Social Security Information
Social Security is a package of protection - retirement, survivors and disability insurance. It protects you and your family while you work and after you retire. Social Security is a base you can build on now and for the future, with other insurance and investments.
Social Security... it never stops working.
- Social Security disability insurance can provide monthly benefits for workers and eligible members of their family if an illness or injury is expected to keep the worker from working a year or longer.
- Social Security survivors insurance provides monthly benefits for the widow or widower and young children if the worker should die.
- Retirement insurance provides monthly benefits to retired workers and certain members of their families.
- Table of Contents -
How It Works
The first time you came into contact with Social Security was probably when you applied for your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is the key to protection you earn during your working lifetime. Its proper use assures that your earnings are accurately recorded.
Take your card with you when you get a new job and make sure your employer copies your name and number correctly. You should not rely on your memory when you give your Social Security number.
If you are an employee, your employer adds a matching amount and sends a report of your wages to the Social Security Administration. The report shows your name, and Social Security number and how much you have earned.
If you are self-employed, you pay your own social security tax and make your own report. You do this when you file your federal income tax return.
Your reported wages or self employment income are entered on your Social Security record. This record will someday be used to figure the amount of benefits payable to you and your family when you retire or if you become disabled or to your family if you die.
You must have credit for a minimum amount of work covered by Social Security before any benefits can be paid on your record. Social Security credit is measured in units called "quarters of coverage." You can earn up to four quarters of coverage each year based on your annual earnings.
The number of quarters of coverage you need to be eligible for benefits depends on your date of birth or your age when you become disabled or, for survivors benefits, your age at death. No one ever needs more than 40 quarters of coverage equal to ten years of work under Social Security to be eligible for benefits. A disabled worker must have credit for recent work to be eligible for benefits.
Important Points To Remember
Treat your Social Security card as an important document and protect it against theft or loss.
Record you number elsewhere for safekeeping. If you lose your card or change your name - through marriage, for example - you should apply for a replacement card.
If you apply for a replacement card, you must provide documentary evidence of your identity. if you are a foreign-born U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted alien, you must also provide evidence of your current U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status. This applies even if you were once a U.S. citizen but no longer are.
It is a good idea to check your Social Security record every three years or so to make sure your earnings have been reported correctly. This is especially important if you change jobs often. You can get a free form from any Social Security office to help you do this. Always remember to give your Social Security number whenever you write about your Social Security record.
It is also a good idea to keep evidence of your earnings sucj as Forms W-3 until you know your earnings are credited to your record.
And remember, Social Security does not charge a fee to provide a Social Security number card or to check your record. Unless you are already getting Social Security checks, there is no need to tell Social Security when your change your address.
For More Information
For more detailed information about Social Security programs, ask for one of the booklets on retirement benefits, survivor benefits, disability benefits or suplemental security income. We also have information about Medicare.
You can find the address and phone number of the nearest Social Security office in the elephone directory under "Social Security Administration" or "U.S. Government." Remember, most of your Social Security business can be handled by telephone.
How To Contact Social Security
The Social Security Administration has over 1,300 offices conveniently located throughout the country to serve you. You can find the address and phone number of the nearest Social Security office in the telephone directory under "Social Security Administration" or "U.S. Government."
How To Contact Social Security
Before any Social Security benefits can be paid to you or your family, you must apply for them.
Get in touch with Social Security if:
- You are unable to work because of an illness or injury that is expected to last a year or longer.
- You are 62 or older and plan to retire.
- Someone in your family dies.
- You, your wife or husband, or young children suffer permanent kidney failure.
- You are 65 or older, blind, or disabled with limited income and resources, to apply for supplemental security income (SSI).
It is important for you to call, visit or write any Social Security office before you reach 65, not only about retirement checks, but also about Medicare, which is available whether or not you retire.
You should also contact Social Security if you:
- Lose your Social Security card, to apply for a replacement
- Change your name, to apply for a new card in your new name.
- Have a question about Social Security.
