Social Security

Social Security Can Help You Get Back to Work

By Vonda Vantil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

ssiHaving a job means different things to different people, but it can give you a sense of self, a community to rely on, and much-needed structure. Some people define themselves through their work. Others may enjoy the social aspect of their jobs. If you rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments or Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits and want to start working or return to work, Social Security can help.

A plan for achieving self-support (PASS) is a plan for your future. This plan lets you use your income or the resources you own to help you reach your work goals. You could set aside money to go to school and get specialized training for a job or to start a business. PASS is for both SSI and SSDI. The job that you want should allow you to earn enough to reduce or eliminate the SSI or SSDI benefits you currently receive.

You should use the PASS if all of these apply to you:
• You want to work.
• You get SSI (or can qualify for SSI by having this plan) because you have a disability or are blind.
• You have income, other than SSI, or resources above the resource limit, to use to get a job or start a business.

In some cases, someone on SSDI can use a PASS and become eligible for SSI while pursuing the plan.  Your employment income may reduce or eliminate your SSDI benefits. Under SSI rules, any income that you have may reduce your SSI payment. However, if you have an approved plan, you can use most of that income to pay for the items you need to reach your work goal.

We don’t count money set aside under the PASS when we decide your SSI payment amount. This means you may get a higher SSI payment. However, you can’t get more than the maximum SSI payment for the state where you live. With an approved plan, you can set aside money to pay expenses needed to reach your work goal.

The plan must be in writing, and Social Security must approve it beforehand. To start, contact your local Social Security office for an application (Form SSA-545-BK). You can access this form at www.socialsecurity.gov/forms/ssa-545.html.

If you need help, there are many people who can help you write a PASS, including a Ticket to Work service provider, vocational counselor or a relative. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. The Ticket program helps people with disabilities progress toward financial independence. To learn more about the Ticket program, call the Ticket to Work Help Line at 1-866-968-7842 or 1-866-833-2967 (TTY) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

Emma and Liam Repeat as Social Security’s Top Baby Names for 2018

Jacob and Abigail Fall Out of Top 10

Liam and Emma are once again America’s most popular baby names in 2018.  This is the second time Liam is atop the boys list and the fifth year in a row for Emma.  Two long timers on the list, Jacob and Abigail, toppled out of the top 10 for the first time since 1992 and 2000.  There are two new names in this year’s top 10—Lucas for the first time ever, and Harper makes her way back on the list.

Here are the top 10 boys and girls names for 2018:

Boys:
1) Liam
2) Noah
3) William
4) James
5) Oliver
6) Benjamin
7) Elijah
8) Lucas
9) Mason
10) Logan

Girls:
1) Emma
2) Olivia
3) Ava
4) Isabella
5) Sophia
6) Charlotte
7) Mia
8) Amelia
9) Harper
10) Evelyn

For all of the top baby names of 2018, and to see where your name ranks, go to Social Security’s website, www.socialsecurity.gov.

Social Security Announces 1.6 Percent Benefit Increase for 2020

Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for nearly 69 million Americans will increase 1.6 percent in 2020, the Social Security Administration announced earlier this month.

The 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will begin with benefits payable to more than 63 million Social Security beneficiaries in January 2020.  Increased payments to more than 8 million SSI beneficiaries will begin on December 31, 2019.  (Note: some people receive both Social Security and SSI benefits).  The Social Security Act ties the annual COLA to the increase in the Consumer Price Index as determined by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some other adjustments that take effect in January of each year are based on the increase in average wages.  Based on that increase, the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax (taxable maximum) will increase to $137,700 from $132,900.

Social Security and SSI beneficiaries are normally notified by mail in early December about their new benefit amount.  Most people who receive Social Security payments will be able to view their COLA notice online through their my Social Security account.  People may create or access their my Social Security account online at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Information about Medicare changes for 2020, when announced, will be available at www.medicare.gov.  For Social Security beneficiaries receiving Medicare, Social Security will not be able to compute their new benefit amount until after the Medicare premium amounts for 2020 are announced.  Final 2020 benefit amounts will be communicated to beneficiaries in December through the mailed COLA notice and my Social Security’s Message Center.

