Social Security

Social Security Launches New Campaign to Fight Scammers

The Social Security Administration launched a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign to continue warning people about the ongoing nationwide telephone impersonation scheme.  The PSAs feature a message from Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul.  Social Security and its Office of the Inspector General (OIG) continue to receive reports about fraudulent phone calls from people falsely claiming to be Social Security employees.  The scammers mislead victims into making cash or gift card payments for help with purported identity theft, or to avoid arrest for bogus Social Security number problems.

“I want every American to know that if a suspicious caller states there is a problem with their Social Security number or account, they should hang up and never give the caller money or personal information.  People should then go online to oig.ssa.gov to report the scam call to Social Security,” said Commissioner Saul.

People should also be on the lookout for a new version of this scam.  Fraudsters are now emailing fake documents in attempts to get people to comply with their demands.  Victims have received emails with attached letters and reports that appear to be from Social Security or the OIG.  The letters may use official letterhead and government jargon to convince victims they are legitimate; they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes.

The new PSA addressing the telephone impersonation scheme is available online at www.youtube.com/socialsecurity.

youtubeSocial Security employees do occasionally contact people–generally those who have ongoing business with the agency–by telephone for business purposes.  However, Social Security employees will never threaten a person, or promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.  In those cases, the call is fraudulent and people should just hang up.

Generally, the agency mainly calls people who have recently applied for a Social Security benefit, someone who is already receiving payments and requires an update to their record, or a person who has requested a phone call from the agency.  If a person is not in one of these situations, they normally would not receive a call from the agency.

Social Security will not:
· Tell you that your Social Security number has been suspended.
· Contact you to demand an immediate payment.
· Ask you for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
· Require a specific means of debt repayment, like a prepaid debit card, a retail gift card, or cash.
· Demand that you pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe.
· Promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.

If there is a problem with a person’s Social Security number or record, in most cases Social Security will mail a letter.  If a person needs to submit payments to Social Security, the agency will send a letter with instructions and payment options.  People should never provide information or payment over the phone or Internet unless they are certain of who is receiving it.

Making Wise Choices When a Representative Payee Manages Your Money

by Vonda Van Til, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

socialsecuritySome of the millions of people who get monthly Social Security or Supplemental Security Income benefits need help managing this money. A person assigned to help you manage your monthly benefits is called a representative payee. We may decide you need a representative payee if we receive information that indicates you need help to manage your money. We try to select someone who knows you and wants to help you. Your representative payee should be someone who you trust, who sees you often, and who clearly understands your needs.

A representative payee receives your monthly benefits on your behalf and must use the money to pay for your current needs. Eligible costs include:
housing and utilities;
food;
medical and dental expenses;
personal care items;
clothing; and
rehabilitation expenses (if you’re disabled).

If there is someone you want to be your representative payee, tell a Social Security representative, and they will consider your request. Social service agencies, nursing homes, or other organizations are also qualified to be your representative payee. Ask them to contact us.

If you receive a decision that you are appointed a representative payee and don’t agree that you need one, or if you want a different representative payee, write to us within 60 days to appeal that decision.

If you can’t manage your finances, someone else can help. If you have a trusted friend or family member who can be your representative payee, this publication at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10076.pdf  will provide more information on our representative payee rules.

Small Businesses and Social Security

by Vonda Van Til, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

socialsecurity1According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the 28.8 million small businesses in the United States represent 99.7% of all U.S. businesses, and employ 56.8 million people.

Running a small business can be a 24-7 endeavor. Managing employees, inventory, scheduling, services, and marketing can be challenging. If you are a small business owner or you work for one, we can help make your life easier with our suite of services. Our services allow you to file W-2/W-2Cs online and verify your employees’ names and Social Security numbers against our records.

If you run a business, make us your first stop at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer. It will save you valuable time when you need information on W-2s, electronic filing, and verifying Social Security numbers. Small business owners can also take advantage of our Business Services Online at www.socialsecurity.gov/bso/bsowelcome.htm. You must register to use this free service, which also offers fast, free, and secure online W-2 filing options to CPAs, enrolled agents, and individuals who process W-2s and W-2Cs.

This publication provides more information about electronic wage reporting www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/EN-05-10034.pdf.

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We also offer many other online resources at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. Let friends and family know they can access them from the comfort of their home or office and on the go from their mobile phone.

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Vonda Van Til 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.

Beware of Social Security Scams

by Vonda Vantil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

ssiThere’s a widespread telephone scam involving callers claiming they’re from Social Security. The caller ID may even show a government number. These callers may tell you there’s a problem with your Social Security number. They may also threaten to arrest you unless you pay a fine or fee using gift cards, pre-paid debit cards, a wire transfer, or cash. That call is not from us.

If you receive a suspicious call from someone alleging to be from Social Security, please:

• Hang up right away.
• Never give your personal information, money, or retail gift cards.
• Report the scam at oig.ssa.gov/ to Social Security’s law enforcement team at the Office of the Inspector General.