How to Contact Social Security - Use Teleservice
Teleservice simply means telephone service. Instead of visiting a Social Security office, you can pick up your phone and call when you have questions or problems concerning Social Security. You can also use teleservice to make an appointment.
Almost all Social Security business - from applying for benefits to reporting lost or stolen checks can be handled by phone. And by using the phone, you can save time and travel expenses.
Teleservice operates Monday through Friday during regular business hours. But, like most businesses, Social Security offices have certain periods when they are particularly busy.
The first week of each month is an especially busy period, because that's when Social Security and SSI checks are delivered.
Unless your business is urgent or you want to apply for benefits, Social Security suggests that you wait until the middle of the month to call, and then after midweek in the afternoon.
When To Apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits
If you plan to retire before you reach 65, it is important to apply for monthly benefits no later than the last day of the the month you want benefits to begin.
You can apply, however, up to three months before the month you want benefits to begin. This will help you ensure that you get your first check on time.
Your Social Security Checks
Social Security benefits are paid on the third day of the month. If the third falls on a weekend or on a Monday holiday, benefits will be paid on the previous Friday.
The post office makes a considerable effort to deliver Social Security checks on time, but sometimes mail is delayed. If your check is not delivered on its due date, allow three more workdays before reporting the missing check to Social Security.
The most common reason checks are late is because a change of address was not reported.
You shouldn't sign a check until you are at the place where you will cash it. if you sign it ahead of time and lose it, the person who finds it could cash it.
If your check is lost or stolen, contact Social Security immediately. Your check can be replaced, but it takes time. To be safe, you should cash or deposit your check as soon as possible after you receive it.
A government check must be cashed within 12 months after the date of the check or it will be void.
If you receive a check you know is not due you, take it to any Social Security office. Or, return it to the U.S. Treasury Department, Division of of Disbursement, at the address on the check envelope. Enclose a note telling why you are sending the check back.
Many people want their Social Security Benefit sent directly to their savings or checking account. They find that direct deposit of their benefits is safer and more convenient than getting their checks by mail.
If you would like to start direct deposit, contact Social Security so they can make the change for you.
If you decide to change financial institutions, don't close your old account until direct deposit to your new account has started. You can call your financial institution to make sure it has received your check.
Pay Taxes On Your Benefits
A relatively small number of people who get Social Security have to pay taxes on their benefits. You will be affected only if you have substantial income in addition to your Social Security benefits.
- If you file a federal tax return as an "individual", you might have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefits if your combined income exceeds $25,000.00
- If you file a joint return, you might have to pay taxes on your benefits if your combined income* exceeds $32,000.00.
- If you are a member of a couple but file a separate return, you probably will pay taxes on your benefits.
* Usually, on the 1040 tax return, your "combined income" is the sum of your adjusted gross income plus non-taxable interest plus one-half of your Social Security benefits.
However, your circumstances may cause you to consider the Maximum taxable part. The taxable part of your benefits cannot usually be more than 50%. However, up to 85% of your benefits can be taxable if either of the following situations applies to you.
- The total of one-half of your benefits and all of your other income is more than $34,000 ($44,000 if you are married filing jointly).
- You are married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the taxable year.
Some pay taxes on a smaller amount of their benefits according to a formula developed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
After the end of each year, you will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA1099) in the mail showing the amount of benefits you received. You can use this statement when you are completing your federal income tax return to find out if any of yur benefits are subject to tax.
Most people who are neither resident nor citizens of teh U.S. will have up to 15 percent of their benefits withheld. If you are subject to this tax and you became a U.S. resident or citizen, you should notify Social Security.
For more information, call the IRS's toll-free telephone number, 1-800-829-3676, to ask for Publication 554, Tax Information for Older Americans, and Publication 915, Social Security Benefits and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.
Their Toll-Free Telephone Number
For your convenience, Social Security provides toll-free telephone service. Most inquiries and reports can be handled by phone, saving you time and expense of a trip to a Social Security office. Just call 1-800-772-1213, any business day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Early in the morning and late in the afternoon are the best times to call. If your business is urgent, however, call right away. If you prefer to visit a Social Security office, you can phone ahead for an appointment. When you call, have your Social Security number handy. If you're receiving however, on another person's record, have his or her Social Security number available too.
