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Social Security: Your questions, our answers

Kathy Petersen
For the May 21, 2011 edition of Tri-State Livestock News.

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Question: What can Social Security do to help me plan for my retirement?

Answer: Social Security has some great online financial planning tools you can use to make an informed decision about your retirement. Social Security’s online Retirement Planner and our online Retirement Estimator are both tools you can access online at any time. These will let you compute estimates of your future Social Security retirement benefits. They also provide important information on factors affecting retirement benefits, such as military service, household earnings, and Federal employment. You can access our Retirement Planner at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2. Find the Retirement Estimator at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Question: My husband doesn’t have enough work under Social Security to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits or Medicare. But I am fully insured and eligible. Can he qualify on my record?

Answer: Yes. The answer applies to husbands as well as wives. Even if your spouse has never worked under Social Security, he (or she) can, at full retirement age, receive a benefit equal to one-half of your full retirement amount. Your husband is eligible for reduced spouses benefits as early as age 62, as long as you are already receiving benefits. For more information, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov and select the “Retirement” tab. If your spouse will receive a pension for work not covered by Social Security such as government employment, the amount of his or her Social Security benefits on your record may be reduced. For more information, read the fact sheet, Government Pension Offset (Publication No. 05-10007) at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10007.html

Question: I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must be expected to last at least a year or be expected to result in death. But I’m disabled now. Does this mean that I must wait a year after becoming disabled before I can receive benefits?

Answer: You do not have to wait a year after becoming disabled. If you’re disabled and expect to be out of work for at least a year, you should apply for disability benefits right away. It can take months to process an application for disability benefits. If we approve your application, your first Social Security disability benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029) at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html

Question: What can I do if my Medicare prescription drug plan says it won’t pay for a drug that my doctor prescribed for me?

Answer: If your Medicare prescription drug plan decides that it won’t pay for a prescription drug, it must tell you in writing why the drug isn’t covered in a letter called a “Notice of Denial of Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage.” Read the notice carefully because it will explain how to ask for an appeal. Your prescribing doctor can ask your Medicare drug plan for an expedited redetermination (first level appeal) for you if the doctor tells the plan that waiting for a standard appeal decision may seriously harm your health. For more information, visit http://www.medicare.gov.

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 kathy.petersen@ssa.gov. next week kathy discusses social security information for those who served in the military.


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