. Your age when you start to receive Social Security makes a difference in your benefit amount. The full retirement age — that is, the age at which 100 percent of retirement benefits are payable — is gradually rising from age 65 to 67. You can retire as early as age 62, but if benefits begin before you reach your full retirement age, your monthly payment is reduced. Find out your full retirement age by typing in your birth year at www. socialsecurity.gov/pubs/ageincrease. htm. You also can choose to keep working Your number By Charo Boyd SSA Public Affairs your card is beyond your full retirement age to take advantage of a larger payment. Your benefit will increase automatically each year from the time you reach your full retirement age until you begin receiving your benefits or at age 70. The decision of when to retire is personal and depends on a number of factors. For help, we suggest you read our online fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147. html. You may want to consider your options by using our Retirement Estimator to get instant, personalized estimates of future benefits. You can plug in different retirement ages and scenarios, which can help you make a more informed retirement decision. Try it out at www.socialsecurity.gov/ estimator. You’ll also want to take advantage of our latest and extremely popular service by setting up an online “my Social Security” account. You can use your account to obtain a copy of your Social Security Statement, check your earnings record and see estimates of the retirement, disability and survivor benefits you and your family may receive. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ myaccount. Another great website for financial planning — whether for retirement or other financial goals — is www. mymoney.gov. The website features information about planning for a host of life events, such as the birth or adoption of a child, home ownership and retirement. The site also provides money-management tools, including a financial savings calculator. To learn more about Social Security retirement benefits and options, read Retirement Benefits at www. socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10035.html. You can retire on your own terms, and we’re here to help. ★ Often, people decide they need to apply for a new Social Security card because they can’t find their old one. But as long as you have all of the required information and documentation, it’s not difficult to obtain a replacement. And here’s better news: You probably don’t even need the card. When you think about it, your Social Security number is your Social Security card. That is, knowing your number is usually all you ever need. When you know your number by heart, you’ll never leave home without it. In the event you really want or need to get a replacement card, either for yourself or for a child, you can find all the details at www.socialsecurity. gov/ssnumber. The “How to Get or Replace a Social Security Card” page provides information on obtaining a replacement card and the specific documents you need to provide. Each situation is unique, but in most cases you simply need to print, complete and either mail or take the application to the nearest Social Security office with the appropriate documentation, using originals or certified copies only. In almost all cases, an application for your newborn’s Social Security card and number is taken in the hospital at the same time you apply for your baby’s birth certificate. There are a number of reasons a baby or child may need a Social Security number. The main one is so that you can claim your child as a dependent on your tax return. Your child also will need a Social Security number to apply for certain government and social service benefits. Whether you need a Social Security card for yourself or your child, it’s easy to apply for one. But remember: If you already have one and can’t find it, in most cases all you need is to know your number. Memorize your Social Security number, and you’ll never leave home without it. Learn more about your Social Security card and number at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. ★ Celebrate the Retirement Estimator’s 5th anniversary By Charo Boyd SSA Public Affairs While hard to believe, it’s been five years since Social Security’s Retirement Estimator debuted. Within months of becoming available, the online estimator was praised as one of the best services on the Internet. The tool has retained its excellent rating consistently every year since. Results from the American Customer Satisfaction Index Boyd show Social Security’s online Retirement Estimator is one of the highest-rated services on the web — even higher than the sites of many other public- and private-sector agencies and companies, including Netflix and Amazon. Every year millions of people use the Retirement Estimator. You can too at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Prefer to conduct your business in Spanish? Go to www.segurosocial.gov/ calculador. The Retirement Estimator is a convenient, secure and fast financial planning tool that lets workers We are participating by offering 10% off our fees or 10% donated to the breast cancer non-proﬁt of your choice. BREASTCANCER AWARENESSMONTH BREAST THERMOGRAPHY OFFERS WOMEN INFORMATION THAT NO OTHER PROCEDURE CAN PROVIDE! Fee $250 4082 PENDLETON WAY INDIANAPOLIS, IN 46226 (317) 546-1915 calculate how much they may expect to receive in Social Security benefits when they retire. The most attractive feature of the calculator is that it uses your earnings information on file at Social Security without displaying your personal information. You get an instant personalized estimate of your future retirement benefits. And it’s so easy to use. The estimator even gives you the opportunity to run different scenarios and “what if” situations. For example, you can change the date you expect to retire or change expected future earnings to create and compare different retirement options. This can help you as you plan ahead. To use the Retirement