Q. I was just wondering if we will get an increase on our Social Security this year or not? 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. Social Security beneficiaries will receive a 1.3% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) this year. That amounts to about $20 extra per month for the average Social Security beneficiary.
Q. I am eligible for benefits; my husband does not have enough credits. I know he will receive survivor benefits if I die, but does he receive any income if both are alive?
A. When you apply for your Social Security benefit to begin, your husband could become eligible for a Social Security spouse benefit if he is at least 62. At 65, he will be eligible for Medicare based on your Social Security earnings record. Upon your death, your husband will be eligible for a surviving spouse benefit (i.e. widower benefit). Whether a spouse or widower benefit is payable depends on your husband’s earned retirement benefits. If, for example, he receives a pension based on non-Social Security government employment, any spousal benefit he is otherwise entitled to receive will be reduced by two-thirds of his government pension. An issue brief discussing this provision of law can be found here. http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10007.html.
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 are based on the full Social Security monthly benefit before the Medicare premium is withheld.
Q. I know that Medicare is deducted from your Social Security check at age 65. If I retire at 62, is Medicare deducted also?
A. You may begin your Social Security retirement benefit early, but you will have to wait until the month you reach age 65 for Medicare to begin. If you are already receiving Social Security benefits at that time, you will receive information about Medicare about three months before your 65th birthday. The first Medicare premium will be deducted from the payment for the month before you reach 65. Medicare coverage will begin on the first day of the month you are 65.
Q. I am retired and receiving Social Security benefits and am planning on getting married. My fiancée is still employed. What effect will this have on my Social Security benefits? Also I am wondering if I should be having taxes taken from my benefits.
A. Marriage or remarriage never affects a wage earner’s own Social Security benefit. Your Social Security benefit will continue unchanged. After one year of marriage, assuming they have reached retirement age, your spouse could be eligible for a spouse benefit. Death benefits would be payable if the marriage lasted at least nine months before ending in death — even less if death was accidental. With regard to having taxes taken from your Social Security benefits that can be done if you have determined you need to do so. The Social Security Administration allows withholding at four possible rates: 7, 10, 12 or 22 percent of your benefit.
Q. If I apply for disability and become approved, will this affect my husband’s check and what about our son’s check?
A. Your eligibility for a Social Security benefit based on your own Social Security earnings record cannot affect your husband’s benefit in any way. If you each meet the law’s eligibility criteria, each of you is entitled to your full, earned benefit. Your son will continue to be entitled to a benefit based on his father’s Social Security earnings record unless a benefit payable on your earnings record or on your combined records would be a greater amount.
Q. I’m 5 years older than my wife. We’re both still working and planning to continue for 3 or 4 more years. I’ve worked continuously and have a higher income. I want to ensure my wife receives the largest monthly payment if I die before we both reach 70. If I never claim, could she claim my “70-year-old” benefit when she reaches 70?
A. Should you predecease your wife, she would have the option of which benefit to begin first — her own benefit or her widow benefit. She would maximize her widow benefit by waiting until she reached full retirement age to apply for widow benefits. Under current law, she would gain no increase by deferring benefits beyond her full retirement age. Should you die before reaching full retirement age, your wife’s widow benefit would be calculated as if you had reached your full retirement age. If your death occurred between ages 66 and 70 (but before you begin benefits) your wife’s widow benefit would be calculated as of your last full month of life.
Q. I started taking Social Security in February of this year and now realize it may not have been the best decision. Once Social Security monthly benefits are started is there any way for me to change my mind and delay receiving benefits and if so what do I need to do to accomplish that?
A. Since it is less than a year since you began benefits, you are entitled to withdraw your original application for benefits. To exercise that option you must repay the benefits received thus far. When you again want to receive benefits, you would submit a new application.
Q. My husband and I both worked full time for many years and individually will qualify for close to a maximum benefit. Will we each be able to do that, or is there a maximum payment to married persons that is less than the total they would receive if they were not married?
A. There is no maximum benefit for a married couple when both have participated in the workforce. In the situation you describe, each of you will receive his or her own benefit. In survivorship cases, the survivor receives whichever of their two benefits is the greater.