The Social Security Administration treats all calls confidentially - whether they're made to our toll-free number or to one of our local offices. We also want to ensure that you receive accurate and courteous service. That is why we have a second Social Security representative listen to some incoming and outgoing telephone calls.
You never have to pay for information or service at Social Security. Some businesses advertise that they can provide name changes, Social Security cards, or earnings statements for a fee. All of tehse services are provided free by Social Security.
The Social Security Administration itself is the best source of information about Social Security.
What Social Security Will Report To You
From time to time, Social Security will send you important information about your benefits. Here is a list of some of the things they will report to you:
Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA).
Each January, your benefits will increase automatically if the cost of living has increased. Sometimes this is called the "COLA." Social Security will notify you of your new benefit amount in January.
Annual Earnings Limit
The earnings limit is the amount you can earn and still receive your Social Security checks. This amount increases each year also. Social Security will notify you of the new amount each January.
Your Earnings Report Forms
If Social Security knows you are still working, they will send you a form in January to report your earnings and another form in September to revise your earnings estimate. It's your responsibility, though, to inform Social Security of your earnings, even if you don't receive the report forms in the mail.
A Benefit Statement For Your Tax Return
Also in January, Social Security will send you a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form SSA-1099) that shows the total amount of benefits you received in the previous year. You may need this when you file your tax return. You also can use the SSA-1099 when you need proof of your benefit amount.
Any Other Changes In Your Benefit
If any other change occurs that affects the amount of your benefit, Social Security will let you know promptly.
How Social Security Will Report To You
Social Security usually uses the mail when they want to contact you, but sometimes a Social Security representative may come to your home. A Social Security representative will show you identification before talking about your benefits. If you ever doubt someone who says he or she is from Social Security, call the Social Security office to ask if someone was sent to see you.
It is important to notify Social Security promptly whenever one of the following changes occurs. Information you give to another government agency may be provided to Social Security by the other agency, but you also must report the change to them.
Failure to report can result in an overpayment. If you are overpaid, Social Security will take action to recover any payments not due you. Also, if you fail to report changes timely or you make a false statement, you can be penalized by deduction from payments or a fine or imprisonment.
You can call, write, or visit a Social Security off to make a report. Have your claim number handy. If you receive benefits because of your own work, your claim number is the same as your Social Security number followed by a letter. If you receive benefits on someone else's work record, your claim number will be shown on your check or on any letter about your benefit that you get from Social Security.
Any Change In Your Estimated Earnings
If you're working, Social Security usually asks you to estimate your earnings for the year. If your earnings will be higher or lower than you estimated,let them know as early in the years as possible so that we can adjust your benefits. See "Working And Getting Social Security At The Same Time" for help in making estimates.
If You Move
Let Social Security know your new address and phone number as soon as you know them. Tell them when you plan to move.
Even if you receive your monthly benefits by direct deposit rather than by mail, Social Security must have your correct address. Your benefits will be stopped if Social Security is unable to contact you.
When you report your new address, let Social Security know the names of any family members who should receive their Social Security checks there. Be sure to file a change of address with the post office, too.
Changing Direct Deposit Accounts
If you change financial institutions or open a new account, Social Security can change your direct deposit information over the telephone. Have your "new" and "old" account numbers handy when you call them. They will be written on your checks or account statements.
A Person Who Is Unable To Manage Funds
If you start receiving a pension from work not covered by Social Security - for example, from the Federal Civil Service system or some state or local pension systems - your Social Security benefit may need to be re-figured or offset. Also, tell them if the amount of your pension changes.
For more information, call Social Security to ask for a copy of the fact sheets, Government Pension Offset (Publication No. 05-10007) - for government workers who may be eligible for Social Security benefits on the record of a husband or wife and A Pension From Work Not Covered By Social Security (Publication No. 05-10045) - for goverment workers who are also eligible for their own Social Security benefits.
