September 10, 2009

Your Social Security

ssaRock Island, IL Office
By Christina Vital
Rock Island Social Security office


Do you sometimes wonder whether you’ll be able to afford retirement? It’s a common concern among workers, especially members of the baby-boom generation. Even the most anxious of this group should be able to relieve at least some concerns about retirement income by understanding just how much money is needed, and then planning a way to reach that goal.

Most financial advisors say that you will need at least 70 to 80 percent of your pre-retirement income to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Other advisors say that you may need an even higher percentage of pre-retirement income. So where will it come from?

The truth is that today Social Security is the largest source of income for most older Americans. For the average wage-earner, Social Security will replace about 40 percent of pre-retirement earnings. But Social Security was never intended to be your only source of income when you retire, and to reach the 70-80 percent replacement income goal you also will need other savings, investments or pension income, or even part-time work. If your employer does not provide a pension, then you can set one up for yourself by doing appropriate financial planning and investing.

As the commissioner of the Social Security Administration, has noted, “Saving and investing wisely are important not only for you and your family, but for the entire country. If you want to learn more about how and why to save, you should visit, a federal government website dedicated to teaching all Americans the basics of financial management.”

The topics discussed at this website include paying for an education, starting a small business and, of course, retirement planning. The retirement planning link takes you to more than a dozen other links with valuable financial information. There is, for example, “A Special Guide for Seniors and Families” from the FDIC; “Top 10 Ways To Prepare For Retirement” from the Department of Labor; “Tax Information for Retirement Plan Participants” from the IRS; and several links to Social Security Administration sites, including Social Security retirement benefit calculators, special guides for women and retirement planners.

So if you are concerned about being able to afford retirement, just remember that knowledge is power. Get valuable information from Social Security at, or from the federal website for financial literacy at

You might worry about how to protect your family if something suddenly happens to you. But you probably have life insurance you haven’t even thought about.

If you are working and paying into Social Security trust funds, your family may qualify for Social Security benefits if you die. You see, some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward survivors insurance. In fact, its value might be more than the value of any other life insurance you may have.

If you die, your family could be eligible for monthly benefits based on your earnings. Your family members who might qualify include your minor children and your spouse. Similarly, if your spouse is working and dies, you and your children may qualify for benefits on your spouse’s record. More than six million people currently receive Social Security survivor’s benefits.

Survivor’s benefits will be based on the amount of Social Security taxes you paid while you were working. The more you pay in, the more you can expect the benefits to be. You also must meet certain minimum work requirements.

The best way to put a dollar figure on what the estimated benefit amount would be for your family is to go online. At you will find three different online calculators that will help you estimate how much your family might be eligible to receive. You also will find a detailed explanation of survivor’s benefits. This can be an important financial planning tool when you are shopping for private life insurance. You may want to discuss this in detail with your insurance agent. Financial planners usually advise that you have private life insurance above and beyond what the Social Security Administration can provide.

To learn more, visit

The weather has taken a turn for the better and you might be getting ready for a summer vacation. Maybe you’ll be at your home away from home for a month or two. Perhaps you plan to pack your clothes and a few books you’ve been meaning to read. But don’t forget another important item you may need: your Medicare card.

If you depend on Medicare for your regular medical services, you might need that card this summer. But what if you can’t find your card? What if it’s been lost or damaged and you need a new one?

The solution is simple: simply request a replacement Medicare card. And doing it is even simpler — you can request it online.

Our online Medicare card replacement page is a fast, easy and secure way to get your new Medicare card sent to your home. Just go to our website at and select “Replace your lost, stolen or damaged Medicare card.” The link is on the left side of the page, under “What you can do online.” Simply fill out the requested information and you’ll get your new Medicare card within 30 days; it will be mailed to your address on record. If you need immediate proof of your Medicare coverage, visit your local Social Security office.

If you recently changed your mailing address and haven’t notified Social Security of the change, you need to change your address before requesting your replacement Medicare card.

You can report your change of address by using our online services as well. Simply go to to report a change. You’ll need to provide your old address and new address, including ZIP codes. You also need to provide a phone number in case we need to contact you about the change. You’ll receive a confirmation notice on your computer screen telling you the effective date of the address change. Be sure to wait until the effective date to request your replacement Medicare card.

You can always rest assured that doing business with Social Security online is easy, fast and secure. To learn more about other things you can do on our website, visit Spend time online, not in line! You’re also welcome to call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or visit your local Social Security office.

If you or someone you know recently became unable to do any work and have been thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits, there’s something you can do to get the process off to a good start.

Visit the “Disability Starter Kit” at It will help you prepare for your disability interview and guide you through the application process.

The starter kit gives general information about the disability programs that the Social Security Administration offers, and about the process used to decide whether or not you qualify for disability benefits. The kit also provides guidelines about the specific information and documents we will ask you for during the interview. It takes some of the mystery out of applying for disability benefits, and helps streamline the process.

Each disability starter kit contains:

  • a fact sheet that answers most questions people ask about filing for disability benefits;
  • a checklist of documents and information we will request; and
  • a worksheet to help you gather and organize the information you will need.

The fact sheet provides the legal definition of “disability” for Social Security purposes, and explains whether your condition is severe enough to meet the eligibility criteria. It also gives tips on steps you can take to speed up the decision-making process. The medical decision is actually made by the Illinois Office of Rehabilitation Services, not by the Social Security Administration.

The checklist provides a list of the information needed for most disability claims. That includes documents such as your birth certificate, latest W-2 form or tax return, military discharge papers, and information such as the names and addresses of all the doctors and other health professionals who have treated you.

The worksheet is designed to reflect many of the most important questions we ask during the disability application interview, such as a description of your impairment(s) and the date you became unable to do any type of work. In addition to the information about your treatment sources as outlined in the checklist, it also asks you to list the medications you take and the medical tests you have had. And it asks for information about the kinds of jobs you have held.

Take a look at the disability starter kit now at, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask that a kit be mailed to you.
And when you’re ready to apply, the most convenient way to do it is online at Spend time online, not in line!