|The Social Security Administration handles several important federal programs. Many contact me each month with questions about their retirement, Medicare, and their applications for disability benefits.
Commonly Asked Social Security Questions
How do I apply for benefits?
Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY). You can ask the SSA to send you the correct forms, and they can answer your questions.
In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must have a physical and/or mental problem that keeps you from working for at least 12 months, or is expected to result in death. You must also have worked long enough (earned a certain number of "credits") and recently enough under the Social Security System. The specific numbers are handled on a case-by-case basis.
The SSA receives numerous applications for disability benefits. Because of the large volume of applications, it can take a long period of time to receive a decision. If your application is denied, you may appeal the decision. The first appeal will go back to the state agency in Denver. If you file a second appeal, your file will be sent to the local Office of Hearings and Appeals, where the hearing is heard before an Administrative Law Judge, and may take several months. If you file a third appeal, it will go to the Office of Hearings and Appeals in Virginia, and will take about two years to be decided.
If you receive disability benefits, the benefits won't begin until the sixth full month after the date the Social Security Administration determines the disability began. In addition, you must wait two years before you qualify for Medicare coverage.
When am I eligible to receive benefits?
In order to be eligible for retirement benefits, you have to have enough "credits" (10 years of work--you earn one credit per certain amount of money that you make) and have paid into Social Security.You are eligible for SSA retirement benefits when you reach age 65 (however, beginning in 2003, the age at which you can apply for retirement benefits will increase gradually from 65 to 67), but you can apply early at age 62. If you apply early, the benefits you receive will be reduced, but you will receive them for a longer time.The amount you receive depends on how much you earned when you were working. You can also delay applying for Social Security retirement. If you do so, your extra income may increase your benefit amount, and you will receive a credit.
What determines eligibility for disability?
In order to qualify for disability benefits, you must be unable to perform work of any kind and your disability must be expected to last at least one year or result in death. You must also have worked long enough (earned certain number of "credits") and recently enough under the Social Security System. The specific numbers depend on individual situations.
How do I apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?
Contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).
Supplemental Security Income is an income assistance program administered by the Social Security Administration for people who are 65 or older, blind or disabled without: personal assets worth more than $2,000; access to more than $520 per month (without holding a job); and $1,073 per month (while being employed).
These amounts change periodically. For the most current, call SSA at the above number.
You can generally expect an answer on whether you are eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) within two to six months.
How do I apply for retirement benefits?
Call 1-800-772-1213 or 1-800-325-0778 (TTY).
In order to be eligible for retirement benefits, you have to have enough "credits" and money paid into Social Security.
You are eligible for SSA retirement benefits when you reach age 62. Your benefits will be reduced if you file prior to your full retirement age.
The amount you receive depends on how much you earned while working. You can also delay applying for Social Security retirement. If you do so, your extra income may increase your benefit amount, and you will receive a credit. To find out more about credit you may receive, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 1-800-772-1213.
I have heard there is not going to be a cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits this year. Why not?
With consumer prices down over the past year, monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for more than 57 million Americans will not automatically increase in 2010. This will be the first year without an automatic Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) since they went into effect in 1975.
The Social Security Act provides that Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits increase automatically each year if there is an increase in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) from the third quarter of the last year to the third quarter of the current year. This year there was no increase in the CPI-W from the third quarter of 2008 to the third quarter of 2009. In addition, because there was no increase in the CPI-W this year, under the law the starting point for determinations regarding a possible 2011 COLA will remain the third quarter of 2008.
Some other changes that would normally take effect in January 2010 based on the increase in average wages also will not take effect, even though average wages did increase. Since there is no COLA, the statute prohibits an increase in the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax as well as the retirement earnings test exempt amounts. These amounts will remain unchanged in 2010.
Information about Medicare changes for 2010, when available, will be found at www.Medicare.gov. The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet announced if there will be any Medicare premium changes for 2010. Should there be an increase in the Medicare Part B premium, the law contains a “hold harmless” provision that protects about 93 percent of Social Security beneficiaries from paying a higher Part B premium, in order to avoid reducing their net Social Security benefit. Those not protected include higher income beneficiaries subject to an income-adjusted Part B premium and beneficiaries newly entitled to Part B in 2010. On September 24th, the House passed legislation by 406-18 that would, on a fully paid-for basis, prevent abnormally large premium increases.
The president is calling on the Senate to enact this legislation before it becomes too late for the Social Security Administration to update its computer systems to implement this needed change.
For additional information about COLA, go to www.ssa.gov/cola.
I was awarded a favorable decision by an Administrative Law Judge but have not received any benefits. Can the Congressman’s office help me?
Yes. Occasionally, for one reason or another, benefits are delayed in getting to our constituents. My office can call and check on the status of your claim, and give you an estimated time frame for when you can expect benefits to arrive. In certain cases, where the need warrants the action, the office can ask that the Social Security Administration (SSA) expedite the claim. An example of such need would be if a beneficiary were to receive a foreclosure notice on his or her home, an eviction notice from a rental property, or the beneficiary does not have long to live.
I have been charged with an overpayment. What are my options?
Overpayments can occur for a variety or reasons, and they are always frustrating. The first option is to appeal the decision that an overpayment has been made. You may appeal the overpayment if you feel that the Social Security Administration has made an error. You have a right to continued benefits while your appeal is in review. Second, if the SSA has not made an error, and you are indeed overpaid you may apply for a hardship waiver. A hardship waiver is awarded if the beneficiary is without fault in the overpayment and meets income requirements that prove it would be a terrible hardship to repay the debt. Third, if it is determined that the overpayment is legitimate and there is no hardship, a payment plan can be set up to repay the debt in a manner that is agreeable to both parties.
My claim is taking too long to process, can the Congressman request an expedite?
No. It is not possible for a Member of Congress to expedite a Social Security claim. However, a staff member can monitor your claim and make certain that it is handled properly and within a reasonable period of time relative to other cases in the same office.
In order to open a case on your behalf , I need a signed letter or privacy authorization form from you, giving permission to look into your case. Due to the Privacy Act of 1974, no inquiries can be made without such written consent. As such, an e-mail will not suffice as a release. A written signature must be given.
For all Social Security issues, please download and fill out the privacy authorization form and mail or fax it to Stuart Feinhor in my Boulder Office.