October 29, 2012

YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY Davenport, Iowa Office

By Karen Cole
Social Security District Manager
Davenport, Iowa


Kids are back in school, and in the breezy afternoons, you can find them raking leaves, or jumping in them. It’s that time of year. Soon, on the way to Thanksgiving dinner, children may be singing in the back seats of cars: Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go …

Did you know that the original song had children in a horse-drawn sleigh on their way to Grandfather’s house?

A lot has changed since those days. Take the Internet, for example. A generation ago, no one would have considered mapping out directions on the web, or ordering a package online, delivered directly to the destination. No one would have imagined doing business with Social Security with a computer.

This Thanksgiving Day, after you’ve enjoyed your feast and exhausted conversation, why not show Grandma and Grandpa how easily they can use www.socialsecurity.gov to avoid unneeded trips to a Social Security office.

For starters, you can take them to the online Retirement Estimator, a tool that helps them figure out how much they may get in monthly benefits depending on when they retire. It’s available at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Or tell them about the hot new service everyone is talking about: the new online Social Security Statement. It provides a record of past earnings, along with projected earnings for future years to give an estimate of future Social Security benefits. It’s available at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement.

You also can show them our library of online publications containing all the information they need to know about an array of Social Security, retirement, and Medicare subjects. You can see our publications at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. If they were thinking about retirement, you may want to show them just how knowledgeable you are by suggesting they read the publication, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html.

And if they’re ready to retire, take them to www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline, where they can apply online for retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes — that may be less time than it takes to brew a pot of coffee and slice a pumpkin pie. Once they click the “submit” button, they’re done. (And so are you.)

As you’re preparing to go over the river, through the woods, or across town to visit family this Thanksgiving Day, consider inviting www.socialsecurity.gov to the gathering.


Hunting season is open. But rather than hunting for game, may we recommend setting your sights for the Part D Medicare prescription drug plan that’s best for you? You’ll have more time than usual this year, because open season is lasting longer than usual.

If you currently are enrolled in Medicare and are considering changes to your Medicare Part D plan, act now. The “open season” runs from October 15 to December 7.

The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries to help with the cost of medications. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage.

While all Medicare beneficiaries can participate in the prescription drug program, some people with limited income and resources also are eligible for Extra Help to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. The Extra Help is
estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year. Many people qualify for these big savings and don’t even know it.

To figure out whether you are eligible for the Extra Help, Social Security needs to know your income and the value of any savings, investments, and real estate (other than the home you live in). To qualify, you must be receiving Medicare and have:
• Income limited to $16,755 for an individual or $22,695 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is higher, you still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. Some examples where your income may be higher include if you or your spouse:
—Support other family members who live with you
—Have earnings from work
—Live in Alaska or Hawaii
• Resources limited to $13,070 for an individual or $26,120 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds. We do not count your house or car as resources.

You can complete an easy-to-use online application for Extra Help at www.socialsecurity.gov. Click on Medicare on the top right side of the page. Then click on “Get Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs.” To apply by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020). Or go to your nearest Social Security office.

And if you would like more information about the Medicare Part D prescription drug program, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

So this open season, hunt for something that could put an extra $4,000 in your pocket — bag the best Medicare prescription drug plan for you and see if you qualify for the Extra Help through Social Security. That’s a trophy worth displaying in your den.


What is the earliest age that I can apply for my Social Security retirement benefits?

The earliest age to receive retirement benefits is 62, but you can apply up to three months beforehand. If you retire at age 62 today, your benefit would be about 25 percent lower than what it would be if you waited until you reach full retirement age.

Even if you are not ready to retire, you still should sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. You can do both online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.