September 10, 2009

Your Social Security

ssaBy Christina Vital
Rock Island Social Security office


Do you have a question about the Social Security program that you would like answered quickly and simply?

Many people find that one of the easiest and best ways to get answers to their Social Security questions is to visit the Frequently Asked Questions on Social Security’s website. Just go to Social Security Online at At the upper right-hand side of the webpage is a pull-down menu of Frequently Asked Questions. The menu includes hundreds of common questions, conveniently separated into 25 separate subject areas.
Under the subject “benefits” there are more than 70 common questions. For example, “How much Federal income tax do I have to pay on my Social Security benefits?” Under “Social Security number and card,” there are 70 answers to common questions. For example, “How do I replace my lost Social Security card?”

You can get answers to questions like “How do I correct my name or birthdate listed on my Statement?” or “How do I request a replacement SSA-1099, Benefit Statement?” and many more.

If you can’t find an answer to your particular question about Social Security, you can simply type in your question and the Social Security Administration will respond by email.
But in most cases, you’ll find that we have the answer to your Social Security question. After all, we’ve published the most commonly asked questions on the website — 600 of them!

Last year, nearly 30 million people got answers to their questions using our Frequently Asked Questions page. Next time you have a question, look for answers to them online. Just visit the Frequently Asked Questions on the Social Security website at


It’s never too early to start thinking about your retirement. When you do, one of your first questions may be, “When’s the best time to start receiving retirement benefits?” There’s no one “best age” for everyone and, ultimately, it is your choice. Since no one knows exactly how long they will live, there is no way of knowing the best time to apply for Social Security retirement benefits.

With that in mind, Social Security has published a new fact sheet to help you make the decision that’s best for you. When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits is available online at

Things to consider are your current cash needs, health, family longevity, whether you plan to work after you apply, future financial needs and obligations, and the amount of your benefit and other income, such as pensions and income from personal retirement funds, IRA’s, etc. What sort of investments do you have to draw from if you need extra money? Will they last as long as you expect to live?

Keep in mind that people are living longer than they used to. About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90, and one out of 10 will live past age 95. If you decide to retire early, at 62 or any time before your full retirement age, you’ll get your benefits sooner — but you’ll be getting a reduced benefit for the rest of your life. Your monthly benefit will last as long as you do. By applying for Social Security retirement benefits early, at age 62, you will get a lower amount each month, but you will get more checks during your lifetime. You may actually end up with more money by filing early because of this. Since no one knows exactly how long they will live, financial planners often recommend that people apply for Social Security retirement benefits at age 62 rather than gamble on their life expectancy. Your decision can affect your spouse and family, too. If you die before your spouse and dependent children, they may be eligible for survivors benefits. But if you took early retirement, their payments could be based on your reduced benefit amount.

When you reach your full retirement age, you can work and earn as much as you want and still receive your full Social Security benefit payment. If you are younger than full retirement age and if your earnings exceed certain dollar amounts, some of your benefit payments during the year might be withheld. On the other hand, if you put off retirement benefits until after your full retirement age, your amount will increase. In fact, your benefit amount will continue to go up until you reach age 70 or start receiving benefits, whichever comes first.

And when thinking about Social Security, don’t forget Medicare. You should sign up for Medicare three months before reaching age 65, no matter when your full retirement age is—even if you decide to delay retirement benefits. Otherwise, your Medicare medical insurance, as well as prescription drug coverage, could be delayed, and you could be charged higher premiums. Most employer health plans require that their retirees apply for Medicare at age 65. Even if you are still working, you may want to apply for Medicare hospital coverage. You can apply for Medicare at age 65, even if you are not ready to apply for retirement benefits.

Learn more and make an educated decision about when to retire. Visit the online fact sheet, When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, at