The Social Security Act provides for how the COLA is calculated.  To read more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

Social Security: Helping Maintain Independence

Social Security has been helping people maintain their independence for over 80 years. In that time, we’ve made it even easier for you to access the programs and benefits you might need. Today, applying online is a fast way to get those crucial benefits.

Here are some of the benefits you can apply for:
• Retirement or Spouse’s Benefits – You must be at least 61 years and 9 months old and want your benefits to start no more than four months in the future. Apply at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline.
• Disability – You can apply online for disability benefits. Apply for Disability at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityonline.
• Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Costs – Some people need assistance with the cost of medications. Apply for Extra Help at www.socialsecurity.gov/i1020.
• Medicare – Medicare is a national health insurance program administered by the U.S. federal government that began in 1966. You should apply before your 65th birthday at www.socialsecurity.gov/retireonline.
• Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – SSI is a federal income program funded by general tax revenues designed to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little or no income. You may be able to apply online if you meet certain requirements. See if you can apply online for SSI at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/ssi.

Social Security provides benefits for millions of people, including retirees, wounded warriors,  children, and people with disabilities who cannot work. Find the help you or your family needs at www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits.

We need you to let loved ones know about the ways we may provide benefits. By sharing our resources with friends and family, you can help create independence for them at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices.

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov.

Social Security – Q & A

by Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Question:
What is the maximum Social Security retirement benefit?

Answer:
The maximum benefit depends on the age you retire. For example, if you retire at full retirement age in 2018, your maximum monthly benefit would be $2,788. However, if you retire at age 62 in 2018, your maximum monthly benefit would be only $2,158. If you retire at age 70 in 2018, your maximum monthly benefit would be $3,698. To get a better idea of what your benefit might be, visit our online Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire/estimator.html.

Question:
I prefer reading by audio book. Does Social Security have audio publications?

Answer:
Yes, we do. You can find them at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. Some of the publications available include What You Can Do Online, Working While Disabled – How We Can Help, Apply Online for Social Security Benefits, and Your Social Security Card and Number. You can listen now at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Question:
How can I get a copy of my Social Security Statement?

Answer:
You can get your personal Social Security Statement online by using your personal 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 www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

We also mail Statements to workers age 60 and over who aren’t receiving Social Security benefits and do not yet have a my Social Security account. We mail the Statements three months prior to your birthday.

Question:
Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that work?

Answer:
It depends on your date of birth. If you were born on or before 01/01/1954 and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can apply for retirement benefits on your spouse’s record as long as you are at your full retirement age. You then will earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70, as long as you do not collect benefits on your own work record. Later, when you do begin receiving benefits on your own record, those payments could very well be higher than they would have been otherwise. If your spouse is also full retirement age and does not receive benefits, your spouse will have to apply for benefits and request the payments be suspended. Then you can receive benefits on your spouse’s Social Security record. If you were born on or after 01/02/1954 and wish to receive benefits, you must file for all benefits for which you are eligible. Social Security will determine the benefits you are eligible for and pay you accordingly. For individuals born on or after 01/02/1954, there is no longer an option to select which benefit you would like to receive, even beyond your full retirement age. Widows are an exception, as they can choose to take their deceased spouse’s benefit without filing for their own. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question:
I worked the first half of the year, but plan to retire this month. Will Social Security count the amount I earn for this year when I retire?

Answer:
Yes. If you retire mid-year, we count your earnings for the entire year. We have a special “earnings test” rule we apply to annual earnings, usually in the first year of retirement. Under this rule, you get a full payment for any whole month we consider you retired regardless of your yearly earnings. We consider you retired during any month your earnings are below the monthly earnings limit, or if you have not performed substantial services in self-employment. We do not consider income earned, beginning with the month you reach full retirement age. Learn more about the earnings test rule at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/rule.htm.

