Don’t be skeptical: Social Security is here to stay
It’s healthy to be skeptical in a world of uncertainties.
Major news networks sometimes broadcast conflicting facts that require a bit of research to verify. There’s even a day in October dedicated to skeptics. So, this is the perfect time to tell all the skeptics that there’s no reason to think Social Security won’t be here for you well into the future.
Recently, the Social Security Board of Trustees released its 76th annual report to Congress presenting the financial status of the Social Security trust funds for the short term and over the next 75 years. We’re pleased that legislation signed into law by President Obama last November averted a near-term shortfall in the Disability Insurance trust fund that was detailed in a previous report.
With that small, temporary reallocation of the Social Security contribution rate, the DI fund will now be able to pay full benefits until 2023, and the retirement fund will be adequate into 2035. It is important that members of Congress act well before 2023 in order to strengthen the finances of the program. As a whole, Social Security is fully funded until 2034, and after that it is about three-quarters financed.
Many people wonder if Social Security will be there for them. Here’s a fact that will relieve any skepticism you might have: the increased cost of providing Social Security benefits for Baby Boomers is less than the nation’s increase in spending was for public education when the baby boomers were children.
Put your skepticism aside and rest assured that Social Security is with you today and will be with you tomorrow. You can read the entire report at socialsecurity.gov/OACT/TR/2016.
Recognizing LGBT History Month
Social Security is committed to treating all Americans fairly. This commitment extends to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people covered by Social Security’s many programs.
October is also National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History Month. It’s a monthlong annual observance of the history of the gay rights movement. First observed in 1994 to coincide with National Coming Out Day, the month has evolved to include a more diverse range of people identifying as LGBT.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states and have their marriages recognized in all states. This decision made it possible for more same-sex couples and their families to benefit from Social Security.
We now recognize same-sex couples’ marriages in all states, and some non-marital legal relationships, for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits, Medicare entitlement, and eligibility and payment amount for Supplemental Security Income. We also recognize same-sex marriages and some non-marital legal relationships established in foreign jurisdictions for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits, Medicare entitlement and SSI eligibility.
We encourage anyone who is unsure whether they are entitled or eligible for Social Security to apply right away for benefits. Applying now will protect against the loss of any potential benefits.
If you have any questions about how to apply for benefits, call toll-free (800) 772-1213. We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call during the week after Tuesday. We treat all calls confidentially.
Visit socialsecurity.gov/people/same-sexcouples to apply for benefits and learn more about our policies for same-sex couples.
Providing disability benefits for 60 years
Aug. 1, 2016, marked the 60th anniversary of the Social Security Disability Insurance program, signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Originally, the program was limited to individuals age 50 or older. It also had a six-month waiting period, and there were no benefits payable to spouses or children.
The disability program has undergone many changes to become the program it is today. Now, people who receive Social Security disability benefits can also receive Medicare coverage after 24 months, and their dependents may be eligible to receive benefits on their earnings records. There are also work incentives in place to help people with disabilities go back to work.
As of June 2016, there are more than 10 million disabled workers and dependents receiving a portion of the more than $11 billion that is sent each month in Social Security disability payments. It can happen to anyone: studies show that a 20-year-old worker has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming disabled before reaching their full retirement age.
To meet the challenges of providing benefits to so many, the agency has evolved, using technology to operate more efficiently.
Access to online applications for disability benefits, reconsiderations, and hearings have given applicants more service options when applying for benefits. Our health IT initiative allows Social Security to access electronic medical records, including those from the U.S. Department of Defense, which reduces administrative costs, streamlines operations, and speeds up service to veterans.
Social Security is committed to securing today and tomorrow for our millions of disabled workers. For more information about the disability program, visit socialsecurity.gov/disabilityssi.
Discover a whole world of retirement possibilities
Christopher Columbus might be one of the most famous explorers in America. He’s credited with discovering the New World, though Native Americans were here long before the Italian sailor.
Centuries later, there are new horizons to explore and you can do it from the comfort of your home or office. With Social Security, you can discover a new world of information and services at socialsecurity.gov.
For example, you can apply online for Social Security retirement benefits. Not sure whether you’re ready for retirement? We can help you plot your course with our online benefit planners. Perhaps the most impressive of these planners is the online Retirement Estimator, which you can use to get quick and accurate estimates of your retirement benefits based on different scenarios. You also can apply online for disability benefits and even apply online for help to pay the costs of the Medicare prescription drug program at socialsecurity.gov.
One of our most powerful tools is our website: my Social Security. Create your online account at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and then you’ll always have quick and easy access to see and update your information. You can use my Social Security to get estimates of your retirement, disability and survivors benefits; view your earnings record; and get estimates of the Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.
If you already receive Social Security benefits, you can use your account to get an instant benefit verification letter, check your benefit and payment information, and to change your address, phone number and direct deposit information. If you receive Medicare, you can get a replacement Medicare card using my Social Security. Whether you receive benefits or not, you may be able to apply for a replacement Social Security card in certain states, all online.
We’ve made exploring your bright future secure and easy at socialsecurity.gov. Remember, we’re with you through life’s journey. Social Security online tools will help you decide when to weigh anchor, and venture into the seas of retirement.
Don’t be scared of using our secure services
Autumn is the season of dressing up as monsters and watching scary movies in the dark. Even though most of these tricks and treats are just for fun, some of them can be scary, and for good reason. One of the most common threats we face is identity theft. Just imagine someone stealing your information and pretending to be you. You’d have no control as this person acts in your name, spending money — and possibly, ruining your credit.
That’s one trick you can do without, which is why we’ve added an extra layer of security for our customers when they interact with us online.
Your my Social Security at socialsecurity.gov/myaccount is a safe and secure place to do business with us.