Marriage Or Divorce
If you get married or divorced, it may affect your Social Security benefits, depending on the kind of benefits you receive. If you get:
- Your own retirement benefits - your benefits will continue.
- Wife's or husband's benefits - your benefits will stop if you get divorced unless you are 62 or older and you were married at least 10 years.
- Widow's or widower's (including divorced widow's or widower's) benefits - your benefits will continue if you remarry when you are 60 or older.
- Disabled widow's or widower's (including divorced widow's or widower's) benefits - your benefits however will continue if you remarry when you are 50 or older.
- Any other kind of benefits - your benefits will stop if you married, except in special circumstances. Your benefits may be started again if the marriage ends.
If Your Name Is Changed
If you change your name - because of marriage, divorce or court order - notify Social Security of the change so they can show the new name on theirs records.
Caring For A Child Who Receives Benefits
If you are receiving benefits because you are caring for a child who is under 16 or disabled, you should notify Social Security right away if the child leaves your care. Give them the name and address of the person with whom your child is living.
A temporary seperation may not affect your benefits if you continue to exercise parental control over the child, but your benefits will stop if you no longer have responsibility for the child. When the child returns to your care, they can start sending benefits to you again.
Your benefits will end when the youngest unmarried child in your care reaches 16. Your child's benefits can continue as explained in the "Benefits For Children" section.
When a child who is receiving benefits is adopted, let Social Security know his or her new name, the date of the adoption decree and the adopting parent's name and address. The adoption will not cause benefits to end.
Social Security must be notified immediately if a beneficiary is imprisoned for committing a felony. Benefits will not be paid during the months of imprisonment, but family members eligible for benefits can continue to receive them.
Leaving The United States
If you are a United States citizen, you can travel or live in most foreign countries without affecting your eligibility for Social Security benefits. However, there are a few countries - Albania, Cuba, Democratic Kampuchea, North Korea, Vietnam and the Republics that were formerly in the U.S.S.R. - where we cannot send Social Security checks.
Let them know if you plan to go outside the U.S. for a trip that lasts 30 days or more. In notifying Social Security, tell them the name of teh country or countries you plan to visit and the date you expect to leave the U.S.. They will send you special reporting instructions and tell you how to arrange for your checks while you are abroad. Be sure to notify them when you return to the U.S.
If you work outside the U.S., different rules apply in determining if you can get your benefit check.
For more information about working or staying outside the U.S., call Social Security to ask for a copy of the booklet, Your Social Security Checks While You Are Outside The United States (Publication No. 05-10137).
The Death Of A Beneficiary
When a person who receives Social Security benefits dies, no benefit is payable for the month of death. That means if the person died any time in July, for example, the check dated August 3 (which is the payment for July) should be returned, unless the check is made out jointly to a husband and wife. In that case, the survivor can bring the check to the Social Security office to have the payee information changed.
If the person's benefits were being deposited directly into a financial institution, the financial institution should also be notified of the death as soon as possible. It will return any payments received after death.
Family members may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits when a retired worker dies.
How Earnings Affect Your Check
You can continue to work and still get all of your Social Security benefits as long as your earnings are under certain limits.
These limits increase each year as average wages increase. Earnings in or after the month you reach 70 won't affect your Social Security benefits.
If your earnings go over the limit, some or all of your benefits will be withheld. Here's how it works:
- If you are under 65, we will deduct $1.00 in benefit for each $2.00 you earn above the limit.
- If you are 65 through 69, we will deduct $1.00 in benefits for each $3.00 you earn above the limit.
For more information, call Social Security to ask for the fact sheet, How It Affects Your Social Security Benefits (Publication No. 05-10069).
A Special Monthly Rule
Sometimes, people who retire in mid-year have already earned more than the yearly earnings limit before they retire. That's why there is a special rule that applies to earnings for one year, usually the first year of retirement. Under this rule, you can receive a full Social Security check for any whole month you are "retired", regardless of your yearly earnings.