Question:
My husband has been in poor health for some time and doctors have recently diagnosed him with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)–commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I’ve heard Social Security has a “fast track” for some people who are disabled. Would you tell me about it?

Answer:
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 different 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 www.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 www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm.

Question:
If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my Social Security disability benefits?

Answer:
No, Social Security has several work incentive programs to help people who want to work. You may be able to receive monthly benefits and continue your health care coverage during a trial work period. For information about Social Security’s work incentives and how they can help you return to work, you should:

Visit our special work site at www.socialsecurity.gov/work;
See the Red Book on work incentives at www.socialsecurity.gov/redbook; or
Check out our publications at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs and type “work” in the search box.

For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question:
If I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, what is the effect on my benefits when I take seasonal work?

Answer:
Even a small amount of earned wages can cause a deduction in your SSI payment. However, it takes substantial work to make your benefits stop. In many cases, we will deduct approved work expenses to determine your SSI payment amount. In most cases, you can continue to receive your medical coverage for up to two years after you begin working. We have several publications on SSI, including Reporting Your Wages When You Receive Supplemental Security Income, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. For more information, call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/ssi/wage-reporting.html.

Question:
My brother died recently and left me some money. Will this inheritance affect my SSI benefits?

Answer:
We consider the money inherited from your brother as income for the month you receive it. That could make you ineligible for SSI that month, depending on the amount of the inheritance. If you keep the money into the next month, it becomes a part of your resources. You cannot have more than $2,000 in resources and remain eligible for SSI. You should call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday and report the inheritance. Representatives can tell you how the inheritance might affect your SSI eligibility. Find out more at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/.

Beware of False Social Security and Medicare Advertisements

by Vonda Vantil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Scammers have become more aggressive and sophisticated in the digital age. With millions of people relying on Social Security and Medicare, scammers target audiences who are looking for legitimate program and benefit information. Scammers sometimes try to scare people into giving out their personal information. Never give someone who called you any personal information unless you absolutely know who they are.

The law that addresses misleading Social Security and Medicare advertising prohibits people or non-government businesses from using words or emblems that mislead others. Their advertising can’t claim that they represent, are somehow affiliated with, or are endorsed or approved by Social Security or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (Medicare).

People are often misled by advertisers who use the terms “Social Security” or “Medicare.” Often, these companies offer Social Security services for a fee, even though Social Security offers the same services free of charge. These services include getting:
A corrected Social Security card showing a person’s married name;
A Social Security card to replace a lost card;
A Social Security Statement; and
A Social Security number for a child.

If you receive misleading information about Social Security, send the complete ad, including the envelope (if applicable), to:

Office of the Inspector General Fraud Hotline
Social Security Administration
P.O. Box 17768
Baltimore, MD 21235

You can learn more about how we combat fraudulent advertisers by reading our publication What You Need to Know About Misleading Advertising at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10005.pdf.

Social Security Delivers the Most Popular Baby Names in Michigan for 2018

The Social Security Administration announced the most popular baby names in May for 2018. Noah and Olivia topped the list.

The top five boys and girls names for 2018 in Michigan were:

Boys:
1) Noah
2) Oliver
3) Liam
4) Benjamin
5) William

Girls:
1) Olivia
2) Ava
3) Emma
4) Charlotte
5) Amelia

Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, announced last week that Liam and Emma were the most popular baby names in the U.S.  How does Michigan compare to the rest of the country?  Check out Social Security’s website — www.socialsecurity.gov— to see the top national baby names for 2018.

On Vacation? Access Social Security from Anywhere

by Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

It’s summer and millions of families are enjoying our nation’s beaches, forests, and mountains before the school season begins. If you’re on vacation this summer, know that you can access Social Security’s online services anywhere you have an internet connection.

Our online services at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices help you plan for the future. We’re constantly expanding our online services to give you freedom and control in how you wish to conduct business with us.