May 17, 2012

YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY Davenport, Iowa Office

By Karen Cole
Social Security District Manager
Davenport, Iowa


May 4 is an unofficial holiday designated by fans as Star Wars Day. Why May 4 and not the more likely May 25 (the day the original Star Wars was released)? It all comes down to a simple but catchy phrase: may the fourth be with you.

When celebrating Star Wars day, it can be easy to picture the space warriors in their original state, the way they have been captured on film. But consider this: May is also Older Americans’ Month. That may be more fitting than you realize, since the heroes of Star Wars first burst into pop culture “a long time ago.”

Most of the heroes and villains of Star Wars are now closing in on retirement age. Yes, Han Solo is well into retirement; Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are almost old enough to get Social Security benefits. (Sorry, Chewbacca, but you have to be human to receive Social Security benefits.)

You don’t have to have the wisdom of a Jedi or the knowledge of a Droid to figure out retirement benefits. If you’re planning ahead for a distant retirement, visit the Retirement Estimator to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future retirement benefits. Blast off to

If you’re ready to apply now for retirement benefits, just go online. It’s so easy, and you can do it faster than the Millennium Falcon can outrun Imperial fighters — in as little as 15 minutes at

This year’s theme for Older Americans Month is “You’re never too old to play.” When Star Wars first came out in 1977, social networking would have seemed like space-aged ways to play, but you now can connect with Social Security on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. What’s more, you can even do it from your own smartphone … even if it’s not a Droid.

Visit and target the “Facebook” and Twitter” icons.

This May 4, may the “fourth” be with you. And remember: the benefits will be with you … always.



Do Members of Congress have to pay into Social Security?

Yes, they do. Members of Congress, the President and Vice President, federal judges, and most political appointees, have paid taxes into the Social Security program since January 1984. They pay into the system just like everyone else, no matter how long they have been in office. Learn more about Social Security benefits at

How do I change my citizenship status on Social Security’s records?

To change the citizenship shown on our records:
• Complete and print a new Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5) at; and
• Show us documents proving your:
• New or revised citizenship status (Only certain documents can be accepted as proof of citizenship.

These include your U.S. passport, a Certificate of Naturalization, or a Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to see your current immigration documents);
• Age; and
• Identity.
• Take (or mail) your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.

All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. For more information, visit


How long does it take to complete the online application for Social Security retirement benefits?

It can take as little as 15 minutes to complete the online application. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation to mail in. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. There’s no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. To retire online, go to

I have never worked, but my spouse has. What will my Social Security benefit be?

You can be entitled to as much as one-half of your spouse’s benefit amount if you start your benefits when you reach full retirement age. If you want to get Social Security retirement benefits before you reach full retirement age, the amount of your benefit will be reduced. The amount of reduction depends on when you will reach full retirement age.

For example, if your full retirement age is 66, you can get 35 percent of your spouse’s unreduced benefit at age 62. The amount of your benefit increases at later ages up to the maximum of 50 percent if you retire at full retirement age. However, if you are taking care of a child who is under age 16 or who gets Social Security disability benefits, you get full benefits, regardless of your age. Learn more at


My mother receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. She may have to enter a nursing home later this year. How does this affect her SSI benefits?

Moving to a nursing home can affect your mother’s SSI benefits, but it depends on the type of facility. In some cases, the SSI payment may be reduced or stopped. Whenever your mother enters or leaves a nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, skilled nursing facility, or any other kind of institution, it is important that you tell Social Security. Call Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We also provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day.