Q. I turned 65 and my Social Security check was reduced $105 for Medicare coverage. Will my next COLA increase be based on the amount of money I was receiving prior to the Medicare reduction or the amount after the reduction?
A. Social Security Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs) are based on the full Social Security monthly benefit before the Medicare premium is withheld.
Q. I am 59 years old and I have been on Social Security Disability and Medicare for 12 years. What will happen to my payment when I reach full retirement age? Also, when I die, will my wife be entitled to my benefits? She is 56 and is receiving a pension from the state. Will that make a difference?
A. When you reach full retirement age, your Social Security benefit will continue uninterrupted. The only difference will be an in-house bookkeeping change at Social Security Administration headquarters. Disability Insurance benefits are paid from the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund; retirement benefits are paid from the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund. At age 65 your wife will be entitled to Medicare based on your Social Security earnings record. She will be eligible for a spouse benefit as early as age 62, but whether any spouse benefit will be payable depends on the amount of her own public pension. Your wife’s right to a spousal benefit is subject to the Government Pension Offset provision of Social Security law. This provision requires the reduction or offset of any Social Security spouse or widow benefit otherwise payable by two-thirds of any pension earned from non-Social Security covered government employment. An issue brief discussing the Government Pension Offset can be found on the Social Security website. The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare has long supported repeal of unfair Social Security offset provisions or, at a bare minimum, relief from their most serious inequities. For more information, read our piece on government pension offset and windfall elimination provisions.
Q. My wife retired nine years ago at age 62. She has since become disabled. Can she file for disability benefits? If so, how does she go about it?
A. Disability Insurance is available only to wage earners who have not yet reached full retirement age.
In effect, Social Security Disability Insurance is an early retirement benefit for persons no longer able to work due to severe disabilities. When retirement age is reached, a disability benefit automatically converts to a retirement benefit. Monthly checks continue unchanged.
Q. Hi, I am a widow. Can I receive my own Social Security benefit before full retirement age (FRA) and then switch to my late husband’s benefit at FRA and receive his full benefit?
A. The answer to each of your questions is yes. As a widow, you have the choice of which benefit to begin first — your own Social Security benefit or your widow benefit. You may switch from one to the other when it most advantageous for you to do so.
Before applying for benefits, you will want to contact the Social Security Administration and obtain up-to-date estimates of the benefits payable on your own and on your deceased husband’s earnings record. Ask for estimates at age 60, 62, full retirement age and age 70. That information will help you make the decision that is in your long-term best interest.
If you are in the work force, you may begin benefits while continuing to work, but Social Security beneficiaries who are less than full retirement age are subject to an annual earnings limitation. For 2019 the limitation will increase to $17,640. The Social Security Administration must withhold $1 in benefits for each $2 of excess earnings.
Q. I am divorced and collecting Social Security. What are the eligibility requirements for my new wife if I get remarried?
A. After one year of marriage, your wife would be eligible for a Social Security spouse benefit based upon your Social Security earnings record, assuming she had reached retirement age. If your wife were also eligible for her own Social Security benefit, she would receive whichever is the greater amount — her benefit or a spouse benefit. The one-year marriage requirement for a spouse benefit is waived if, by remarriage, your wife forfeited a divorced spouse benefit based on a prior husband’s Social Security earnings record. This is equally true for husband or wife.
Q. My 82-year-old mother is living at a seniors housing apartment in another state. She has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and is getting progressively worse. She will soon need a home where she can be taken care of. I am retired, living on a fixed income, and am unable to personally care for her. What, if any, options do I have for her and where do I start?
A. You need the help of Eldercare Locator. The national number is 1-800-677-1116. It is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Eldercare Locator is a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging and is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and the National Association of State Units on Aging. The services provided are designed for situations like you face.
Eldercare Locator service representatives can put you in touch with local resources in the community where your mother resides. For example, they could help you identify a case manager who could assess your mother’s needs and, hopefully, guide you and any other family members in making a long-term care decision that is best for all. Alternatively, they might suggest full- or part-time homemaker services such as shopping, cleaning and cooking if your mother does not need full-time care at the present time.
Q. I will be turning age 65 soon and I want to apply for my Social Security benefits. How do I do this, and what papers will I need?
A. You should apply not more than 3 months before you want benefits to begin. There are a number of options for applying for Social Security benefits. If you want to schedule an appointment to apply in person at a local office or to apply over the telephone, you can call your local office or the Social Security Administration’s toll-free telephone number, which is 1-800-777-1213. You can also apply online at www.ssa.gov. Click on Retirement at the top right and follow the instructions for completing your application. The Social Security Administration may ask for the following documentation: Your Social Security card (or a record of your Social Security number), your original birth certificate or other proof of birth, proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the U.S., a copy of your U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD-214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if you had military service before 1968, and a copy of your W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax return for last year.