Social Security Questions and answers

By: Richard Shively Jr.
Social Security District Manager, Scottsbluff


Question: How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?

Answer: Social Security benefits are based on credits. Anyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. You can earn up to four credits per year, so you will need to work at least 10 years to become eligible for retirement benefits.

Each year the amount of earnings needed for a credit rises as average earnings go up. In 2008, you receive one credit for each $1,050 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. During your working years, earnings covered by Social Security are posted to your record. You earn credits based on those earnings. When you have your credits and you reach retirement age, you can file for retirement benefits online at

Question: How does Social Security know how much a person has earned?

Answer: Each year, your employer reports your previous year’s earnings to Social Security on Form W-2. Self-employed people report their earnings to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on their tax return. IRS transmits that information to Social Security. Social Security then posts the earnings information to your record. To learn more about Social Security, visit


Question: I recently filed for retirement benefits online. I have a few questions about my application. Who should I call?

Answer: We’re happy to answer your questions. Just call us toll free at 1-(800) 772-1213 (TTY number, (800) 325-0778), between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on business days and a representative can help you. If your questions are specific to your application, we’ll need your name and Social Security number. If they are general questions, you may want to save yourself the phone call at take a look at our website at where you’ll find a wealth of information about Social Security.

Question: When is the best time to retire?

Answer: It depends on a number of factors, and the decision is up to you. A new fact sheet When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits explains the things you should consider. Find that publication and use our online Retirement Estimator to chart your own course by going to And when you’re ready to apply for retirement benefits, save yourself a trip and do it online at the same web address.



Question: I used to get Social Security disability benefits. I tried going back to work, but it didn’t work out. Can you start my benefits again, or do I need to file a new application?

Answer: If your benefits have ended because of work, you can request that we start your benefits again without having to file a new application in most situations. There are some important conditions:

You have to be unable to work because of your medical condition;

The medical condition must be the same as or related to the condition you had when we first decided that you should receive disability benefits; and

You have to file your request to start your benefits again within 60 months of the date you were last entitled to benefits.

To learn more, visit



Question: Can I apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) online?

Answer: Not at this time. But if you’re filing for SSI benefits due to a disability, we do have a way for you to get started – with the Adult Disability Report at Completing this report beforehand will save you time when you do apply for SSI. We recommend you call us toll free at (800) 772-1213 (TTY (800) 325-0778) to make an appointment to complete your application for SSI benefits either by phone or at your local Social Security office.

Question: I just got a notice from Social Security that said my Supplemental Security Income (SSI) case is being reviewed. What does this mean?

Answer: Social Security routinely reviews Supplemental Security Income cases to make sure the individual is receiving the correct amount and that they still remain eligible for benefits. To learn more about Social Security, visit or call us toll free at (800) 772-1213 (TTY (800) 325-0778).



Question: When can I sign up for my Medicare drug coverage?

Answer: If you are newly entitled to Medicare, you may sign up for prescription drug coverage during your seven-month initial enrollment period for Medicare. If you do not join during this period, your next chance to join will be during the open enrollment period between November 15 and December 31 each year. There also will be special enrollments periods if:

You lose your employer-based coverage;

You move from your prescription drug provider’s service area; or

When a provider goes out of business or is decertified by Medicare.

For assistance in selecting a plan and enrolling, visit the Medicare Web site at To learn more about Social Security, visit

Question: I’ll be visiting my grandmother for Grandparents Day this year. Can I help my grandmother apply for the extra help with prescription drug costs?

Answer: You can help your grandmother by completing the application on her behalf. Relatives, friends, attorneys, advocates, social workers and employees of government agencies are authorized to act on someone’s behalf if they are chosen by that person to do so. You have several options when it comes to applying for the extra help. You can:

Apply online at;

Complete the application we mailed to your grandmother and return it in the postage-paid envelope;

Call (800) 772-1213 (TTY (800) 325-0778) if she did not receive an application. We will mail her a form or help her on the phone to complete the application;

Visit her local Social Security office.

For more information about Social Security and the extra help, visit

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