Millions of Americans who get monthly Social Security benefits or Supplemental Security Income payments need help managing their money, and may need a representative payee. A representative payee is a person or an organization we appoint to receive and manage a person’s benefits.
Representative payees must know the beneficiary’s needs to decide the best use of benefits for their care and well-being. To help with this responsibility, representative payees can now receive, save, email, and print a benefit verification letter for a person they represent using their own mySocial Security account, at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.
Many representative payees are responsible for completing an annual form to account for the benefit payments they receive and manage. Representative payees can fill out the form and return it to Social Security by mail, or conveniently file it online at www.ssa.gov/myaccount/rep-payee.html.
Please visit www.ssa.gov/payee if you have questions about representative payees.
Some of the terms and acronyms people use when they talk about Social Security can be a little confusing. We’re here to help you understand.
We strive to explain your benefits using easy-to-understand, plain language. The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires federal agencies to communicate information clearly in a way “the public can understand and use.” This can be particularly challenging when talking about complicated programs like Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, and Medicare. If there’s a technical term or acronym that you don’t know, you can find the meaning in our online glossary at www.ssa.gov/agency/glossary.
Here are a few examples. If you’re considering retirement, you may want to know your FRA (full retirement age) and your PIA (primary insurance amount). These terms determine your benefit amount based on when you when you start getting requirement benefits. The PIA is the amount payable for a retired worker who starts his or her benefits at full retirement age. If you start your retirement benefits at your FRA, you’ll receive the full PIA.
Most years, your benefit amount will get a COLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment), which usually means extra money in your monthly benefit.
What about DRCs (delayed retirement credits)? DRCs are the gradual increases to your PIA that occur the longer you delay taking retirement benefits after your full retirement age. Every month you delay taking benefits, up to age 70, your monthly benefit will increase.
If one of these terms or acronyms comes up in conversation, you can be the one to help clarify the meaning, using our online glossary. Learning the terminology can deepen your understanding of how Social Security programs work for you.
We take pride in having provided vital benefits and services to this great nation for 86 years. America has a diverse population with a variety of needs. To meet those diverse needs, we’ve created web pages that speak directly to groups of people who may need information about our programs and services. These pages are easy to share with friends and family on social media. Here are just a few resources that might help you or someone you love:
We proudly serve wounded warriors and veterans, who made sacrifices to preserve the freedoms Americans treasure. Many veterans do not know they might be eligible for disability benefits from Social Security. Please share this page with them to make sure they get the benefits they deserve: www.ssa.gov/people/veterans.
Social Security plays an important role in providing economic security for women. Nearly 55 percent of the people receiving Social Security benefits are women. A woman who is 65 years old today can expect to live, on average, until about 87. A 65-year-old man can expect to live, on average, until about 84. With longer life expectancies than men, women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater risk of exhausting their sources of income.
Women often have lower lifetime earnings than men, which usually means lower benefits. Women need to plan early and wisely for retirement. We’re here to help with valuable information. Please share this page with someone who needs this information and may need help planning for their golden years: www.ssa.gov/people/women.
Do you know someone who is just starting their career? Now is the best time for them to start preparing for retirement. Social Security benefit payments provide only a portion of retirement income. Those starting their careers should begin saving early to have adequate income in retirement. Please share this page with a young worker you know: www.ssa.gov/people/earlycareer.
These are just a few of the web pages tailored to specific groups’ needs. You can check out our People Like Me home page at www.ssa.gov/people to see all of them.
At Social Security, we strive to deliver great customer service and easy-to-access information about our programs. Our Spanish-language website, http://www.ssa.gov/espanol, provides information for those whose primary language is Spanish. There, your family and friends can learn about how to get a Social Security card, plan for retirement, apply for benefits, manage their benefits, and much more.
We also provide many publications in Spanish at www.ssa.gov/espanol/publicaciones/on popular topics such as:
Retirement, Disability, and Survivors benefits.
Supplemental Security Income.
Spanish-speaking customers who need to speak with a representative can call us at 1-800-772-1213. Please share these resources with friends and family who may need them.
Question: I usually get my benefit payment on the third of the month. But what if the third falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday? Will my payment be late?
