Social Security affects the life of nearly everyone in America By GERALD NELSON District manager, Waterloo area
Social Security reaches almost every family and at some point will touch the lives of nearly all Americans. It helps not only older Americans, but also workers who become disabled and families in which a spouse or parent dies. Today about 160 million pay Social Security taxes, and about 52 million people receive monthly Social Security beneﬁts. Social Security pays almost $50 million each month in retirement, survivor, disability and Supplemental Security Income beneﬁts to more than 53,000 people in Waterloo’s seven-county service area. The table below shows the economic impact on each local county. Local counties Black Hawk Bremer Buchanan Butler Fayette Grundy Hardin TOTAL
Beneﬁciaries 27,100 5,129 4,394 3,715 5,411 2,942 4,478 53,169
Monthly amount $28,136,000 $5,664,000 $3,286,000 $2,706,000 $3,670,000 $2,403,000 $3,530,000 $49,395,000
Most of the Social Security beneﬁciaries are retirees and their families — about 36 million people nationwide. Social Security was never intended to be the only source of income for people when they retire. Social Security replaces about 40 percent of an average wage earner’s income after retirement, and most ﬁnancial advisers say retirees need 70 percent or more of pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably. To have a secure retirement, Americans need more than Social Security. They also need private pensions, savings and investments. The Social Security Administration wants you to understand what Social Security can mean to you and for your family’s ﬁnancial future. Our website is a valuable resource for information about how Social Security can help you by visiting us at www. socialsecurity.gov.
Social Security is providing safety net to millions in U.S. For 75 years, the Social Security Administration has worked diligently to deliver on our promise of providing outstanding service to the American public. What began as a retirement program in 1935 has evolved into a safety net for workers, their families and those Carolyn L. in greatest need. Simmons With the addition of Survivors, is regional Disability, Supcommissioner, Kansas City plemental Securegion, for the rity Income and Social Security Medicare beneﬁts Administration. since our 1935 inception, Social Security continues to provide ﬁnancial security for millions of Americans. We take public service seriously in the heartland, and we strive to provide the ﬁnest service to our customers throughout our fourstate region of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska. Our surveys indicate a high rate of customer satisfaction with the quality, timeliness and courtesy with which our staff provides service.
We are improving our disability claims process. New processes dealing specifically with the most disabling conditions such as brain tumors, cancer and endstage renal disease allow us to fast-track claims that are likely allowances in the earliest stages of the disability process. We still have work to do, but we are making progress to better serve you. We are also committed to delivering service the way you want it — whether it be in person, by phone or online. Last year, we welcomed more than 45 million visitors into our ﬁeld offices nationwide, received more than 82 million calls on our national 800 phone number. Online beneﬁt applications have topped the 2 million submissions mark. Visit www.socialsecurity. gov. Our website is a simple and secure method for you to estimate future beneﬁts, apply for beneﬁts, obtain forms or publications and order a replace-
Are you currently on Medicare, or plan to be on Medicare soon? The Senior Health Insurance Information Program is a free and conﬁdential volunteer service offered through the state of Iowa to help people sort through confusing information about Medicare and health insurance. The SHIIP program can help you by explaining your Medicare beneﬁts and rights. It will compare and evaluate: ■ Medicare supplements. ■ Medicare Advantage plans.
■ Retiree health plan coverage. ■ Medicare drug plans (Part D). ■ Long term care insurance policies. ■ Organize your medical bills and Medicare statements; ﬁle and appeal claims. ■ Find assistance for programs that might help with Medicare costs and Medicare drug plans. ■ Assess your needs so you can make informed decisions about health insurance.
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SHIIP volunteers update their training twice a year at the SHIIP state office. RSVP coordinates a SHIIP service on behalf of its sponsor, Covenant Medical Center. To contact RSVP, call 272-2250, or if you live out of the area and would prefer something closer call the state SHIIP office at (800) 351-4664 for the nearest location. You can also visit the SHIIP website at www. TheRightCallIowa.gov
ment Medicare card. This is a small sample of what you can do on our website, which we are continuing to revise to make it a one-stop shop for information on Social Security programs and beneﬁts, ﬁnancial planning tools and user-friendly online beneﬁt applications. SSA’s online services are topnotch. Our Retirement Estimator, Beneﬁt Application and Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs Application are the three top-rated online services in government and in the private sector, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. We routinely update our Open Government Initiative website (www.socialsecurity.gov/open/) to ensure you can see what we are doing. Please visit www.socialsecurity.gov and let us know how we are doing as your feedback and questions will help us improve our service.
