Q. I am being penalized under Medicare Part B by paying 20 percent more per month in premiums than I would have paid had I applied for Medicare at 65 instead of 68, even though I was covered by my employer’s health insurance. This doesn’t seem right to me. Comments?

A. You should not be paying a Medicare Part B premium penalty if you had employer-provided health insurance from age 65 until you retired from the workforce. The law grants an exemption from the penalty for any month an over-age-65 worker is covered by their current employer’s health insurance plan or by their spouse’s current employer’s health insurance plan. If you are being erroneously penalized, obtain a statement from your former employer or from the former employer’s insurance company certifying that you were insured by your employer’s plan for months after age 65. Present that statement to your local Social Security office with a request for premium relief. Future premiums will be at the lower rate and all excess premiums paid to date will be refunded.


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. My grandson lost his Social Security card. How do I go about getting him a new card?

A. Your grandson can be issued a new Social Security card at your local Social Security office. He will need to file a new application for a card and provide proof of his identity and U.S. citizenship or legal resident status. If you are applying on his behalf, in addition to proof of his identity and citizenship or legality, you will need proof of your identity. Go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ss5doc/ for a detailed listing of the types of documents accepted as proof of identity. You can either download the application form or call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 or call or visit your local Social Security office to request an application.


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. I am single and will be eligible to receive Social Security as of next January. Will I have to pay income tax on this?

A. All Social Security benefits are subject to Federal income taxation. Whether any tax is due depends on all of your other income. For specific information on taxation of Social Security benefits, call the Internal Revenue Service at 1-800-829-3676 or go online to www.irs.gov and read or download publication No. 915.


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. We know that everyday people who have worked for 20 or more years die before reaching 65. What happens to all of that money?

A. Payroll taxes not needed for immediate benefit payment remain in the Social Security trust funds. Social Security is not only a retirement and disability insurance program. Social Security protects the dependents and survivors of retired, disabled or deceased workers. The FICA payroll taxes paid by workers who do not live to retirement age or who do not recover their own contributions make possible Social Security’s wide range of family benefits. Over four million young or disabled adult children receive monthly benefits as dependents of retired, disabled or deceased workers. Nearly three million retirement-age spouses and five million widows who have not earned their own benefit receive a check based on the working spouse’s earnings. Numerous wives and widows and some husbands and widowers who have earned their own benefit receive partial spouse and survivor benefits because their own benefit is less than the benefit they are entitled to receive as a spouse or surviving spouse. In addition, nearly 1,700 dependent parents of deceased workers receive Social Security retirement benefits.


Q. When I receive my annual Social Security Statement showing the benefit I am eligible for at various ages, does this amount include my wife’s spousal benefit? If not, how can I determine what it is? And what impact does her age have on the benefit? Since she is 3 years younger than me, I’m assuming her spousal benefit will not begin until she reaches eligibility age.

A. A maximum Social Security spouse benefit is 50 percent of your full-retirement-age benefit. The extra 50 percent is not included in the benefit estimate shown on your Social Security Statement. The spouse benefit is paid in addition to the wage earner’s benefit.

A wife is eligible for a spouse benefit as early as age 62, but if the benefit begins before her full retirement age, it must be reduced for months of early retirement. If your wife’s full retirement age is 66, her spouse benefit at age 62 would be 35 percent of your full benefit. Regardless of the age at which she begins a spouse benefit, if she is full retirement age or more before being widowed, your wife’s monthly benefit would rise to the full benefit you would receive if still alive.


Q. I receive Social Security Disability but was claimed as a tax dependent. If that person passes away and I’m no longer claimed as their dependent will my Social Security disability rise or will it remain the same.

A. As a surviving divorced spouse (widow), you have the choice of which benefit to begin first — your own Social Security benefit or your widow’s benefit. You can begin a reduced widow’s benefit as early as age 60 (age 50 if you are disabled) and, if it is more advantageous for you to do so, switch to unreduced benefits on your own record at full retirement age or later. Your own benefit will reach its maximum at age 70.

You may begin benefits while continuing to work, but Social Security beneficiaries who have not yet reached their full retirement age are subject to an annual earnings limitation. In 2024, the limitation is $22,320. The Social Security Administration will withhold $1 in benefits for each $2 of excess earnings.

Before applying for any benefit, you will want to contact the Social Security Administration and obtain up-to-date estimates of the benefits payable on your own and your former husband’s earnings record. Ask for these estimates at your current age, full retirement age and age 70. That information will help you make the decision that is in your long-term best interest.


Q. I am nearing retirement age. I have to continue to work due to financial issues but am wondering if I could claim Social Security through my deceased, former husband now and then when I retire, claim benefits on my own record. I was married for 11 years and have never remarried.

A. Whether your Social Security benefit will increase when you are alone depends on the type of benefit you receive.

If you are receiving your own Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefit based on your personal earnings record, the only increase is annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).

If you are receiving a Social Security Disabled Adult Child (DAC) benefit based on a parent’s Social Security earnings record, it would increase upon the death of the parent. During the parent’s lifetime, a dependent child receives a maximum of 50 percent of the parent’s full benefit. A surviving dependent child receives up to 75 percent of the parent’s full benefit.