October 23, 2021

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Three ways to achieve independence with Social Security | Columnists


Celebrating our nation’s independence every year on July 4 is a point of joy and pride. For more than 85 years, our programs have helped provide financial independence to millions of hardworking people.  We have three useful online tools to help you achieve the financial independence you deserve in retirement. 

mySocial Security – You’re in control with the many services available online through mySocial Security.  Creating a secure account will help you conduct Social Security business from home or on the go.  With your personal mySocial Securityaccount, you can:

  • Request a replacement Social Security card (in one of the 45 eligible states and the District of Columbia).

  • Review your earnings history.

  • Get personalized retirement benefit estimates.

  • Check the status of your Social Security application or appeal.

If you already receive benefits, you can also:

  • Request a replacement Social Security card (in one of the 45 eligible states and the District of Columbia).

  • Get a benefit verification letter or proof of income letter.

  • Set up or change your direct deposit.

  • Change your address.

  • Request a replacement Medicare card.

  • Get a Social Security1099 form (SSA-1099).

Frequently Asked Questions – What is your full retirement age?  How do you apply for Social Security retirement benefits?  Do you have to pay taxes on Social Security benefits?  Discover the answers to your Social Security-related questions at our Frequently Asked Questions page at www.ssa.gov/faq

Social Security’s Official Blog – Stay informed about our latest news, retirement planning tips, and other helpful information.  Our blog at blog.ssa.gov features messages direct from our Commissioner, as well as information from other experts.  You can sign up to get an email each time a new blog is available so you won’t miss new postings.  From the blog, you can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, where  you can watch our informational videos.  Don’t forget to share these resources with your family and friends and encourage them to join us.

With so many services and helpful information available online, we are here for you when your schedule allows.  Be sure to tell friends and family about all they can do with us from anywhere at www.ssa.gov

Happy birthday, Medicare! What happens when you turn 65

This July marks the 56th anniversary of Medicare. Did you know you can apply for Medicare online even if you are not ready to start your retirement benefits? Applying online can take less than 10 minutes. There are no forms to sign and we usually require no additional documentation. We’ll process your application and contact you if we need more information.

Knowing when to apply for Medicare is very important. You have a limited initial enrollment period to apply. If you miss the initial enrollment period, you may have to pay a higher monthly premium. If you’re eligible for Medicare at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday and ends three months after that birthday. Visit www.ssa.gov/benefits/medicare to apply for Medicare and find other important information.  

Some Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for Extra Help with their Medicare prescription drug plan costs. To qualify for Extra Help, a person must be receiving Medicare, have limited resources and income, and reside in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Read our publication Understanding the Extra Help With Your Medicare Prescription Drug Plan for more information at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10508.pdf

The official Medicare website at Medicare.gov offers many online services where you can find answers to these questions:  

 Please share these helpful resources with friends and family today. 

Social Security Column

Access Social Security’s retirement benefits online



Keeping you informed about our benefits and services is important to us. Preparing for retirement is one of the most significant decisions you can make and we’re here to help. A great place to start is our retirement portal at www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement.  

Our website has helped millions of people get ready for and apply for Social Security retirement benefits. On our site, you can:

  • Find the information you need, quickly and easily.

  • Learn about the benefits.

  • Be better prepared to apply for retirement benefits online.

  • Create your personal mySocial Securityaccount to manage your retirement benefits.

Our retirement benefits portal is easy to use, whether you are ready to learn about, apply for, or manage your retirement benefits.  You’ll find the portal pleasing to the eye, informative, and optimized for mobile devices.  

Visit our retirement benefits portal today at www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement to “Learn,” “Apply,” and “Manage” your retirement benefits.  While you’re there, subscribe to receive retirement information and updates. 


Social Security lets you change your direct deposit information online

The most convenient way to change your direct deposit information with us is by creating a mySocial Securityaccount online at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.  Once you create your account, you can update your bank information from anywhere. 

We are committed to protecting your personal information, so we take steps to verify who you are. If you already have an account, we verified your identity when you created your personal mySocial Securityaccount. If you can’t remember your username or password, don’t worry.  At the sign-in screen select Forgot Username or Forgot Password and follow the simple but secure steps to reset them.

When you are ready to change your direct deposit, we highly recommend that you do not close your old bank account until you have seen your Social Security deposit show up in the new bank account.  

We always strive to put you in control by providing the best experience and service no matter where or how you decide to do business with us. Remember, you can do much of your business with us online at www.ssa.gov/onlineservices

Social Security Column

What did you earn at your first job? Social Security can tell you.

Ever wonder what you earned the year you worked your first job?  Or perhaps any other year you worked? We can tell you. Your earnings history is a record of your progress toward your future Social Security benefits. We keep track of your earnings so we can pay you the benefits you’ve earned over your lifetime. This is why reviewing your Social Security earnings record is so important. 

While it’s your employer’s responsibility to provide accurate earnings information to us, you should still review your earnings history and inform us of any errors or omissions. This is so you get credit for the contributions you’ve made through payroll taxes. You’re the only person who can look at your lifetime earnings record and verify that it’s complete and correct. If an employer didn’t properly report even just one year of your earnings to us, your future benefit payments could be less than they should be. Over the course of a lifetime, that could cost you tens of thousands of dollars in retirement or other benefits to which you are entitled. It’s important to identify and report errors as soon as possible. As time passes, you may no longer have easy access to past tax documents. Also, some employers may no longer exist or be able to provide past payroll information.

