2004-07-08 / Other News

Social Security

Steve Beck
Manager, Canarsie Office
Know Your Aging Benefits
Social Security Steve Beck Manager, Canarsie Office Know Your Aging Benefits

Steve Beck Manager, Canarsie Office Know Your Aging Benefits

Question: I was born in 1940, and I know that my Social Security full retirement age is 65 years and six months. But does that mean I have to be 62 and six months to qualify for early retirement benefits? Also, I was told my benefits will be reduced more than for people born before 1938. Why?

Answer: The earliest age at which you can get Social Security retirement benefits is still 62, even for people who must be older than 65 to qualify for full retirement benefits. However, because benefits are permanently reduced based on the number of months you will receive checks before you reach your "full retirement age," you will have a greater reduction than retirees born in 1937 or earlier whose full retirement age is 65.

Q: I plan to retire in October 2004. Even though this will be a "short" work year for me, I should make more money in 2004 than in any other year I ever worked. Will my Social Security retirement benefit amount include credit for the earnings I will make (and the Social Security taxes I will pay) from January through September 2004?

A: Yes, but not at first. We cannot adjust your benefits to credit you for yearly earnings until the year is over. So, sometime in 2005, you will get an automatic increase in benefits that takes into account your 2004 earnings. You should get it by mid-2005, and the increase will be retroactive until January 2005.

Q: I am a 26-year-old welder who is married with two small children. When I was just out of high school, I worked for a company that reported my income using an incorrect Social Security number. My grandfather told me I do not need to correct this because those two years will not be used in my Social Security retirement benefit calculation anyway. Is he right?

A: Because Social Security retirement benefits are based on your highest 35 years of earnings, he might be right about the years not being used in your eventual retirement benefit calculation, but he is wrong when he advised you not to correct your records. If you become disabled, the years in question might be an important part of your disability benefit calculation. Or if you should pass away, any survivor’s benefits to due to your family could be smaller because of the missing earnings on your record. Call 1-800-772-1213 to correct your earnings record - and it would help if you have W-2 forms or any other information about the employer and the earnings in question.

Disability Benefits

Q: I have a neighbor who is getting Social Security disability benefits, yet he often works weekends for his brother doing landscaping work. Is this illegal? And what can I do about this?

A: There are circumstances in which a person can do some work and still receive Social Security disability benefits. But if you suspect that your neighbor is doing something that Social Security should be made aware of, you can call our fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

Q: I am 64 years old and I started getting my own Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. It is not much money because for many years I did not work outside the home. But my ex-husband just started getting his Social Security, and his check is almost four time as much as mine! He said I am not due any benefits on his record because I already get my own Social Security. Is this true? (We were married for over 30 years and I never remarried.)

A: No, your ex-husband is wrong. You are not locked into your own benefits for life. Divorced individuals can be entitled to spousal benefits if the marriage lasted more than 10 years. If you are due more money as a divorced wife on your ex-husband’s Social Security record, we can supplement your retirement check with the higher benefits based on his earnings record. Call 1-800-772-1213 to make an appointment to file for divorce (wife’s benefits. Doing so will not affect the benefit your ex-husband receives from Social Security.

Q: I just turned 60 years old. My husband died 10 years ago. At that time, I collected the $255 death benefit and was told that I could get regular widow’s benefits beginning at age 60. But when I called Social Security to apply, I was told I am not due benefits because I am still working. Does an earnings penalty apply to widows?

A: The so-called "earnings test" provisions apply to all Social Security beneficiaries under "full retirement age," including widows and widowers. Those provisions state that we must withhold $1 from your benefits for every $2 you earn over $11,640 (in 2004).

Different rules apply in the year you reach "full retirement age" and there are no earnings limits once you reach "full retirement age."

Supplemental Security Income Benefits

Q: I began receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit payments in January and was told to expect my monthly payment to show up on the first day of the month. Yet my February check came on January 30, and a neighbor who also is on SSI told me that my May check will arrive on April 30. What gives?

A: The SSI payment date is normally the first day of the month. But if that day falls on a weekend or holiday, we send out the payments on the first preceding banking day.

Q: I get disability payments from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, and also have Medicaid coverage. But a neighbor who gets SSI said she has Medicaid and Medicare coverage. Can I get Medicare, too?

A: People who receive SSI benefits generally qualify for Medicaid coverage automatically. Your neighbor probably has Medicare coverage because she also qualifies for Social Security benefits. You should call us at 1-800-772-1213 to see if you might also qualify for Social Security benefits.

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