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to a Hodgepodge of Social Security Questions
I normally like to confine my columns to one particular Social Security topic.
But today, we’ve got a hodgepodge of questions dealing with a variety of
Social Security issues. Here it goes.
Q: In a recent column, you said you could explain any Social Security
law. Well, can you give me the rationale behind this rule? If I delay taking
Part B Medicare
until sometime past age 65, I am charged an extra 10 percent premium penalty
for each year I didn’t have Part B, and I have to pay that penalty for
the rest of my life. Can you explain why that is? It seems like highway robbery
A: It’s an incentive to get people to take Medicare at 65, and not wait
until they need it. That’s the way any insurance works. For example, if
you were to delay buying life insurance until you were 80 years old and in ill
health, you are going to pay a much higher premium than if you took out that
life insurance policy at a younger age when you were fit as a fiddle. Likewise,
if you delay buying Part B Medicare until you are older and sicker, than you
are going to pay a higher premium for that, too.
Q: I have a 53-year-old disabled sister in Missouri who is almost destitute.
Her husband has run off with another woman and left her with nothing. She filed
for Social Security disability twice and was turned down both times. I don’t
see how they could do that because, believe me, no one will hire her because
of all her problems. You recently wrote a column about SSI. Do you think my sister
is eligible for SSI?
A: For those who don’t know, SSI stands for Supplemental Security Income.
SSI is a federal welfare program managed (but not funded) by the Social Security
The same disability evaluation criteria apply to Social Security and SSI. In
other words, because it was decided that your sister is not disabled enough to
qualify for Social Security, then she will not be disabled enough to qualify
for SSI either.
But if your sister was turned down for Social Security disability for non-medical
reasons (for example, because she didn’t have enough work credits for to
be eligible for Social Security), then there is a chance she might still qualify
for SSI. To get SSI, her income and assets must be below certain limits that
vary from one state to another. So if your sister was denied for non-medical
reasons, she will have to check with her local Social Security office to see
if she meets the SSI eligibility criteria for Missouri.
Q: In a recent column, you printed a letter from someone who characterized her
local Social Security office as a zoo. I just wanted you to know that I have
always found my local Social Security office to be a very pleasant place to do
business. And every time I visit, I deal with professional and helpful personnel.
A: Thanks for sharing that. You are not the only person who wrote to tell me
about good service from their local Social Security office. I have worked in
or visited hundreds of Social Security offices throughout my career. Most were
as professional as the office you describe. A few left some things to be desired.
But then that is true with almost any business or office. For example, I have
been in Department of Motor Vehicle offices that looked like a top class establishment
and I have been in DMV offices that look like a prison waiting room. I have been
in fast-food restaurants that looked as nice as the finest dining establishments
in town and in burger joints that looked like they should have been shut down
by the health department. My wife used to work in a library that looked like
the font of knowledge it was. But I have been in libraries that looked like homeless
I guess my point is that any government agency or business that deals with the
public on a regular basis can be a pleasant place to visit, or it can be a zoo.
Q: You passed along some good advice in a recent column you wrote about
who are married to jerks. But you did make one mistake. You told a 62-year-old
woman whose philandering 62-year-old husband was going to wait until 70 to claim
benefits, thus forcing her to also wait until 70 to get spousal benefits on his
record, to divorce the guy. You told her by doing so, she could get benefits “right
away.” But as a 25-year employee with the Social Security Administration,
I can tell you that the rules say there is a two-year waiting period after the
divorce before she can get benefits.
A: Thanks for picking up on my mistake! The lady should still “dump his
sorry butt” as I suggested in the column. If she remains married to him,
she won’t get any spousal benefits until age 70. But if she divorces him,
she will be able to start drawing those benefits at age 64.
Q: Do you recommend using Social Security’s website to apply for
A: Yes, IF you have a relatively simple claim. If you are just filing for your
own retirement or disability benefits, and you don’t have any potentially
complicated issues, like dependents or a questionable retirement situation, then
the website is the way to go. You can file online at the Social Security Administration
website: www.socialsecurity.gov. But I especially advise people who plan to use
the file and suspend or the restricted application procedures I have discussed
many times in this column to forgo the website and instead call SSA at 800-772-1213
to set up an appointment to talk to someone in person.
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