News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 14, 2013

SOCIAL SECURITY: Answers to some frequently asked questions

Brian Hewitt
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Q: I need to get a benefit verification letter. Do I need to come into the office?

A: No, you can get it online. There’s no need to fight traffic and visit a busy government office to obtain proof of your benefits. To get your benefit verification letter, simply visit us online at www.socialsecurity.gov/ myaccount and set up a my Social Security account. After you’ve spent a few minutes to establish your account, it will be simple to get your benefit verification letter immediately and much more, at any time.

Q: How do I get a replacement Social Security card?

A: In the event that you really do want or need to get a replacement card, either for yourself or for a child, you can find all the details at www.social

security.gov/ssnumber. The “Get Or Replace a Social Security Card” page provides information on how to obtain a replacement card and what specific documents you need to provide. Each situation is unique, but in most cases you simply need to print, complete, and either mail or bring the application to Social Security with the appropriate documentation (originals or certified copies only).

Q: Can I apply online for retirement benefits?

A: Yes. In fact, almost half of all individuals apply for retirement benefits online. Join the millions of Americans who have saved a trip to a Social Security office and applied the quickest and easiest way — online. In as little as 15 minutes you can submit your application electronically. In most cases, once you’ve submitted your application, you’re done and there are no forms to sign or documents to send in. If we do need more information to process your application, a representative will contact you.

Q: If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits based on our own work records, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?

A: No. We independently calculate each person’s Social Security benefit amount. Each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. Couples are not penalized simply because they are married.

Q: I know I am eligible to apply for disability benefits based on my earnings record. But how does Social Security decide whether I am disabled?

A: Overall, we use a five-step evaluation process to decide whether you are disabled. The process considers any current work activity you are doing. It also considers the severity of your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. To be found disabled:

n You must be unable to do work you did before you became disabled and we must decide you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition; and

n Your disability must last, or be expected to last, for at least one year or to result in death.

Social Security pays only for total disability. We do not pay benefits for partial or short-term disability.

Q: Is it true that if you have low income you can get help paying your Medicare premiums?

A: Yes. If your income and resources are limited, your state may be able to help with your Medicare Part B premium, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts. State rules vary on the income and resources that apply. Contact your State or local medical assistance, social services, or welfare office, or call the Medicare hotline, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), and ask about the Medicare Savings Programs. If you have limited income and resources, you also may be able to get Extra Help paying for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/pre scriptionhelp. Also, see our publication, Medicare, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Brian L. Hewitt is district manager at the Social Security Administration office at 222 Cherry St.