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Direct deposit means payments arrive safely on time The check is in the mail. Of course, if turbulent weather strikes, it could delay the check from arriving at your mailbox. Then you still have the drive to the bank to cash the check. These days, almost everyone gets their beneﬁt payment by direct deposit. Whether you receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, you can depend on your payment arriving in your account on time, every time. If you don’t already have direct deposit, there are good reasons to sign up. For one, less money and time spent driving to the bank to cash your check helps you save. Second, fewer paper checks, envelopes and stamps — and less fuel to deliver the checks — means less waste and pollution for the environment.
Hurricane season is here for some areas. Other areas bear the brunt of spring ﬂooding. Some areas of the nation are plagued by tornadoes and still others must deal with wild-
ﬁres, severe thunderstorms or even earthquakes. If you are unfortunate enough to be in the line of a natural disaster, the last thing you want is for your income to be interrupted
because of an evacuation or a missing mailbox. With direct deposit, you know your payment will be in your account on time no matter what. When on vacation, direct deposit ensures payments will be deposited into your account on time, so there’s no reason to worry about the safety of your beneﬁt or to ask a neighbor to look out for your check when you are away. As an added bonus, many banks offer free checking accounts for people who use direct deposit because it saves the bank the cost of processing paper payments. Plus, the payment probably will show up in your bank account sooner than a paper check will appear in the mailbox, and there’s no need to cash it. It’s already in the bank. If you do not have a bank
Social Security does not endorse the advertisers within this supplement. account, we have you covered. Through the Direct Express card, you can receive your beneﬁts via direct deposit, without a bank account. The card has no minimum balance and no annual fee. If you are already receiving beneﬁts, call (877) 212-9991 to get enrolled, or contact your local Social Security office. Beginning in May, if you are signing up for Social Security beneﬁts, direct deposit will be mandatory. If you are currently receiving beneﬁts direct deposit will become mandatory in May 2013. Learn more about it at www. socialsecurity.gov/deposit.
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Protecting your SSN is key to preventing identity theft A person walks into a local bank, looking for a loan to purchase a car. They have all the proper identiﬁcation, including a Social Security number. They sign on the dotted line, agreeing to pay back a loan of $50,000. However, this person is not who they say they are. They have the correct ID, but this information is stolen, ripped off from someone else’s trash bin. The new car owner does not intend to pay back this loan, sticking someone else with the bill and negative credit report. Identity theft often starts with a Social Security number. Once a thief has a valid number, he or she can open or re-activate credit card accounts in your name, apply for federal or state beneﬁts or make changes in your ﬁnancial accounts. That nine-digit SSN is a valuable ﬁrst step in assuming someone’s identity. And it also is
why protecting your Social Security number is the ﬁrst step in preventing identity theft. 1. Treat your Social Security number as conﬁdential information and avoid giving it out unnecessarily. 2. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with other impor-
tant personal papers. Do not carry it with you unless you need to show it to an employer or service provider. The fewer people with access to your number, the safer you are. 3. Shred unneeded documents. Don’t just throw away paperwork that includes your name, Social
Security number or other personal information on it — shred it. When you get junk mail, shred it before you toss it. If you don’t have a shredder, try ripping your paperwork several times and placing half of each document in different trash bags. If you fail to shred it, it could become free credit for someone else. 4. Monitor your credit records. The major credit reporting services are required by law to provide you with a free credit report each year upon request. You can contact Equifax, Experian and Transunion and ask for your free reports. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp to request a free credit report. 5. Social Security works hard to protect your number from misuse. For example, we require and carefully inspect proof of identity from people who apply to replace lost or stolen Social Security cards