Social Security will not:

• Threaten you.
• Tell you that your Social Security Number has been suspended.
• Call you to demand an immediate payment.
• Ask you for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
• Require a specific means of debt repayment, like a prepaid debit card, a retail gift card, or cash.
• Demand that you pay a Social Security debt without the ability to appeal the amount you owe.
• Promise a Social Security benefit approval, or increase, in exchange for information or money.
• Request personal or financial information through email, text messages, or social media.

Social Security will:

• Sometimes call you to confirm you filed for a claim or to discuss other ongoing business you have with them.
• Mail you a letter if there is a problem.
• Mail you a letter if you need to submit payments that will have detailed information about options to make payments and the ability to appeal the decision.
• Use emails, text messages, and social media to provide general information (not personal or financial information) on its programs and services if you have signed up to receive these messages.

Social Security Q & A – December 2019

Question: Someone stole my Social Security number, and it’s being used repeatedly. Does Social Security issue new Social Security numbers to victims of repeated identity theft?

Answer: Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, so you aren’t alone. If you’ve done all you can to identify and fix the problem, including contacting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), but someone is still using your number, Social Security may assign you a new number. If you decide to apply for a new number, you’ll need to prove your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or immigration status. You’ll also need to provide evidence you’re having ongoing problems because of the misuse of your current Social Security number. You can read more about identity theft at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Question: I was speaking with my sister and she told me that she receives half of her spouse’s benefit. Why am I not eligible for benefits from my spouse?

Answer: If your spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits, you could be eligible for one-half of their benefit at your full retirement age. However, if you worked and are eligible for Social Security benefits on your own record, your own benefit may be higher than what you could be eligible for on your spouse’s record. If you have questions regarding your eligibility for benefits, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Question: Do disabled children qualify for benefits?

Answer: Yes. Under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, a child from birth to age 18 may receive monthly payments based on disability or blindness if: the child has an impairment or combination of impairments that meet the definition of disability for children; and the income and resources of the parents and the child are within the allowed limits. You will find helpful information about steps to apply for childhood disability benefits in our publication, Benefits for Children with Disabilities, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Question: What is a disability “trial work period?”

Answer: A trial work period is a work incentive that allows Social Security disability beneficiaries to test their ability to work without losing benefits. People who receive Social Security disability benefits can work for at least nine months without losing benefits. During this trial work period, you can get full benefits no matter how much you earn, as long as you continue to have a severe disabling impairment and you report your work activity. The trial work period continues until you complete nine trial work months within a 60-month period. Find more information about this and other work incentives in our publication Working While Disabled: How We Can Help at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10095.html.

Question: I just got a notice from Social Security that said my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case is being reviewed. What does this mean?

Answer: Social Security reviews every SSI case from time to time to make sure the individuals who are receiving payments should continue to get them. The review also determines whether individuals are receiving the correct amounts. Learn more about SSI at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.

Question: I am applying for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. Can state agencies help with my Medicare costs?

Answer: When you file your application for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs, you can start your application process for the Medicare Savings Programs—state programs that provide help with other Medicare costs. When you apply for Extra Help, Social Security will send information to your state unless you tell us not to on the application. Your state will contact you to help you apply for a Medicare Savings Program. Learn more by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

Question: I have medical coverage through my employer. Do I have to take Medicare Part B?

Answer: You are not required to take Medicare Part B if you are covered by a group healthcare plan based on either your employment or the employment of a spouse. When your coverage ends, you may contact Social Security 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 more information, visit www.medicare.gov.

Question: My child is disabled, but when I applied for SSI, I was told that my child was ineligible because my spouse and I earned too much money? Why does our income make my child ineligible?

Answer: If a child is living with either their natural or adopted parents, then some of the income that the parents earn deems to the child. We use these amounts to determine whether or not your child meets the non-medical requirements for SSI. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-deeming.htm.

Question: Although I stopped working a few years ago, I had additional seasonal earnings after my retirement. Will my monthly Social Security retirement benefit increase?

Answer: Each year, we review the records for all working Social Security recipients to see if additional earnings may increase their monthly benefit amounts. If an increase is due, we calculate a new benefit amount and pay the increase retroactive to January following the year of earnings. You can learn more about how work affects your benefits by reading our publication, How Work Affects Your Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Question: Will my retirement benefits increase if I wait and retire after my full retirement age?

Answer: Yes. You can increase your Social Security retirement benefit in two ways:
• You can increase your retirement benefit by a certain percentage if you delay receiving retirement benefits. We will add these increases automatically from the time you reach full retirement age until you start receiving benefits or reach age 70; and
• If you work, each additional year you work adds another year of earnings to your Social Security record. Higher lifetime earnings may result in higher benefits when you do retire.

For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs to read, print, or listen to our publication, When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits. You also can use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to determine your estimated future benefits.

