Social Security: Your questions, our answers |

Social Security: Your questions, our answers

Question: My cousin and I are both retired and get Social Security. We worked for the same employer for years, but he gets a higher Social Security benefit. Why is that?

Answer: Your payments are based on your earnings over your lifetime – generally your highest 35 years. In order to get the same benefit as your cousin, you and he must have had identical earnings, be the same age, and retire at the same time. To learn more about Social Security retirement benefits, visit and select the “Retirement” link.

Question: I lost my Social Security card and am afraid someone else could be using my number. Should I report it to Social Security?

Answer: If you think someone is using your number to work, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). But reporting a lost or stolen card to Social Security will not prevent its misuse. That is why you should take further action. If you think someone is using your number, there are several other actions you will want to take:

• Contact the Federal Trade Commission online at or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338);

• File an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at

• Contact the IRS Identity Theft Hotline by calling 1-800-908-4490 Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and

• Monitor your credit report.

Question: I am receiving Social Security disability benefits. Will my benefits be affected if I work and earn money?

Answer: Social Security wants to help you go to work if that’s what you’d like to do. We offer work incentives that will help you keep your cash benefits and Medicare coverage while you test your ability to work. For example, there is a trial work period during which you can receive full benefits regardless of how much you earn, as long as you report your work activity to us and continue to have a disabling impairment. For more information about work incentives, we recommend that you read Working While Disabled-How We Can Help. You’ll find it online at

Question: Is there a time limit on Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: No. Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. Your case will be reviewed at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled. If you are receiving disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, they will automatically be converted to retirement benefits.

kathy petersen is a public affairs specialist for social security, denver region. you can write her c/o social security administration, 605 main, suite 201, rapid city, sd, 57701 or via e-mail at social security’s retirement estimator tool has been available for three years. next week, kathy explains how this popular tool works.

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