December 9, 2009


by Cyndi Hagen
Social Security District Manager, Davenport Iowa

Social Security Announces New Enhancements to Online Retirement Estimator

Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, has announced that the online Retirement Estimator, available at, now can provide immediate and personalized benefit estimates to people who have enrolled in Medicare but have not yet filed for Social Security benefits. Previously, these “Medicare only” beneficiaries would need to contact a local office in order to obtain an estimate of their benefits. Currently, about a half-million people file for Medicare each year and delay filing for Social Security benefits.

“Social Security’s Retirement Estimator has been a huge success – with the agency providing over four million personalized retirement estimates to Americans since its launch last year,” Commissioner Astrue said. “With more people delaying retirement beyond the Medicare eligibility age, it is critical that they also have access to this easy-to-use online tool.”

The Retirement Estimator is interactive and allows users to compare
different retirement options. For example, a person can change retirement dates or expected future earnings to better determine the impact on their future benefits and decide the best time to retire. The Retirement Estimator presently is the highest-rated government online service in customer satisfaction and, according to the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, it exceeds the ratings of private sector online innovators like Netflix and Amazon.

Commissioner Astrue also announced next year the Retirement Estimator will be the first of Social Security’s online services, and the first in all of government, to be made available in Spanish. “Social Security serves a diverse population and we already offer services by phone and in-person in a variety of languages,” Commissioner Astrue noted. “Offering the Retirement Estimator in Spanish will be an important step in making our online services even easier for everyone to use.”


Hunting season is upon us; time to set your target for the Medicare prescription drug plan that’s best for you.

Newly eligible Medicare beneficiaries, and current beneficiaries who are considering changes to their Medicare Part D plan, should mark their calendars for November 15. The “open season” will run from November 15 to December 31.

The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries to help with the costs 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 worth an average of $3,900 per year.

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 also have:
• Income limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21,855 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; or
  • Live in Alaska or Hawaii; and

• Resources limited to $12,510 for an individual or $25,010 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 the extra help at Click on Medicare on the top right side of the page. Then click on “Apply for help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs.” To apply for the extra help 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 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 itself, visit or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).
So this open season, hunt for something that could put $3,900 in your pocket — bag the best Medicare prescription drug plan for you and see if you qualify for the extra help through Social Security.