The easiest way to verify your earnings record is to visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount and set up or sign in to your personal mySocial Securityaccount. You should review each year of listed earnings carefully and confirm them using your own records, such as W-2s and tax returns.  Keep in mind that earnings from this year and last year may not be listed yet. 

You can find out how to correct your Social Security earnings record by reading our publication How to Correct Your Social Security Earnings Record at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10081.pdf.

Let your friends and family know they can access important information like this any time at www.ssa.gov and do much of their business with us online.

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Question: I am receiving Social Security retirement benefits and I recently went back to work. Do I have to pay Social Security (FICA) taxes on my income?

Answer: Yes. By law, your employer must withhold FICA taxes from your paycheck. Although you are retired, you do receive credit for those new earnings. Each year Social Security automatically credits the new earnings and, if your new earnings are higher than in any earlier year used to calculate your current benefit, your monthly benefit could increase. For more information, visit www.ssa.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: Why is it so important that my baby have a Social Security number?

Answer: Your child may need a Social Security number if you are planning to open a bank account, buy savings bonds, obtain medical coverage, or apply for government services for the child. Your child will also need a Social Security number if you are going to declare him or her on your taxes. Getting a Social Security number for your newborn is voluntary, but it is a good idea to apply when your child is born. You can apply for a Social Security number for your baby when you apply for your baby’s birth certificate. The state agency that issues birth certificates will give us your child’s information and we will mail you a Social Security card with the child’s Social Security number. Visit www.ssa.gov/ssnumber for more information. 


Question: I worked for the last 10 years and I now have my 40 credits. Does this mean that I get the maximum Social Security retirement benefit?

Answer: Probably not. The 40 credits are the minimum number you need to qualify for retirement benefits. However, we do not base your benefit amount on those credits; it’s based on your earnings over a lifetime of work. To learn more about how you earn Social Security credits and how they work, read or listen to our publication How You Earn Credits, available at www.ssa.gov/pubs.

Question: I’m trying to decide when to retire. Can Social Security help?

Answer: The best place to start is with a visit to the online Social Security Statement. The Statement provides you with estimates of benefits for you and your family as well as your earnings record and information you should consider about retirement and retirement planning. It is easy to access your statement online by creating a my Social Security account. To create an account, please visit www.ssa.gov/myaccount. The “right” time to retire is different for everyone and depends on your individual situation. To help you make your own decision, we offer an online fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, that highlights some of the factors to consider. Find this publication at www.ssa.gov/pubs/10147.html.  


Question: I am injured and will be out of work for six months. Can I qualify for short-term disability?

Answer: No. Social Security pays only for total disability — conditions that render you unable to work and are expected to last for at least a year or end in death. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability. 

Question: I get Social Security because of a disability. How often will my case be reviewed to determine if I’m still eligible?

Answer: How often we review your medical condition depends on how severe it is and the likelihood it will improve. Your award notice tells you when you can expect your first review using the following terminology: 

  • Medical improvement expected — If your condition is expected to improve within a specific time, your first review will be six to 18 months after you started getting disability benefits.

  • Medical improvement possible — If improvement in your medical condition is possible, your case will be reviewed about every three years.

  • Medical improvement not expected — If your medical condition is unlikely to improve, your case will be reviewed about once every five to seven years.

For more information, visit www.ssa.gov.

Supplemental Security Income

Question: My parents recently moved into a retirement community and are signing their house over to me. Can I still get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or will home ownership make me ineligible?

Answer:  You can own a home and still receive SSI as long as you live in the home you own. In most cases, when determining SSI eligibility we don’t count as a resource the home you own and live in or the car you use. For more information about SSI and Social Security, visit www.ssa.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Question: I moved in with my parents until I get back on my feet. Why did my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payment decrease?

Answer: If you receive SSI, your living arrangements can affect your monthly payment. When you live in another person’s home and do not pay your fair share of the living expenses, this is counted as “in-kind” income and can reduce your SSI payment. You must report any changes in your living arrangement to Social Security within 10 days of the change. When reporting a change in living arrangement, you need to tell us your address, who you live with, and what you contribute toward the household bills and expenses. You also need to report if you move into a private or public hospital or nursing home, an institution run by the government, jail, another person’s home, or a new place of your own. Report changes in your living arrangement at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Learn more about SSI and the things you need to report atwww.ssa.gov/ssi


Question: I will rely on Medicare when I retire. Can you explain the different parts of Medicare?

Answer: The different parts of Medicare coveryour specific needs.There are four parts, all of which work in tandem to deliver healthcare services: 

  • Part A (hospital insurance): Helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay), some home health care, and hospice care.

  • Part B (medical insurance): Helps pay for doctors services and many other medical services and supplies that hospital insurance doesn’t cover.

  • Part C (Medicare Advantage plans): If you have Medicare Parts A and B, you can join a Medicare Advantage plan. Private companies offer Medicare Advantage plans, which are approved by Medicare. These plans generally help you pay the medical costs not covered by Medicare Part A and B.

  • Part D (prescription drug coverage): Helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment.

Question: I lost my Medicare card. How can I get a replacement?

Answer: The easiest and newest way to get a replacement Medicare card is by using your my Social Security account. Go to www.ssa.gov/myaccount for more information on how to create an account. You also can get a replacement Medicare card by calling us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). 

Betsy Buchheit is Social Security district manager in Alton.