Social Security Facts You May Not Know

For many people, Social Security’s purpose is to provide them with monthly payments. For sure, the agency’s primary responsibility is to deliver benefits on time and in full to tens of millions of seniors, people with disabilities, and their families 12 times a year.

Since its inception, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has added numerous special services to assist its customers, that’s you and me, in navigating medical, familial, and financial problems. Social Security can do some things you may not know about.

Expedite Disability Claims

As of late 2021, the average processing time for Social Security disability claims was more than five months. And that’s just the first step; if a claim is denied, it can take many more months, or even years, to appeal.

People with severe or worsening illnesses might find such a wait particularly difficult. To meet this need, the Social Security Administration established the Compassionate Allowances program. It includes more than 250 serious medical conditions that qualify for disability benefits under Social Security. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications involving those conditions are automatically flagged as fast-tracked and approved in days.

Find out more about Compassionate Allowances and other ways Social Security can expedite disability decisions.

Representative Payees

Some Social Security recipients cannot manage their own benefit payments. These individuals may have cognitive disorders or developmental disabilities, or they may be small children. For such beneficiaries, Social Security can designate a representative payee.

Representative payees have the authority to receive benefits from another person and use them to meet their essential needs, like food, shelter, and health care. In most cases, it is a friend or family member, but nursing homes or organizations may also be able to assist. Payees are held accountable for how they spend their benefit funds, and they are forbidden from using the money to make personal purchases.

You can learn how to become a Social Security representative payee and how it works.

Help With Medicare Drug Costs

Through the Extra Help program run by Social Security and the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare beneficiaries with low incomes have the opportunity to save about $5,100 a year on prescription drug expenses. Aid can be used to cover deductibles, copays, and premiums for a Medicare drug plan.

Program participants must be enrolled in Medicare Part A and/or Part B and have an annual household income no higher than $20,385 for an individual or $27,465 for a married couple living together. Additionally, financial assets like savings, investments, and property other than your principal residence are restricted.

Learn more about the Extra Help program.

Translation & Interpretation

People who speak little or no English may need to contact Social Security about their benefits or other concerns. Social Security provides free interpreter services to anyone requesting or demonstrating a need for language assistance in order to address this problem.

The agency can provide phone or office assistance in Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Farsi, French, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Polish, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. If you need an interpreter, contact Social Security at 800-772-1213. Written materials are also available on the SSA’s website.

Learn more about Social Security services for people with limited English proficiency.

International Social Security Agreements

There are many Americans who work abroad, and there are many foreign nationals who work in the United States. People in either scenario may be subject to dual payroll taxes: paying into two countries’ pension systems with the same wage.

Having negotiated agreements with 30 countries that have comparable retirement programs, Social Security has minimized that risk. A common provision of these agreements is that workers pay payroll taxes only to one retirement system at a time. As part of the agreements, workers can also pool credits earned through employment in more than one country to ensure that they qualify for retirement benefits in the country where they claim them.

Learn more about how Social Security’s international agreements work.

Proof Of Income

You need to prove that your income is low enough to qualify for aid or high enough to make you a good credit risk before you can apply for a loan or benefit. You can obtain the proof of your Social Security benefits within minutes by using SSA’s online service, My Social Security.

My Social Security provides access to customizable, downloadable, and printable benefits verification letters, which serve as proof of Social Security income. Your account also allows you to review your earnings history, check your current or future benefits, order a replacement Social Security or Medicare card, and access other Social Security services.

Learn more about getting a benefit verification letter.

Baby Names

The SSA helps new parents obtain a Social Security number for their baby before they leave the hospital. This is a smart idea since you will need it to claim the child as a dependent on your next tax return and to get them medical coverage.

Having social security involved early has the benefit of making it the go-to resource for all things baby name-related. There is an annual list of the most popular names released by the Social Security Administration (Olivia has been the top girl’s name since 2019; Liam has been at the top of the boys’ list since 2017), but the Baby Names Index lets you search for top baby names by year, decade, and state, as well as see how your own handle (or any other) has changed over time. Those who love nomenclature will find it a gold mine of naming ideas and cultural data.

Learn more about how to get a Social Security number for a new baby and about baby name trends over the last 50 years.

Benefits For Grandchildren

A study published in the September 2020 issue of Pediatrics reports that nearly 3 million children in the United States are being raised by grandparents. On the basis of that relationship, many of them may qualify for Social Security benefits.

As a general rule, if you provide at least half the financial support for a minor grandchild, and the natural parents are deceased, disabled, or otherwise unable to contribute regularly, the child can collect dependent or survivor benefits when you retire, or become disabled or die. For a grandchild who is already on Social Security to receive benefits on your record, you must legally adopt him or her.

Learn more about Social Security benefits for grandchildren.

Originally posted in AARP.

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