Social Security: Your questions, our answers
Question: What are some of the documents Social Security will accept as proof of identity for a child?
Answer: We can accept only certain documents as proof of your child’s identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your child’s name, identifying information, and preferably a recent photograph. We generally can accept a non-photo identity document if it has enough information to identify the child (such as the child’s name and age, date of birth, or parents’ names). We prefer to see the child’s U.S. passport. If that document is not available, we may accept the child’s:
• Adoption decree;
• Doctor, clinic, or hospital record;
• Religious record (e.g., baptismal record);
• Daycare center or school record; or
• School identification card. (Your child may need to be present if a picture ID, such as a student ID, is presented as proof of identity.)
All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.
Question: Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that affect me?
Answer: It depends on your age. If you are full retirement age or older when you first apply, and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can choose to file and receive benefits on just your spouse’s Social Security record. This way, you could delay filing for benefits on your own record in order to receive delayed retirement credits.
By filing only for benefits as a spouse, you may receive a higher retirement benefit on your own record later based on the effect of delayed retirement credits. You can earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70 as long as you do not collect your own benefits.
Since the rules vary depending on the situation, you should talk to a Social Security representative about the options available to you. To learn more, visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Question: What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
Answer: The SSI program provides monthly payments to people with limited income and financial resources who are age 65 or older, blind or disabled. In 2010, the maximum federal SSI payment is $674 a month for an individual and $1,011 a month for an eligible couple. This amount may be reduced if you have other income.
Many states supplement SSI payments. Go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov to view electronic leaflets about these state supplements.
To get SSI, your financial resources (savings and assets you own) cannot exceed $2,000 ($3,000 if married). If you are married and only one person is eligible, a portion of your spouse’s income may be counted. You can be eligible for SSI even if you have never worked in employment covered under Social Security.
Generally, to be eligible for SSI, an individual also must be a resident of the United States and must be a U.S. citizen or a noncitizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence. In addition, some noncitizens granted a special immigration status by the Department of Homeland Security also may be eligible.
For more information, you may want to read SSI (Publication No. 05-11000). You also may want to read our introductory material in the booklet, Understanding SSI. Both are available at http://www.socialsecurity.gov.
Question: Are Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits subject to federal income tax?
Answer: No. SSI payments are not subject to federal taxes. However, if you also receive Social Security benefits, those benefits may be subject to income taxes.
Question: Do disabled children qualify for benefits?
Answer: Yes. There are two Social Security disability programs that include disabled children.
Under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, a child from birth to age 18 may receive monthly payments based on disability or blindness if:
• He or she 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.
Under the Social Security Disability Insurance program, an adult child (a person age 18 or older) may receive monthly benefits based on disability or blindness if:
• He or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that meet the definition of disability for adults;
• The disability began before age 22; and
• The adult child’s parent worked long enough to be insured under Social Security and is receiving retirement or disability benefits or is deceased.
Under both of these programs, the child must not be doing any “substantial” work and must have a medical condition that has lasted or is expected either to last for at least 12 months or to result in death.
You will find helpful links to the online forms and the steps you need to take to apply for childhood disability benefits at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability. At this time, you cannot complete an application for SSI childhood disability online, but you can complete the Child Disability Report Form online. You also can view the fact sheet and checklist in the Child Disability Starter Kit to see what information you will need and the kinds of questions we will ask when you have your disability interview in your local Social Security office or over the phone. The Disability Report asks for information about the child’s conditions or impairments.
Call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office right away so that you do not lose potential benefits, even if you complete the Disability Report Form online.
Question: Does Social Security provide special services or information for people who are blind or visually impaired?
Answer: Yes. Social Security offers a number of services and products specifically designed for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Special Notice Option: If you are blind or visually impaired, you can choose to receive notices and other information from Social Security in ways that may be more convenient for you. To find out more about this service, go to our page, If You Are Blind Or Visually Impaired – Your Choices For Receiving Information from Social Security, at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/notices.
In addition, if you have a question about a Social Security notice you receive, you may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, or call or visit your local Social Security office and ask us to read it to you.
Public Information Material: Many of our publications, such as brochures and fact sheets, are available in Braille, audiocassette tapes, compact disks, or in enlarged print. Our publication, If You Are Blind Or Have Low Vision – How We Can Help, and other publications in alternative formats can be obtained by calling, toll-free, 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.
For more information, see our page Public Information Materials in Alternative Media at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/alt-pubs.html.
Question: I understand my Medicare prescription plan is being discontinued and that I need to make changes to my Medicare Part D coverage. When can I do that?
Answer: Open season for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage runs from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31 each year. The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries to help with the costs of medications. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage. Learn more at http://www.medicare.gov.
In addition, if you have limited resources and income, you also may be eligible for “Extra Help” to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The Extra Help is worth an average of $3,900 per year. To find out more, go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.
kathy petersen is the public affairs specialist for south dakota and eastern wyoming. you can write her c/o social security administration, 605 main, suite 201, rapid city, sd, 57701 or via e-mail at kathy. firstname.lastname@example.org. check back next week as kathy discusses moving and how to keep social security updated.