or who request corrected cards. One reason we do this is to prevent people from fraudulently obtaining Social Security numbers to establish false identities. We maintain the privacy of Social Security records unless a law requires us to disclose information to another government agency or if your information is needed to conduct Social Security or other government health or welfare program business. For more information, visit our online leaﬂet ‘‘Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number’’ at www.socialsecurity.gov/ pubs/10064.html. Or call us at 1-(800)-772-1213 (TTY 1-(800)325-0778) and ask for the leaflet. If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission at www.consumer.gov/idtheft or 1-(877)-438-4338; TTY (202) 326-2502)
Tips can help prevent Medicare coverage mistakes, fraud By DEB YANKEY Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol Coordinator
pect fraud has occurred? Contact eye Valley Area Agency on Aging, number. Another threat to the security Senior Medicare Patrol at Hawk- Waterloo, at 1-(800)-423-2449. of your future Medicare beneﬁts is simply mistakes in payLogan Avenue ments, Start reading your Medicare Summary Notice and other insurance explanation of beneﬁt statements. If you need an Home Medical explanation, phone Medicare We carry a complete line of home medical supplies for all your needs: at 1-(800)-633-4227 or your other insurance carrier or ask the • Wheelchairs • Medical Supplies • Scooters • Full Electric Hospital Beds medical provider that submitted • Home Oxygen • Diabetic Shoes the claim. Watch for something • CPAP/BIPAP • Urinary Supplies billed twice, a service you did not Free Delivery and Setup receive, a medical provider you didn’t see or who wasn’t involved For Medicare coverage of Home Medical Equipment call or visit Hy-Vee in your care (for example, you may Home Medical and see our showroom and talk with any of our customer not “see” a doctor who interpretservice, rehab or respiratory staff to ﬁnd out the Medicare coverage for ed X-ray or test results). home medical equipment in the home and how you can qualify. If the problem is an error, ask your medical provider to correct the Medicare claim, then watch for a new Medicare Summary Notice showing a change in payment. If you have supplemental insurance, they should re-process your beneﬁts after Medicare Call Hy-Vee Home Medical for more info. does. 319-287-8087 • 2181 Logan Ave. What can you do if you try this Open Monday-Friday 9-5:30 pm and it doesn’t work or if you susWO-032011004
If you are receiving Medicare beneﬁts, you or your spouse and your past employer paid for the promise of those beneﬁts being available when you retired or became disabled. Those Medicare tax contributions were made over the course of many years. In addition, you (or someone on your behalf) are now paying premiums for your Medicare coverage. Take this short quiz: 1. Are you interested in whether you have enough money on hand to support yourself during retirement or disability? 2. Do you typically look at your bank account and investment statements to check the balance and current value? 3. Are you interested in whether you have the most possible Medicare beneﬁts in order to reduce your out-of-pocket health care expenses? 4. Do you typically look at your Medicare Summary Notice and
explanation of beneﬁt statements from other health insurance coverage? We may be able to read your mind. You answered “yes” to numbers 1, 2 and 3. You answered “no” to number 4. The Office of Inspector General (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), which investigates Medicare and other federal health program fraud, posted their most-wanted list of 10 individuals who’ve allegedly defrauded taxpayers of more than $124 million. (This is available at www.oig.hhs.gov.) Each of these individuals was able to steal from Medicare or Medicaid, an average over $10 million. Annually, at least $60 billion is lost from Medicare and other federal health programs due to fraud and errors (a conservative estimate). And if you lose your Medicare card or unknowingly give your Medicare number to someone planning to commit fraud, criminals can claim your Medicare beneﬁts using your identiﬁcation
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THE COURIER A similar sentiment came from this person: “I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world. After being placed on disability for an on-the-job injury, Social Security helped me maintain a lifestyle adequate for my family. For years, I paid into the program and complained every time I looked at my paycheck. I now see the reason for the payments. Thank God for the USA and Social Security.”
Social Security does not endorse the advertisers within this supplement. These are just a few of the comments we received. Read more Social Security stories from Americans like you at www.socialsecurity.gov/ 75thanniversary/readstories/1. html.