If you're self employed, Social Security also considers whether you perform substantial services in your business to help them decide if you are retired. one measure of your service is the amount of time you spend working. In general, if you work more than 45 hours a month in self-employment, you are not retired; if you work less than 15 hours a month, you are retired. Work between 15 and 45 hours a month may be considered substantial if you work in an occupation that requires a lot of skill or you are managing a sizable business.
For detailed information about how Social Security figures the amount of time you spend in your business and whether your work is substantial call or visit them.
What Income Counts And When Does Social Security Count It
Only wages and net self-employment income count toward the Social Security earnings limit. Income you have from savings, investments or insurance will not affect your benefits.
For the earnings limit, income counts when it is earned, not when it is paid. If you have income that you earned in one year, but the payment was deferred to a following year, it should be counted as earnings for the year you receive it. Some examples of deferred income include accumulated sick or vacation pay, bonuses, stock options and other deferred compensation.
The Social Security Administration has made arrangements with the Internal revenue Service to have employers report some types of deferred compensation directly on the W-2 form. These amounts are shown in box 14, "Non-Qualified Plan." Social Security will subtract the amount shown in box 14 from your total earnings counted for the earnings limit.
If your W-2 form includes deferred income, you should contact Social Security before you file your annual report to tell them about these earnings.
Reporting Your Earnings
If you earn more than the earnings limit and you receive some benefits from Social Security, you must complete an annual report of these earnings. In this report, you provide your exact earnings for the previous year and an estimate for the current year.
In the year you turn 70, we only count your earnings for the months before the month you reach 70. You do not have to fill out a report if you are 70 or older all year.
You can report your earnings by phone or by completing an Annual report of Earnings Form. This form is available by calling or visiting your Social Security office. If they know you're working and you receive some benefits during the year, they will send the form to you automatically.
You must submit an annual report of earnings by April 15 of the following year. If you do not receive a report form in the mail by the end of February, you should call their toll-free number to have one sent to you.
Penalty For Late Filing
There is a substantial penalty for not filing an annual report of earnings on time. You can be penalized up to one full month's benefits for a first time violation in addition to being required to repay any over payments.
Filing a federal income tax return does not take the place of filing an annual report with Social Security.
Your Earnings Estimate And Your Benefits
Social Security calculated how much of your benefit payments you will receive this year based on the earnings estimates you gave us when you applied for Social Security or on the estimate in your most recent annual report.
If other family members get benefits on your Social Security record, the total family benefits may be affecting your earnings. This means they may withhold not only your benefits, but those payable to your family as well. But, if you get benefits as a family member, your earnings affect only your own benefits.
Revising Your Estimate
When you work, you should save records of your earnings, such as pay stubs. At any time during the year, if you see that your earnings will be different from what you had estimated, you should call Social Security to revise your estimate. This will help them keep the amount of their Social Security benefits correct.
If you need help in figuring your earnings or you have questions about your Annual Report of Earnings form, you should contact them.
If You Become Disabled
If you become disabled before reaching 65, contact Social Security to find out if you are eligible for disability benefits.
A Word About Medicare
Medicare is a health insurance plan for people who are 65 or older. People who are disabled or have permanent kidney failure also get Medicare.
Medicare has two parts - hospital insurance and medical insurance. Most people have both parts.
Hospital insurance, sometimes called Part A, covers inpatient hospital care and certain follow-up care. You have already paid for it through part of your Social Security taxes while you were working.
Medical insurance, sometimes called Part B, pays for physicians' services and some other services not covered by hospital insurance. Medical insurance is optional, and a premium is charged. unless you decline medical insurance protection, the premium will be automatically deducted from your benefit.
If you applied for retirement or survivors benefits before your 65th birthday, you do not need to file a separate application for Medicare. Your coverage starts automatically at age 65, even if you have not yet received your medicare card in the mail. You will receive information in the mail before you turn 65 that will explain what you need to do.
