Social Security: Your questions, our answers |

Social Security: Your questions, our answers

For the March 19, 2011 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

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Question: My neighbor said my kids, age 4 and 12, might be eligible for survivors’ benefits since their mother died. Are they?

Answer: If their mother worked and earned the required number of Social Security credits, both you and your children may be eligible for benefits. Apply promptly for survivors benefits because benefits are generally retroactive only up to six months. You can apply by calling Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday. For more information, read our publication “Survivors Benefits” at

Question: How long does it take to complete the online application for retirement benefits?

Answer: It can take as little as 15 minutes to complete the online application. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation to mail in. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. There’s no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. To retire online, go to

Question: My husband doesn’t have enough work to qualify for Social Security or Medicare. Can he qualify on my record?

Answer: This answer applies to wives as well as husbands – even if your spouse has never worked under Social Security, your spouse at full retirement age can receive a benefit equal to one-half of your full retirement amount. This assumes you were married at least 10 years and that he did not pay into a government pension plan that offsets Social Security. If he receives a pension from Federal, State or local government based on work where he did not pay Social Security taxes, any benefits may be offset. Spouses cannot receive benefits on your record until you begin receiving retirement benefits, however. You can learn more by reading our online publication, “Retirement Benefits,” at

Question: I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. I now have a second serious disability. Can my monthly benefit amount be increased?

Answer: No. Your Social Security disability 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

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 for more information on disability.

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 next week, kathy shares how to avoid being made a “fool” in light of an april fool’s scam.

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