CARING CLOSE TO HOME
Why Social Security is important to you As we progress through our 76th year as the nation’s most successful domestic program, we at Social Security would like to remind you that we have helped America by helping Americans. We are a lifelong agency: from receiving a Social Security number as a baby, through retirement beneﬁts as a senior. If you encounter hardships along that path, Social Security is there to help with disability programs to assist you. As you can imagine, with more than 75 years of history, we have quite a story to share. We could tell you about how we help keep older Americans out of poverty. We could mention our disability beneﬁts and work incentive programs that help people get back on their feet. We could spotlight the dependent families of those left
behind when a worker dies and how survivor beneﬁts help them survive. These are all stories worth telling. However, the best stories belong to you. We recently asked Americans to share their Social Security stories with us, and the response was overwhelming. “Social Security is my lifeline,” wrote one person. “It is difficult at best to live within the limit of my income, but it would be impossible without it.” “As a WWII combat veteran and a hard working man since the age of 10 being raised on a farm, without my Social Security retirement I would spend my senior years as a homeless derelict,” wrote another. “Thank God for Social Security.” Another man wrote, “When I began contributing to the Social Security fund, I was a young man and never thought that one day I
would look forward to receiving my monthly check. Now it is an important day in the lives of my wife and me when our checks arrive.” Not all comments were about retirement beneﬁts. Disability beneﬁts also make a big difference in the lives of Americans. “I am so grateful for Social Security Disability. I truly believe I would be dead by now if not for the help I have received,” wrote one recipient. “Disability beneﬁts saved my life,” said a veteran. “After combat service as a corpsman with the Marines in Desert Storm, I spent 16 years in emotional turmoil. Because Social Security provided a ﬁnancial safety net, I was able to obtain treatment for PTSD and will soon return to the world of the working (and the tax paying). God bless America and God bless the Social Security Administration.”
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Social Security FAQs
Disability Social Security’s biggest challenge
■ When ﬁling for Social Security beneﬁts, you should ﬁle online or contact the ofﬁce about three months prior to your 62nd birthday. If you receive your beneﬁts and continue to work, keep this in mind: ■ If you were born between Jan. 2, 1943, and Jan. 1, 1955, your full retirement age is 66 ■ You can earn up to $14,160 per year without it affecting your beneﬁts. After that, we will take $1 for every $2 over that limit. ■ In the year that you turn 66, your earnings limit increases to $37,680, and we only take $1 for every $3 over that. ■ Once you have reached the month of full retirement, there is no limit to your earnings.
Medicare If you choose to delay receiving beneﬁts and want to receive Medicare only, ﬁle online or contact your local Social Security ofﬁce within three months of your 65th birthday. There are three separate ﬁling windows for Medicare Part B: ■ Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) – This enrollment period runs from three months prior to your 65th birthday to three months after your 65th birthday. This enrollment period takes precedence over the other enrollment periods. ■ Special Enrollment Period (SEP) – In order to qualify for this enrollment period, you or your spouse must be covered under a group health plan AND employed. Medicare will not accept COBRA as a substitute. After you or your spouse retire or cancel your coverage, you have seven months to enroll in Medicare Part B. After that, you will have to enroll in the general enrollment period. As soon as you know when you or your spouse will retire, or cancel your coverage through your employer, contact your local Social Security ofﬁce. ■ General Enrollment Period (GEP) – This enrollment period runs from Jan. 1-March 31. Coverage will not start until July 1 of that year.
I know from personal experience how difficult Social Security’s disability process can be. When my father was 52, he suffered a severe cerebral hemorrhage caused by a rare form of brain cancer. As I took care of the appliMichael J. cation for him, it Astrue opened my eyes to is commissioner the complicated of the Social rules associated Security Administration. with our disability programs. Each year, approximately 2.5 million people apply for Social Security disability beneﬁts. On average, onethird of them are approved upon initial application, which takes an average of three months for a decision. But for those who are denied and appeal the decision to the hearing level, it can take a long time to receive a decision — much too long, in my opinion. Right now, there are more than 750,000 cases waiting for a hearing and the average time to get a hearing decision is about
es at www.socialsecurity. gov/compassionateallowances. In addition, Social Security has opened a National Hearing Center. The NHC allows the agency to capitalize on new technologies such as electronic disability folders and video teleconferencing and gives needed ﬂexibility to address the country’s worst backlogs. We also are hiring 175 new administrative law judges, the largest group of new ALJs ever hired by Social Security in a single year. We expect to start bringing these ALJs on board in the spring. These are but a few of the many initiatives the agency has under way. When it comes to eliminating disability backlogs, there is no single magic bullet. But with additional staff, enhanced business processes and improved ways of fast-tracking targeted cases, I believe we can improve the disability process and waiting times. To learn more about Social Security’s plan to reduce the hearings backlog and improve service, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/hearingsbacklog.pdf.
