Social Security Questions & Answers: July

| July 25, 2013

GENERAL

Question: How many Social Security numbers have been issued since the program started?

Answer: Since numbers were first issued in November 1936, we have assigned about 460 million numbers. There are about one billion possible combinations of the nine-digit Social Security number. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/history/ssn/ssncards.html for a complete history of the Social Security number.

Question: How do I change my citizenship status on Social Security’s records?

Answer: To change your citizenship status shown in Social Security records:

Complete an application for a Social Security card (Form SS-5), which you can find online at www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.html; and

Provide documents proving your:

1. New or revised citizenship status (We can only accept certain documents as proof of citizenship. These include your U.S. passport, a Certificate of Naturalization, or a Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to see your current immigration documents);

2. Age; and

3. Identity.

• Next, Take (or mail) your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.

All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

RETIREMENT

Question: My spouse and I are both entitled to our own Social Security benefits. Will Social Security reduce our combined benefits because we are married?

Answer: No. When each member of a married couple works in employment covered under Social Security and both meet all other eligibility requirements to receive retirement benefits, we calculate their lifetime earnings independently to determine their benefit amounts. Therefore, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings. If one spouse earned low wages or did not earn enough Social Security credits (40) to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse. To learn more about retirement, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/retirement.

Question: I have never worked but my spouse has. What will my benefits be?

Answer: You can be entitled to as much as one-half of your spouse’s benefit amount when you reach full retirement age. If you want to get Social Security retirement benefits before you reach full retirement age, the amount of your benefit is reduced. The amount of reduction depends on when you will reach full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 66, you can get 35 percent of your spouse’s unreduced benefit at age 62 (a permanent reduction); if your full retirement age is 67, you can get 32.5 percent of your spouse’s unreduced benefit at age 62 (a permanent reduction).

The amount of your benefit increases if your entitlement begins at a later age, up to the maximum of 50 percent at full retirement age. However, if you are taking care of a child who is under age 16 or who gets Social Security disability benefits on your spouse’s record, you get the full spouse’s benefits, regardless of your age. Learn more about retirement benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/retirement.

 

SUPPLEMENTAL SECURITY INCOME

Question: Can I receive Social Security benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits at the same time?

Answer: You may be able to receive SSI in addition to monthly Social Security benefits if your Social Security benefit is low enough for you to qualify for SSI. Whether you can get SSI depends on your income and resources (the things you own). If you have low income and few resources, you may be able to supplement your Social Security benefit with an SSI payment. You can find out more about SSI by going to www.socialsecurity.gov and selecting the “SSI” tab at the top of the page.

Question: What are the limits on what I can own to be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Can I have money in the bank, a car, and a furnished house?

Answer: We count real estate, bank accounts, cash, stocks, and bonds toward the resource limits on what you can own. You may be able to get SSI if your resources are worth no more than $2,000. A couple may be able to get SSI if they have resources worth no more than $3,000. Keep in mind that we usually don’t count the house you live in, personal items such as furniture and clothing, or the car you drive. If you own valuable property you are trying to sell, you may be able to get SSI while trying to sell it. You can find out more about SSI by going to www.socialsecurity.gov and selecting the “SSI” tab at the top of the page.

 

DISABILITY

Question: How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: There are two ways that you can apply for disability benefits. You can:

1. Apply online at www.socialsecurity.gov; or

2. Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), to make an appointment to file a disability claim at your local Social Security office or to set up an appointment for someone to take your claim over the telephone.

 

If you schedule an appointment, we will mail a Disability Starter Kit to you. The kit will help you get ready for your disability claim interview. If you are applying online or want to get started on the kit right away, it is available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

Question: My doctor said he thinks I’m disabled. Who decides if I meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: We first will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for Social Security disability benefits, such as whether you worked enough years to qualify. Then we will send your application to the disability determination services office in your state, often called the “DDS” or “state agency.” Your state agency completes the disability decision for us. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. They consider all the facts in your case. They use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics, or institutions where you have been treated and all other information.

The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is not available from your current medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination. We prefer to ask your own doctor, but sometimes the exam may have to be done by someone else. Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs. Learn more about disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

 

MEDICARE

Question: Who can get Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug coverage?

Answer: If you receive Medicare and have limited income and resources, you may be eligible for Extra Help—Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage—to pay for the costs (monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments) related to a Medicare prescription drug plan. To qualify for Extra Help, you must reside in one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia. Your resources must be limited to $13,300 for an individual or $26,580 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. We do not count your house and car as resources. Your annual income must be limited to $17,235 for an individual or $23,265 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.

Category: Social Security

About the Author ()

Chuck Stovall is an assistant district manager with the Social Security Administration.

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