Social Security: Your questions, our answers
Question: Do members of Congress have to pay into Social Security?
Answer: Yes, they do. Members of Congress, the President and Vice President, federal judges, and most political appointees, have paid taxes into the Social Security program since January 1984. They pay into the system just like everyone else, no matter how long they have been in office. Learn more about Social Security benefits at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.
Question: I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. I now have a second serious disability. Can my monthly benefit amount be increased?
Answer: No. Although your Social Security disability benefit eligibility is based on having a severe disability, the benefit amount is based on the amount of your lifetime earnings before your disability began and not the number, degree, or severity of your disability. For more information, go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dapproval2.htm.
Question: Is there a time limit on how long I can collect Social Security disability benefits?
Answer: Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you remain unable to work. Your case will be reviewed at regular intervals to make sure you still are disabled. If you still are receiving disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, we will automatically convert them to retirement benefits. See http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10153.html#6 for more information on disability.
Question: Does Social Security pay benefits to prisoners?
Answer: We pay benefits under both the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. Both of these programs prohibit payments to most prisoners. Social Security benefits are suspended if an otherwise eligible person is confined in a jail, prison, or other penal institution for more than 30 continuous days due to conviction of a crime.
We cannot pay benefits to someone who, by court order, is confined in an institution at public expense in connection with a criminal case if the court finds that the person is: guilty, but insane; not guilty of such an offense by reason of insanity or similar factors (such as a mental disease); or incompetent to stand trial for such an alleged offense.
Also, we cannot pay benefits to someone who, immediately upon completion of a prison sentence for conviction of a criminal offense (an element of which is sexual activity), is confined by court order in an institution at public expense. The confinement must be based on a court finding that the individual is a sexually dangerous person or sexual predator (or a similar finding.) However, if a person is not confined in prison or other similar place, benefits may be paid to an eligible individual.
Question: What are the limits on what I can own to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
Answer: Social Security counts real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds toward the limits on what you can own. You may be able to get SSI if your resources are worth no more than $2,000. A couple may be able to get SSI if they have resources worth no more than $3,000. If you own property you are trying to sell, you may be able to get SSI while trying to sell it. Social Security does not count everything you own in deciding whether you have too many resources to qualify for SSI. For example, we generally do not count: the home you live in and the land it is on; life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less; your car; burial plots for you and immediate family; and up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse. Learn more about SSI at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.
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 email@example.com. Next week Kathy details how to get Dad some “Extra Help” this Father’s Day.