Your questions, our answers |

Your questions, our answers

For the August 21, 2010 editon of Tri-State Livestock News.

It’s never been easier to get an answer to a Social Security question. That’s because we recently redesigned our “Frequently Asked Questions.”

The new page resembles a search engine. Simply type in your question, or some key words, and you’ll get links to quick answers that relate directly to your subject matter. The redesigned page also features a faster response time. Because it is such a simple page, it’s easy to use even when you’re on the run with your mobile device.

To try it out now, visit: and select the “Have A Question? Find An Answer” box at the right side of the page.

Question: I can’t find my Social Security card. How can I get a new one?

Answer: First, consider whether you really need a new card. You need to apply for a replacement Social Security card only if you don’t know your Social Security number or, if you need to show your card to a new employer. If you decide that you do need a card, you can replace it for free in three easy steps.

Step 1: Complete an Application For a Social Security Card (Form SS-5)

Step 2: Show us documents proving your:

• Identity; and

• U.S. citizenship or immigration status.

Step 3: Take your completed application and original documents to your local Social Security office or your local Social Security Card Center. You’ll receive your replacement card in about 10 to 15 days.

Question: How can I calculate my own retirement benefit estimate?

Answer: We suggest you use our Retirement Estimator at Our Retirement Estimator produces estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record, so it’s a personalized, instant picture of your future estimated benefit. Also, you can use it to test different retirement scenarios based on what age you decide to start benefits. For example, you can find out your estimated monthly payments if you retire at age 62 or at age 70. You also can use our benefit calculators at and use the earnings shown on your annual Social Security Statement to calculate estimates.

Question: How do I earn a Social Security credit?

Answer: A “Social Security credit” (sometimes referred to as a “quarter of coverage”) is the measure of a person’s work under the Social Security program. The amount needed for a credit increases automatically each year as average wages increase. For 2010, workers receive one credit for each $1,120 of earnings. For 2009, the amount of earnings for one credit was $1,090. A worker can receive a maximum of four credits for any year. Generally, you need 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more at

Question: What is the difference between the disability application and the disability report? Do I have to complete both?

Answer: Yes, you will need to complete both when you apply for disability benefits. To receive Social Security disability benefits, you must file a disability application. A disability report provides information about your current physical or mental condition and we need this to process your disability application. You should complete a disability application, a disability report, and an authorization to release medical records to file a claim for disability benefits. To learn more, and to apply online, visit

Question: How do I know if I have enough work to get Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: To get benefits, you must have worked long enough – and recently enough – under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2010, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,120 of wages or self-employment income. When you have earned $4,480, you’ve earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which you earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. To learn more, see our Disability Planner at

Question: I am applying for Extra Help with prescription drug costs. Can state agencies help with my Medicare costs?

Answer: Beginning January 1, 2010, when you file your application for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs, you also can start your application process for the Medicare Savings Programs – state programs that provide help with other Medicare costs. When you apply for Extra Help, Social Security will send information to your state unless you tell us not to on the application. Your state will contact you to help you apply for a Medicare Savings Program. Learn more about how Social Security can provide Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug costs by visiting

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. check back next week to learn about scams and how to avoid them.

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