Estimator, you must have enough Social Security credits to qualify for benefits and cannot be receiving benefits. Join the celebration! Experience the popular online service now by visiting Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Once you’ve sketched out your retirement plans, you’ll know where to go when the time comes to apply for benefits: www.socialsecurity.gov. Happy fifth anniversary, Retirement Estimator! ★ CREDITS TWO LOCATIONS 2620 CONNER STREET NOBLESVILLE, IN 46060 (317) 770-9003 ★ CREATIVE Associate manager: Elaine Benken Contributing editor: Manda Newlin Coordinator/designer: Beth Winchell This publication is an advertising product of Custom Publications, a division of Star Media. Christine Sipos Account manager (317) 444-7183 email@example.com ADVERTISING SALES IS-0000001168 THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR • INDYSTAR.COM You know where to find us (because we make it easy) Myths 1S T WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2013 • H3 about Social Security By Cathy Kienitz SSA Deputy Area Director Like any other successful and longstanding program or organization, Social Security is surrounded by a number of myths. Some of them are grounded in truth but are slightly misconstrued. Others are completely out of line with the truth. Let’s take a look at a few. By Marisela Orozco-Jaramillo SSA Area Director Myth 1: Social Security is just a retirement program. Truth: Social Security is more than a retirement program. It provides benefits to retirees, survivors and people with disabilities who no longer can work. In fact, almost 7 million disabled workers and nearly 2 million of their dependents get Social Security disability benefits. Some 6.5 million dependents of deceased workers (including 2 million children) get Social Security survivors benefits. Social Security is more than just retirement. If you’ve read anything about Social Security in recent years, you probably know that our most convenient office location is wherever you happen to be — thanks to www.socialsecurity.gov. Whether you’re on your computer at home or in the office, or using your mobile device at the park or the beach, Social Security’s online office is a click away. We recognize, however, that some people prefer to do business face-to-face. If that’s you, we’d like to let you know about an online feature that can easily help you find your nearest Social Security office. From your computer or mobile device, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/locator. That link will take you to our Social Security Office Locator. Once there, key in your ZIP code to find the address, phone number and hours of the Social Security office closest to you. The locator page also gives you the option to see a map and get directions. If you are on the run and have your mobile device, this feature has the capability to “Map It,” providing turn-by-turn directions and making it easy to get to the office from wherever you are at the time. (Of course, it’s still up to you to find a place to park, if needed). You don’t have to worry about parking or traffic or lines if you transact your business on our website. If you can use our online Office Locator, you’ll probably be able to take advantage of our other online features. For example, you can get a personalized, instant estimate of your future Social Security benefits by using our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/ estimator. Or you can do some retirement planning with our Benefits Planners at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners. You even can apply for benefits from your home computer at www.socialsecurity. gov/applyonline. We encourage you to set up a “my Social Security” account at www. socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. You then will have quick, easy access to a number of personalized, secure services. Get your Social Security Statement online or, if you already receive benefits, get an instant benefit verification letter right through the computer. When you just want some information, you can get that online as well. Browse our library of publications, which you can read or listen to, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. Get the Social Security forms you need at www.socialsecurity.gov/online. Or get an answer to your question by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/faq. You can find these and many other Social Security services at www.socialsecurity.gov. ★ Myth 2: I don’t need to save because Social Security will take care of me when I retire. Truth: Social Security never was intended to be a person’s sole income in retirement. It should be combined with pension income and personal savings and investments. Your Social Security Statement, available at www.socialsecurity. gov/mystatement, is a great place to get an idea of what to expect during retirement. You also can use the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity. gov/estimator. Myth 3: If I work after I retire, I’ll be penalized. Truth: Once you reach your full retirement age, there is no penalty and no limit on the amount you can earn. You can determine your full retirement age at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2. The earnings limit for workers who are younger than full retirement age (i.e., age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) is $15,120 in 2013. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $15,120.) The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2013 is $40,080. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $40,080 until the month the worker turns age 66.) Keep in mind that if we withhold some of your benefits due to work, we will recompute your monthly benefit amount when you reach full retirement age to account for those months we withheld your benefit. There is no limit on earnings for workers who are full retirement age or older for the entire year. Myth 4: To apply for benefits or do business with Social Security, I need to go to an office. Truth: Not only is this false, but we encourage you to do business with us the most convenient and fastest way: at www.socialsecurity.gov. You can go to our website to apply for benefits, use our Retirement Planner, get an estimate of your benefits, request a replacement Medicare card and much more. You’ll find it all — along with answers to your questions — at www.socialsecurity.gov. ★ You’ve earned responsible solutions, not harmful cuts. Right now there’s an important debate going on about the future of Medicare and Social Security. While some politicians in Washington are pushing harmful cuts, AARP is ﬁghting for responsible solutions that keep the promises we’ve made to current seniors and keep the programs strong for our kids and grandkids. Politicians are talking, but it’s your voice that needs to be heard to keep Medicare and Social Security strong. Join the ﬁght to keep Medicare and Social Security strong for generations to come at earnedasay.org. facebook.com/AARPIndiana @AARPIndiana aarp.org/IN Paid for by AARP IS-0000001161 H4 • WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2013 1S T THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR • INDYSTAR.COM SPONSOR FEATURE SHIP can help you wisely navigate Medicare By Jen Bingham For Custom Publications SHIP sites in Marion County Area 8 CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions (317) 803-6138 Community Hospital of Indianapolis East (317) 355-1530 Community Hospital of Indianapolis North (317) 621-1576 Community Hospital of Indianapolis South SHIP Office (317) 887-7447 Heritage Place of Indianapolis, Inc. (317) 283-6662 Robin Run Village (317) 293-5500 Sorting through information about the Medicare program can be confusing and frustrating. Fortunately, the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, sponsored by the Indiana Department of Insurance and funded by grants from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, was created to help with this very issue. SHIP is a national program that offers free one-on-one health insurance counseling and assistance. Through federal grants directed to states, SHIP supports a network of volunteers who provide information over the telephone and in face-to-face meetings. Plenty of information is available at www. medicare.in.gov. You also can contact SHIP to request that a speaker come talk to your organization. The program isn’t affiliated with any insurance company, and counselors can’t tell you what to do. They can help you clarify your options so you understand all aspects of your choices regarding Medicare coverage. Because open enrollment for Medicare started Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7, it’s the busy season for SHIP volunteers — though they remain fully occupied throughout the year. SHIP volunteers also help people who qualify find programs that help pay for Medicare coverage and prescription drug costs. “I feel very humble that I’m in a position to help people; it makes you really feel good when you’re helping someone.” SHIP volunteers, such as Helen Woodward (above), take their supporting roles very seriously. PHOTO: ELAINE BENKEN St. Vincent Orthopedic Center (317) 338-2198 Contact the Indiana Medicare office at (800) 452-4800 to learn more, or seek information and answers at www.medicare.in.gov. Unbiased advice SHIP counselors are trained volunteers who help people understand Medicare Part A and Part B and other government insurance programs. They’re also trained to answer questions about Medicare supplement insurance, Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug coverage. “We help with Medicare and Medicaid. We talk them through how to get extra help, how to go to the VA,” said Helen Woodward, local counsel coordinator for SHIP at Community Hospital East. “We also are there for them on any questions they have about filling out applications. An older person can be so afraid they’re going to fill out the application incorrectly.” Many of the people she talks to are frustrated as they sort through loads of information. “They’re just so overwhelmed with information they get that they can’t process it. That’s where you have to be really patient with them and really listen to what they’re asking you,” Woodward said. “They don’t always understand that SHIP doesn’t sell insurance, and they don’t understand that I can’t tell them which insurance to buy. I feel very humble that I’m in a position to help people; it makes you really feel good when you’re helping someone.” Woodward said she and other SHIP volunteers take their supporting role seriously. “It’s very important to us that we’re here to help people (and) it’s very rewarding when someone says, ‘You’ve made this so much easier,’” she said. Counselors go through a four-day training program and have to pass a test before being assigned to a volunteer site. They work closely with experienced volunteers for four weeks before fielding calls on their own. Training is ongoing from there, facilitated by trainers who help volunteers answer unexpected questions. “We’re all in a position to have someone else help us if we are faced with a problem we don’t know about,” Woodward said. “If I don’t know anything about a topic, I say, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t know anything about that. But I have people I can go to, and they can steer me in the right direction.’ We have a retired Medicare person who is excellent, and we have trainers we can go to. There’s always something available for us to get an answer for someone.” ★ The State Health Insurance Assistance Program: ❯ Provides educational materials and brochures. ❯ Helps you understand Medicare and organize your records. ❯ Educates you about filing Medicare claims and appealing Medicare decisions. ❯ Teaches you to assess your needs so you can make informed decisions about health insurance. ❯ Informs you of your rights as a Medicare beneficiary and/or health insurance policyholder. ❯ Shows you how to evaluate various prescription, Medicare supplement and long-term care insurance options. ❯ Provides information about and enrollment assistance in programs that can help pay for Medicare. ❯ Refers you to agencies that can help with other needs. ❯ Provides speakers to make presentations to groups, clubs and senior centers. IS-0000001160 THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR • INDYSTAR.COM 1S T WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2013 • H5 In the aftermath of disaster, Social Security can help By Casey Hurst SSA District Manager For some Americans, life has been more difficult in recent years because of natural disasters. Fatal tornadoes in Oklahoma. Massive wildfires and strong earthquakes in Colorado and California. Landslides in Washington. Flooding in Texas, North Carolina and Florida. Hail storms in Tennessee. Hurricane Sandy along the Eastern seaboard. And now, we brace ourselves for another hurricane season. In addition to natural catastrophes, there are man-made tragedies, such as the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., which killed 12 and injured 58; the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., which took the lives of 26 children and staff members; and the Boston Marathon explosions, killing three and injuring more than 260. When disasters strike, you may not know where to turn, despite the immediate response by so many well-intentioned people and organizations. But when it comes to the need for disability and survivors benefits, Social Security is always here to serve those who require our services. Dependent survivors of wage earners — such as spouses, minor children and in some cases parents or grandchildren — may be eligible for survivor benefits when the family’s provider dies. The sad fact is that about 1-in-8 of today’s 20-year-old workers will die before reaching age 67. The good news is about 96 percent of people age 20 to 49 who work have survivors insurance protection if they die and leave behind young children and spouses. Social Security is here to help people afflicted with disabling conditions as well. In fact, disabled workers account for about 19 percent of all Social Security benefits paid. Of today’s 20-year-old workers, 1-in-4 will become disabled before reaching age 67. Our emergency services reach more than the limited number of people who die or become disabled from a tragedy. For example, if you still receive a paper check and your mail delivery is interrupted due to severe weather, in many cases any Social Security office can issue an immediate replacement payment. To avoid this situation, switch to electronic payments as required by law. Even if your mailbox — or home — is destroyed due to an emergency or you are evacuated or displaced, your payment will arrive on time every time if you receive it electronically. Sometimes, emergencies cause Social Security offices to close. If you want to check whether your local office is open, the best place to go is the Social Security’s Office Closings And Emergency Information page at www.socialsecurity.gov/emergency. This site is a great place to visit before you go to an office, especially when severe weather affects your area. The emergency page also offers valuable FEMA advice, which can help you prepare for or cope with emergency situations. While we all hope and pray to avoid disasters, unfortunately they are bound to occur. The best we can do is be prepared to deal with them if they happen. And know that Social Security will be here for you when you need it. Be prepared. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/emergency. ★ Spouses have a significant benefit By Robert Hilcz SSA District Manager Social Security can be an important financial asset for married couples when the time comes to apply for retirement benefits. In many cases, one spouse may have earned significantly more than the other or worked for a longer span of years. Or it could be that one spouse stayed home to do the work of raising children or caring for elderly family members while the other focused on a career. Regardless of your situation, Social Security will look at all possibilities to make sure both spouses receive the maximum benefit possible. Even if you haven’t paid Social Security taxes, it’s likely you’ll be eligible to receive benefits on your spouse’s record. If you did work and pay into Social Security, we will check eligibility based on your work record and your spouse’s to see which amount is higher. You can apply for spousal benefits the same way you apply for benefits on your own record. You can apply for reduced benefits as early as age 62 or for 100 percent of your full retirement benefits at your “full retirement age.” You can find your full retirement age, based on your birth year, at www.socialsecurity. gov/pubs/ageincrease.htm. The benefit amount you can receive as a spouse, if you have reached your full retirement age, can be as much as one-half of your spouse’s full benefit. If you opt for early retirement, your benefit may be as little as a third of your spouse’s full benefit amount. If your spouse already has reached full retirement age but continues to work, he or she can apply for retirement benefits and request to have the payments suspended until as late as age 70. This would allow the worker to earn delayed retirement credits, which would mean higher payments later, but would allow you to receive your spouse’s benefit. You also can apply for spouse benefits based on the earnings record of an ex-spouse or deceased spouse if you were married at least 10 years. Spouses can consider a number of options and variables. We make it easier to navigate them. A good place to start is by visiting our benefits planner at www. socialsecurity.gov/planners. Take note of the “Benefits As A Spouse” section. If you are ready to apply for benefits, the fastest, easiest and most convenient way is to apply online. You can do so at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline. Whether you receive benefits on a spouse’s record or your own, rest assured we will make sure you get the highest benefit we can pay you. 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