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hearings backlog and prevent it from recurring. Let me give you a few examples. The ﬁrst is the Quick Disability Determination, a process based on a computer model that allows us to screen cases with a high potential for approval. The QDD process has proved highly successful in the Boston region, and the average processing time now is just eight days. On Sept. 5, 2007, the agency issued a ﬁnal rule extending QDD nationwide. As of February 2008, every state is processing QDD cases and about 5 percent of all allowances will be handled through QDD. The second, compassionate allowances, is a way of quickly identifying medical conditions that invariably qualify under our listings. In these cases, which are often rare diseases unfamiliar to reviewers, allowances will be made as soon as the diagnosis is conﬁrmed. In December 2007, we held the ﬁrst public hearing on this initiative and will hold three more hearings this year. You can learn more about compassionate allowanc-
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■ If you have lost your Social Security card, we will need a valid form of identiﬁcation in order to obtain a duplicate. The same holds true if you need a replacement card for your child. A birth certiﬁcate is not a form of identiﬁcation. We can use the following as identiﬁcation: ■ Valid drivers license or state ID cards. ■ Passport ■ Medical or school record with your name and date of birth on the record. In addition, it must be signed and dated within the last six months. ■ If you are a lawful alien, you will need to provide your immigration documents. ■ If you are changing your name, we need to see the original or certiﬁed copy of the document that states your name is changing, i.e. marriage certiﬁcate, divorce decree.
500 days. Pending hearings have doubled since 2001. In addition, the number of applications for disability beneﬁts has been extraordinarily high throughout the last seven years, and we can expect it to be even higher in the coming years. Social Security’s disability programs have grown signiﬁcantly over the last seven years and will continue to do so at an increasing rate as aging baby boomers reach their most disability-prone years. At the same time, Congress has added new and nontraditional workloads to Social Security’s responsibilities. As a result, the agency is struggling to balance those new responsibilities with its core workloads under tight resource constraints. That’s why I’ve made improving the disability determination process my top priority. It is our most pressing challenge. Last year I appeared before the Senate Finance Committee to present an aggressive plan to reduce the backlog and improve the disability process. These new initiatives will eliminate the
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Apply online to avoid waiting tion and information you will be required to share on the application, and includes checklists and worksheets to help take the mystery out of applying. You can ﬁnd the Disability Starter Kit at www. socialsecurity.gov/disability on the left side of the page. If you need a Medicare replace-
ment card or an SSA-1099 for tax purposes, visit socialsecurity. gov to request those documents. They will be sent directly to your address within four weeks. If you are looking to ﬁle for retirement, Medicare or disability beneﬁts, look no further than www.socialsecurity.gov.
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If you are tired of waiting in line or waiting on hold, Social Security has the solution for you. Visit our online office and ﬁle for retirement beneﬁts, change your address or direct deposit information or ﬁnd a wealth of information in an instant. Waiting in line is frustrating and time-consuming. The past year has seen a recession-driven increase in applications for Social Security retirement and disability beneﬁt applications. These increases translate into busier offices and telephone lines. Rather than waiting to hear your number called, visit the fastest Social Security office in the nation at www.socialsecurity.gov. There, you can apply online for retirement, spouses’ and disability beneﬁts. There’s no need to ﬁght the traffic to visit an office or wait for an appointment. Our website makes it simple, allowing you to apply for retirement beneﬁts in as little as 15 minutes. Individuals who choose to delay receiving retirement beneﬁts, but have reached age 65, can ﬁle for their Medicare beneﬁts online. If you are nervous about ﬁling online or concerned that we will not receive your application, we’ve got you covered. After you click “submit,” your application comes to the Social Security office where we will review it and follow-up with a phone call to you. If you need to change something in your application, or just have questions our claims representatives will assist you. The website can also assist you if you are still in the planning stages. Our Retirement Estimator will allow you to enter different scenarios to come up with the retirement plan best for you. You can ﬁnd it at www.socialsecurity. gov/estimator. If you have a disabling condition that prevents you from working, our online services make it easy to ﬁle for disability beneﬁts. The Disability Starter Kit makes it easy to prepare for your disability application. The kit explains the documenta-
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For more information call the Aging & Disability Resource Center toll free at 1-877-538-0508 WO-032011006
www.wcfcourier.com Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003. Jan. 8, 2010 — Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, and Chubby Checker, Grammy Award winner and rock ‘n’ roll legend, launched a new campaign to inform millions of Americans about a new “twist” in the law that makes it easier to qualify for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs. The extra help program currently