Help For Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries
If you get Medicare and have low income and few resources, your State may pay your Medicare premiums and, in some cases, other "out-of-pocket" Medicare expenses such as deductibles and coinsurance. Only your state can decide if you qualify. To find out if you do, contact your State or local welfare office or Medicaid agency. For more general information about the program, contact Social Security and ask for a copy of the fact sheet, Help For Low Income Beneficiaries.
Can You Get SSI
If you have limited income and resources, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) may be able to help. SSI s a federal program administered by the Social Security Administration, but financed from general revenues, not from Social Security taxes.
It pays monthly checks to people who are 65 or older, or blind or disabled. If you get SSI, you may get other benefits too, such as Medicaid, food stamps and other social services.
Some income and some resources are not counted in determining eligibility for SSI. Your house and your car, for example, are usually not counted in the resource limit.
Benefits For Children
If a child is getting checks on your account, there are important things you should know about his or her benefits.
When A Child Reaches 18
A child's benefits stop with the month before the child reaches 18, unless the child is unmarried and is either disabled or is a full-time elementary or secondary school student.
About five months before the child's 18th birthday, the person receiving the child's benefits will get a form explaining how benefits can continue.
A child whose benefits stopped at 18 can have them started agian if he or she becomes disabled before reaching 22 or becomes a full-time elementary or secondary school student before reaching 19.
If A Child Is Disabled
A child can continue to receive benefits after age 18 if he or she has a disability. The child may also qualify for SSI disability benefits. Call them for more information.
If A Child At 18 Is A Student
A child can receive benefits until age 19 if he or she continues to be a full-time elementary or secondary school student. When a student's 19th birthday occurs during a school term, benefits can be continued up to two months to allow completion of the term.
Social Security should be notified immediately if the student drops out of school, changes from full-time to part-time attendance, is expelled or suspended, or changes schools. They should also be told if the student is paid by his or her employer for attending school.
They send each student a form at the start and end of the school year. It is important that the form be filled out and returned to them. Benefits could be stopped if the form is not sent back.
A student can keep receiving benefits during a vacation period of four months or less if he or she plans to go back to school full-time at the end of the vacation.
A student who stops attending school generally can receive benefits again if he or she returns to school full-time before age 19. The student needs to contact Social Security to reapply for benefits.
If You Disagree With A Decision Social Security Makes
If you have any questions about your payment amount or about a letter Social Security sent you, contact them.
If you disagree with a decision they have made, you have the right to ask that your claim be reconsidered. Your request must be in writing and filed with any Social Security office within 60 days of the date you receive the letter you are questioning.
There are further steps you can take after reconsideration if you are still not satisfied. They are explained in the fact sheet, The Appeals Process (Publication No. 05-10041), available from Social Security.
You have the right to be represented by an attorney or other qualified person of your choice in any business with them. This does not mean that you have to have an attorney or other representative, but they will be glad to work with one if you wish. For your protection, there are special rules about who can represent you and what he or she can do. This is explained in the fact sheet, Social Security And Your Right To Representation (Publication No. 05-10075), available from Social Security.
It is advisable to consult a lawyer before setting up power of attorney, durable power of attorney, joint accounts, trusts or guardianship. Be sure to ask for the cost of a legal consultation before you visit a lawyer. Most libraries have legal directories or you can contact the American Bar Assoc., Lawyer Referral and Information Service, 7500 North lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60611 (312- 988-5000) and ask for help in locating a lawyer.
Free legal and financial services are often available to help older people and their families. For assistance, you can call or write the following organizations to be referred to your local, area, or state Agency on Aging.
Nat'l. Assoc. of Area Agencies on Aging
600 Maryland Ave SW.,
Suite # 208
Washington, D.C. 20024
Nat'l. Assoc. of State Units on Aging
2033 K Street NW., Suite # 304
Washington, D.C. 20006
Maple Hill Funeral Home believes the above information to be true and correct but accepts no responsibility for incorrect information. You should check with your nearest Social Security office to verify any information contained above.