Answer: Just the opposite. Your payment should arrive early. For example, if you usually get your payment on the third of a month, but it falls on a Saturday, we will make payments on the Friday prior to the due date. Find more information about the payment schedule for 2021 at www.ssa.gov/pubs/calendar.htm. Any time you don’t receive a payment, be sure to wait three days before calling to report it missing. To ensure that your benefits are going to the right place, create a my Social Security account. There, you can verify and manage your benefits without visiting your local office. Please visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount to create your account.
Question: I haven’t received my Social Security Statement in the mail the last few years. Will I ever get one again?
Answer: We currently mail Social SecurityStatements to workers age 60 and over who aren’t receiving Social Security benefits and do not yet have a mySocial Security account. We mail the Statements three months prior to your birthday. Instead of waiting to receive a mailed Statement, we encourage people to open a my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount so they can access their Statement online, anytime.
Question: How are my retirement benefits calculated?
Answer: Your Social Security benefits are based on earnings averaged over your lifetime. Your actual earnings are first adjusted or “indexed” to account for changes in average wages since the year the earnings were received. Then we calculate your average monthly indexed earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most. We apply a formula to these earnings and arrive at your basic benefit. This is the amount you would receive at your full retirement age. You may be able to estimate your benefit by using our Retirement Estimator, which offers estimates based on your Social Security earnings. You can find the Retirement Estimator at www.ssa.gov/estimator.
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 is required. 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 www.ssa.gov/retireonline.
Question: If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my Social Security disability benefits?
Answer: No, Social Security has several work incentive programs to help people who want to work. You may be able to receive monthly benefits and continue your health care coverage during a trial work period. For information about Social Security’s work incentives and how they can help you return to work, you should do one of the following:
For more information, visit www.ssa.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Question: How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?
Answer: For an adult to be considered disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to do the work you did before and that, based on your age, education, and work experience, you are unable to adjust to any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Also, your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Social Security pays for total disability only. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability (less than a year). For more information, read our publication, Disability Benefits, at www.ssa.gov/pubs.
Supplemental Security Income
Question: My grandmother receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. She may have to enter a nursing home to get the long-term care she needs. How does this affect her SSI benefits?
Answer: Moving to a nursing home could affect your grandmother’s SSI benefits, depending on the type of facility. In many cases, we have to reduce or stop SSI payments to nursing home residents, including when Medicaid covers the cost of the nursing home care. When your grandmother enters or leaves a nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, skilled nursing facility, or any other kind of institution, you must notify Social Security right away. Learn more about SSI reporting responsibilities at www.ssa.gov/ssi. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to report a change.
Question: What is the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability?
Answer: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on prior earnings. SSDI is financed through the taxes you pay into the Social Security program. To be eligible for a SSDI benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be “insured” for Social Security purposes. SSDI benefits are payable to eligible blind or disabled workers, the widow(er)s of a disabled worker, or adults disabled since childhood.
SSI disability payments are made based on financial need to adults or children who are disabled or blind, have limited income and resources, meet the living arrangement requirements, and are otherwise eligible. SSI is a program financed through general revenues. For more information, visit www.ssa.gov.
Question: If I retire at age 62, will I be eligible for Medicare?
Answer: No. Medicare starts when you reach 65. If you retire at 62, you may be able to continue medical insurance coverage through your employer or purchase it from a private insurance company until you become eligible for Medicare. For more information, read Medicare at www.ssa.gov/pubs, or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Question: Is it true that if you have low income you can get help paying your Medicare premiums?
Answer: Yes. If your income and resources are limited, your state may be able to help with your Medicare Part B premium, deductibles, and coinsurance amounts. State rules vary on the income and resources that apply. Contact your state or local medical assistance, social services, or welfare office, or call the Medicare hotline, 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), and ask about the Medicare Savings Programs. If you have limited income and resources, you also may be able to get help paying for prescription drug coverage under Medicare Part D. Call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or call any Social Security office. Also, see our publication, Medicare, at www.ssa.gov/pubs/10043.html. For even more information, visit www.ssa.gov.
Betsy Buchheit is Social Security district manager in Alton.