Milestones in Social Security history June 2, 1936 — The Social Security account number, which contained no signiﬁcant facts about the employee other than the state of registry, was approved by the Social Security Board. Oct. 14, 1936 — The ﬁrst ﬁeld office was opened at Austin, Texas. Today there are more than 1,400 offices that include regional offices, ﬁeld offices, card centers, teleservice centers, processing centers, hearing offices, the Appeals Council and state and territorial partners, the Disability Determination Services. There also is a presence in U.S. embassies around the globe. Nov. 5, 1936 — The Department of the Treasury’s Decision 4704 was approved, providing the authority both for the assignment of Social Security identiﬁcation numbers to employers and account numbers to employees. Aug. 10, 1939 — President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Amendments of 1939. The program was broadened to include dependents and survivors’ beneﬁts. Jan. 31, 1940 — Ida M. Fuller became the ﬁrst person to receive an old-age monthly beneﬁt check
under the new Social Security law. She paid in $24.75 between 1937 and 1939 on an income of $2,484. Her ﬁrst check, dated January 31, was for $22.54. Aug. 1, 1956 — The Social Security Act was amended to provide monthly beneﬁts to permanently and totally disabled workers aged 50-64; to pay child’s beneﬁts to disabled children aged 18 or older of retired or deceased workers, if their disability began before age 18; it lowered to age 62 the retirement age for widows and female parents. The Servicemen’s and Veterans’ Survivor Beneﬁts Act amended the Social Security Act by extending regular contributory coverage under old-age and survivors insurance to members of the uniformed services on active duty after 1956. Military service wage credit provisions were extended to the end of 1956. July 30,1965 — President Lyndon Johnson signed H.R. 6675 to provide health insurance for the elderly, Medicare. It was signed in Independence, Mo., in the presence of Harry S. Truman who opened the ﬁght for such legislation in a message to Con-
gress in 1945. Oct. 30, 1972 — President Richard Nixon signed the Social Security Amendments of 1972 (Public Law 92-603). The law liberalized several of the cash beneﬁt provisions, made substantial changes in Medicare, revised the contribution schedule, amended some coverage provisions, and established a new Federal security income program for the needy aged, blind and disabled (the SSI program). Although administered by Social Security, SSI payment are funded by general tax revenues, not Social Security taxes. Oct. 1, 1988 — Nationwide 800 number service implemented. Oct. 1, 1999 — SSA began mailing 125 million Social Security statements to all workers 25 years of age or older. Statements are sent on an annual basis. April 7, 2000 — The Senior Citizens’ Freedom to Work Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-182) was signed into law, eliminating the Retirement Earnings Test for beneﬁciaries at or above normal retirement age. Dec. 8, 2003 — President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Prescription Drug,
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Social Security does not endorse the advertisers within this supplement. provides assistance to more than 9 million senior and disabled Americans. Aug. 14 , 2011 — Social Security will mark its 75th anniversary. Source: Social Security Administration historical chronology.
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Survivors’ beneﬁts can provide assistance Important March deadlines to family members in case of early death By SERGIO VILLARREAL Claims Representative
By CHRIS LEACH Claims Representative
The loss of a loved one can be painful. The death of a wage earner upon whom a family depends also can be ﬁnancially devastating. Some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward providing survivors insurance for workers and their families. Think of it as a life Chris Leach insurance policy you never knew you had — paid for by the same taxes that cover you for retirement or disability. When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivors beneﬁts. These include
widows, widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children and even dependent parents. In many cases, there also is a onetime lump-sum payment of $255 paid to a surviving spouse or minor children. One in eight of today’s 20-yearolds will die before reaching their full retirement age of 67. In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get beneﬁts if a working parent dies. More than 6.4 million survivors receive beneﬁts. The average survivors beneﬁt is $1,129 a month. If you are a surviving spouse, inquire about survivors beneﬁts, especially if you have minor children. Apply by phone or at any Social Security office or call toll-free at (800) 772-1213 (TTY: 1-(800)-325-0778). You’ll need:
■ Proof of death — either from a funeral home or a death certiﬁcate. ■ Your Social Security number, as well as the deceased worker’s. ■ Your birth certiﬁcate. ■ Your marriage certiﬁcate, if you are a widow or widower. ■ Your divorce papers, if you are applying as a divorced widow or widower. ■ Dependent children’s Social Security numbers, if available, and birth certiﬁcates. ■ Deceased worker’s W-2 forms or Federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year. ■ Bank name and account number for direct deposit. Read the online publication at www.socialsecurity.gov/ pubs/10084.html or visit www. socialsecurity.gov/pgm/survivors.htm.