Social Security Expands Public Hours at Offices Nationwide

Wednesdays to Return to Full Public Service Hours; Agency to Hire 1,100 Direct Service Employees

Starting on January 8, 2020, Social Security offices nationwide will be open to the public on Wednesday afternoons, Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security, announced.   This change restores Wednesday public service hours that were last in place in late 2012.  “I don’t want someone to come to our office at 2:30 on a Wednesday only to find our doors closed,” Commissioner Saul said.

In another move to improve service to the public, Commissioner Saul announced in his Open Letter to the Public at www.ssa.gov/agency/coss-message.html that the agency is hiring 1,100 front line employees to provide service on the agency’s National 800 Number and in its processing centers.  The agency is currently bringing onboard 100 new processing center employees and approximately 500 new teleservice representatives for the 800 Number.  An additional 500 hires for the 800 Number will occur later in 2020.

“Improving service is my top priority.  Increasing full public service hours at our nationwide network of more than 1,200 field offices is the right thing to do and will  provide additional access,” Commissioner Saul said.  “The hiring of a thousand new employees to provide service through our National 800 Number and an additional 100 hires to process people’s Social Security benefits at our processing centers around the country are steps in the right direction in our mission to greatly improve the service we provide.”

Currently, a field office is generally open to the public from 9:00 a.m. to Noon on Wednesdays.  Beginning on January 8, 2020, offices will remain open until 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, with typical field office hours from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Free Up Your Time by Using my Social Security

by Vonda Vantil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Time is one of our most valuable commodities. That’s why at Social Security, we are constantly improving our online resources to make doing business with us easier and faster.

With a my Social Security account, those receiving benefits can change their address and direct deposit information; get proof of their benefits; and request replacement documents, like a Medicare card.

For those that aren’t currently getting benefits, they can check their earnings record, get estimates of future benefits, and view their Social Security Statement. In Michigan, they can even request a replacement Social Security card online. To see everything that can be done with a my Social Security account and to open an account, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

Social Security Benefits Increase in 2020

by Vonda Vantil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

coupleEach year, we announce the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). By law, federal benefits increase when the cost of living rises, as measured by the Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Usually, there is an increase in the benefit amount people will receive each month, starting the following January.

Nearly 69 million Americans will see a 1.6 percent increase in their Social Security benefits and SSI payments in 2020.

Other changes that will happen in January 2020 reflect the increase in the national average wage index. For example, the maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security payroll tax will increase to $137,700 from $132,900. The earnings limit for workers who are younger than “full” retirement age (age 66 for people born in 1943 through 1954) will increase to $18,240. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $2 earned over $18,240.)

The earnings limit for people turning 66 in 2020 will increase to $48,600. (We deduct $1 from benefits for each $3 earned over $48,600 until the month the worker turns age 66.)

In December 2019, we will post Social Security COLA notices online for retirement, survivors, and disability beneficiaries who have a my Social Security account. You will be able to view and save future COLA notices via the Message Center inside my Social Security.

You can log in to or sign up for a my Social Security account today at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount to get more information about your new benefit amount. You can choose to receive an electronic notification by email, text, or both ways under “Message Center Preferences.” Our notification will let you know that a new message is waiting for you. We will not send any personal information in the notification. The Message Center also allows you to go paperless by opting out of receiving agency notices by mail that you can get online, including annual cost-of-living adjustments and the income-related monthly adjustment amount increases. The Message Center is a secure portal where you can conveniently receive sensitive communications that we don’t send through email or text.

More information about the 2020 COLA is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/cola.

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 Reinstates Reconsideration Appeal Level of Disability Process in Michigan

The Social Security Administration announced the reinstatement of the reconsideration, the first step in the disability appeal process, in Michigan beginning on October 1.  This year, seven additional states–Alabama, California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Hampshire, New York, and Pennsylvania–reinstated the reconsideration.

A level of Social Security’s national disability appeals process since 1959, the reconsideration step was eliminated in ten states as part of a prototype to explore ways to reengineer the disability process.  Reinstating reconsideration restores a national, unified disability process and consistent due process for disability claimants across the country.  It also leads to earlier allowance decisions for some at a lower administrative cost to taxpayers than if the first appeal of an initial claim goes directly to the hearing level to be heard by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  People still have the right to appeal their reconsideration decisions at a hearing before an ALJ.

“Reinstating the reconsideration appeal in Michigan will help improve the disability process,” said Phyllis M. Smith, Regional Commissioner.  “Some people appealing an initial disability claim decision will receive an allowance decision earlier in the process than they would if their appeal went directly to a judge at the hearings level.”

Michigan is one of ten states that have not had the reconsideration appeal since 1999.  The remaining two states, Alaska and Missouri, will bring back reconsideration in 2020.

To learn more about Social Security’s disability process, see www.socialsecurity.gov/benefits/disability.

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.