On July 30, 2016, Social Security implemented a new layer of security, asking account holders to sign into their account using a one-time code sent via text message. This second layer of security requires more than a username and a password is known as “multifactor authentication.” Although we have always provided the “extra security” option to account holders, we implemented this new process to comply with the President’s Executive Order on Improving the Security of Consumer Financial Transactions.
As before July 30, current account holders will be able to access their secure account using only their username and password. We highly recommend the extra security text message option, but it will not be required. If you are uncomfortable with texting, we will be creating an option where you will receive a code via email.
We strive to balance security and customer service options, and we want to ensure that our online services are both easy to use and secure. The my Social Security service has always featured a robust verification and authentication process, and it remains safe and secure.
There’s no requirement that you access your personal my Social Security account as a result of the steps we are taking. However, when you do access your account, we encourage you to sign up for the extra security text message option. You can access your account by visiting socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
Q: Is it illegal to laminate your Social Security card?
A: No, it is not illegal, but we discourage it. It’s best not to laminate your card. Laminated cards make it difficult — sometimes even impossible — to detect important security features and an employer may refuse to accept them. The Social Security Act requires the Commissioner of Social Security to issue cards that cannot be counterfeited. We incorporate many features that protect the card’s integrity. They include highly specialized paper and printing techniques, some of which are invisible to the naked eye. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. Learn more at socialsecurity.gov.
Q: How can I get a copy of my Social Security Statement?
A: You can get your personal Social Security Statement online by using your my Social Security account. If you don’t yet have an account, you can easily create one. Your online statement gives you secure and convenient access to your earnings records. It also shows estimates for retirement, disability and survivors benefits you and your family may be eligible for.
To set up or use your account to get your online Social Security Statement, go to socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
We also mail statements to workers attaining ages 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60 and older three months prior to their birthday if they don’t receive Social Security benefits and don’t have a my Social Security account.
Q: What is the maximum Social Security retirement benefit?
A: The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at full retirement age in 2016, your maximum monthly benefit would be $2,639. However, if you retire at age 62 in 2016, your maximum monthly benefit would be only $2,102. If you retire at age 70 in 2016, your maximum monthly benefit would be $3,576. To get a better idea of what your benefit might be, visit our online Retirement Estimator at socialsecurity.gov/retire/estimator.html.
Q: I plan to retire soon. When are Social Security benefits paid?
A: Social Security benefits are paid each month. Generally, new retirees receive their benefits on either the second, third, or fourth Wednesday of each month, depending on the day in the month the retiree was born. If you receive benefits as a spouse, your benefit payment date will be determined by your spouse’s birth date.
For a calendar showing actual payment dates, see the Schedule of Social Security Benefit Payments at socialsecurity.gov/pubs.
Q: I am expecting a child and will be out of work for six months. Can I qualify for short-term disability?
A: No. Social Security pays only for total disability — conditions that render you unable to work and are expected to last for at least a year or end in death. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability, including benefits while on maternity leave.
Q: My husband has been in poor health for some time, and doctors have recently diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. I’ve heard Social Security has a “fast track” for some people who are disabled. Can you tell me about it?
A: We have two processes to “fast track” applications for disability benefits. Our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities. There are dozens of types of disabilities that qualify for this expedited decision, including ALS, and that list continues to expand. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances and see the full list of conditions at socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm.
Q: I know you need to have limited resources to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). But what is considered a resource?
A: Resources are things you own that you can use for support. They include cash, real estate, personal belongings, bank accounts, stocks and bonds. To be eligible for SSI, a person must have no more than $2,000 in countable resources. A married couple must have no more than $3,000 in countable resources. If you own resources over the SSI limit, you may be able to get SSI benefits while trying to sell the resources. Not all of your resources count toward the SSI resource limit. For example:
The home you live in and the land it’s on do not count.
Your personal effects and household goods do not count.
Life insurance policies may not count, depending on their value.
Your car usually does not count.
Burial plots for you and members of your immediate family do not count.
Up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse may not count.
If you are blind or have a disability, some items may not count if you plan to use them to work or earn extra income.
You may also wish to read our material on “resources” in the booklet, Understanding SSI, at socialsecurity.gov/ssi/text-understanding-ssi.htm.
Q: How do I report a change of address if I’m getting Supplemental Security Income?
A: A person receiving SSI must report any change of address by calling our toll-free number, (800) 772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or by visiting a local office within 10 days after the month the change occurs. You cannot complete a change of address online. You should report your new address to Social Security so you can continue to get mail from Social Security when necessary, even if you get your benefits electronically by direct deposit or Direct Express. Learn more about SSI at socialsecurity.gov/ssi.
Q: I need to make changes to my Medicare prescription drug coverage. When can I do that?
A: Open season for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary and participants pay an additional monthly premium. If you are considering changing your plan, you might want to revisit the Application for Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs. If you have limited resources and income, you may also be eligible for Extra Help to pay monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year. To find out more, visit socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp. For more information about the Medicare prescription drug program itself, visit medicare.gov or call (800) 633-4227; TTY (877) 486-2048.
Q: I have medical coverage through my employer. Do I have to take Medicare Part B?
A: You are not required to take Medicare Part B if you are covered by a group health care plan based on either your own active employment or the active employment of a spouse. When your coverage or the active employment ends, you may contact the Social Security Administration to request a special enrollment for Medicare Part B. We will need to verify your coverage through your employer in order for you to be eligible for a special enrollment. For information, visit medicare.gov/sign-up-change-plans/get-parts-a-and-b/when-sign-up-parts-a-and-b/when-sign-up-parts-a-and-b.html.
Denise Anderson is Social Security district manager in Alton.