Here are a few important March reminders: ■ If you plan to claim your children or other dependents on your tax return, you’ll need to have a Social Security number for each. If you don’t have a Social Security number for a dependent,apply online at www. socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber. ■ If you receive Social Security beneﬁts and your total annual income is $25,000 or more for an individual or $32,000 or more for a couple, you may need to pay taxes on a portion of your beneﬁts. If so, you’ll need your SSA-1099, which shows the total amount of beneﬁts received in the previous year. All 1099s were mailed by Jan. 31. If you have not yet received the 1099 for 2010, request a replacement at www.socialse-
curity.gov/onlineservices. ■ If you’re covered under Medicare Part A but originally opted not to apply for Medicare Part B, now’s the time to enroll. General enrollment ends on March 31. Medicare Part A helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or in a skilled nursing facility following a hospital stay, some home health care and hospice care. Part B helps pay for doctors’ services and many other medical services and supplies not covered by hospital insurance. Learn more about Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html. ■ If you’re not already retired and receiving beneﬁts, there’s no better time than the present to visit Social Security’s Retirement Estimator at www. socialsecurity.gov/estimator for an instant, personalized estimate of your future retirement beneﬁts.
Farmers, growers need to think about protecting workers By MATT SULENTIC Service Representative
As American farmers and growers prepare for the next planting season, they should also make sure they know how Social Security can help protect their workers. If you are a farmer or grower, the workers you hire become part Matt Sulentic of a system of income protection that pays monthly Social Security beneďŹ ts to a worker and his or her family when the worker retires, becomes disabled or dies. Farm owners need to report wages and pay the taxes due, as most of their workers are â€œcoveredâ€? by Social Security. Farm owners may face an IRS penalty if these taxes are not paid or the wages go unreported. Farm workers cannot be considered independent contractors if they are working under a farm ownerâ€™s direction and control. They are employees, and their wages must be reported to Social Security. Some farmers hire â€œcrew leadersâ€? to manage their farm workers and to handle their wage-reporting responsibilities. In these cases, the crew leader is often considered the â€œemployerâ€? of the farm worker and has the responsibility for submitting wage reports. Whether a farmer or crew leader submits wage reports, employers should make sure that they use the name and number exactly as it is shown on the workerâ€™s Social Security card and record earnings for each employee. If you employ farm workers
you must keep a record for each worker, collect and pay Social Security taxes, prepare Form 943 (Employerâ€™s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees) and provide a pay statement and prepare a W-2 form. For more information about tax responsibilities, read IRS Publication 51, Circular A (Agricultural Employerâ€™s Tax Guide). You can order IRS forms and publications by calling 1 (800) Tax-Form (1-800-829-3676). For more information about agricultural work and Social Security, visit www.socialsecurity.gov and read the electronic pamphlet, â€œA Guide for Farmers, Growers, and Crew Leaders.â€? Or you can call Social Securityâ€™s toll-free number at (800) 772-1213 (TTY 1-(800)-3250778) and ask for the bilingual pamphlet.
What service members should know about disability beneďŹ ts By KRISTA KOPRIVA Social Security Service Representative
It is important that members of the military service and their families understand how Social Security disability beneďŹ ts can help wounded service personnel. Disability beneďŹ ts are expedited for injured military service personnel, regardless of where or how the injury occurred. President George W. Bush created the Commission on Care for Americaâ€™s Returning Wounded Warriors to increase access to beneďŹ ts for returning service members who have been wounded. Military personnel pay Social Security taxes and earn Social Security coverage. Earnings for active duty military service or active duty training have been covered under Social Security since 1957. Service personnel who had inactive duty service in the reserves have had Social Security coverage since 1988. The number of credits needed to qualify for Social Security depends on age. For example, if a person becomes disabled before age 24, then he or she would generally need only about 1 1/2 years of recent work.
If the wounded service member has sufficient work, Social Security must decide whether he or she meets the deďŹ nition of disability. Basically, if the person cannot work because of a physical or mental condition that is expected to last at least one year, he or she may be eligible for Social Security disability beneďŹ ts. Even if the wounded service member is
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receiving pay while disabled, he or she may be eligible. Social Security provides beneďŹ ts for total disability, not partial disability. If someone qualiďŹ es for disability from another agency, that doesnâ€™t make them eligible for SS disability beneďŹ ts. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ woundedwarriors or call (800) 772-1213.
SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2011
Marriage, divorce, name changes can affect your beneﬁts Name change If you change your name, be sure to tell both Social Security and your employer. This will ensure that your earnings will be properly reported by your employer and recorded in our records. You can get a new card from Social Security with your new name.
How divorce affects your future retirement beneﬁts If you are divorced after at least 10 years of marriage, you can collect retirement beneﬁts on your former spouse’s Social Security record if you are at least age 62 and if your former spouse is entitled to or receiving beneﬁts. If you remarry, you generally cannot collect beneﬁts on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or
annulment). For more informa- remarry before the age of 60 tion, see “If You Are Divorced” unless the latter marriage ends, at www.ssa.gov. whether by death, divorce or annulment. How divorce affects If you remarry after age 60 (50 if disabled), you can still survivors beneﬁts collect beneﬁts on your forIf your divorced spouse dies, mer spouse’s record. When you you can receive beneﬁts as a reach age 62 or older, you may surviving divorced spouse if get retirement beneﬁt on the the marriage lasted 10 years or record of your new spouse if more. Beneﬁts paid to a sur- they are higher. Your remarviving divorced spouse who is riage would have no effect on 60 or older will not affect the the beneﬁts being paid to your beneﬁt rates for other survi- children. vors receiving beneﬁts. For more information, see “If You How marriage Are The Worker’s Surviving may affect your adult Divorced Spouse” at www.ssa. disabled child beneﬁts gov. If you receive beneﬁts as an How remarriage affects adult disabled since childhood, these beneﬁts generally end if disabled child) are considered survivors beneﬁts you get married. Depending on protected. The rules vary depending on In general, you cannot receive your situation, some marriages survivors benefits if you (for example, to another adult your situation, so you should talk
to a Social Security representative at (800) 772-1213 or TTY (800) 325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
SOCIAL SECURITY Q&A Q. What are the four parts of Medicare?
miums required for some plans; and ■ Prescription drug coverage (Part D), which helps pay for A. The four parts are: medications doctors prescribe ■ Hospital insurance (Part A), which helps pay hospital bills and for treatment. Anyone who has Medicare hossome follow-up care. The taxes you (or your spouse in some cases) pital insurance (Part A), medical insurance (Part B) or a Medicare paid while working ﬁnanced this coverage, so it’s premium free. For Advantage plan (Part C) is eligible those who are not “insured,” cov- for prescription drug coverage (Part D). Joining a Medicare preerage may be purchased. scription drug plan is voluntary ■ Medical insurance (Part B), and you pay an additional monthwhich helps pay doctors’ bills ly premium for the coverage. and other services. There is a monthly premium you must pay for Medicare Part B and you may Q. I can’t get health insurance refuse this coverage. because of my pre-existing con■ Medicare Advantage (Part dition. Is there anything I can do? C) plans, which generally cover many of the same beneﬁts a A. You may be eligible for the Medigap policy would cover, new Pre-Existing Condition such as extra days in the hospital Insurance Plan . For more inforafter you have used the number mation, call (866) 717-5826 or of days Medicare covers. TTY (866) 561-1604) between People with Medicare Parts the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. A and B can choose to receive Or visit www.pcip.gov and select all of their health care services “Find Your State” to learn about through one of these provider eligibility and how to apply. organizations under Part C. — McClatchy-Tribune There might be additional preNews Service
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A service of Hawkeye Valley Area Agency on Aging, Waterloo, Iowa Consumer Protection Division Funded in part by Grant #90MP0070/01 from the U.S. Administration on Aging O-032011005 032011005 WO-032011005