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Social Security

Specialist answers questions regarding benefits, services and more


What are the requirements for receiving disabled widow’s benefits?

You may be able to get disabled widow(er)’s benefits at age 50 if you meet Social Security’s disability requirement. Your disability must have started before age 60 and within seven years of the latest of the following dates: the month the worker died; the last month you were entitled to survivors benefits on the worker’s record as a parent caring for a surviving minor child; or the month your previous entitlement to disabled widow(er)’s benefits ended because your disability ended. To learn more, visit


How do I appeal a decision on my application for disability benefits?

When we make a decision on your application, we’ll send you a letter explaining our decision. If you don’t agree with our decision, you may ask us to look at your case again, or appeal it. You must appeal within 60 days from the date you get our decision letter. You can file a disability appeal online at and electronically provide documents to support your request, even if you live outside of the United States; or visit your local Social Security office.

For more information, call 900-772-1213 (TTY 900-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To learn more about Social Security’s disability programs, visit


I’m on Supplemental Security Income and live with my two brothers in an apartment. My SSI payment is cut by one-third because the Social Security office says I don’t pay enough of the household expenses. How much of the expenses must I pay in order to get the full SSI rate?

Under the rules of the program, you must be paying an equal share of the expenses. Because there are three of you in the household, you must pay one-third of the expenses. If you are not paying an equal share of the rent, utilities, groceries and other household expenses, your SSI payment must be reduced. To learn more, visit


How can I become a representative payee?

If you know someone who receives Social Security or Supplemental Security Income and who needs assistance managing his or her payments, contact your local Social Security office about becoming a representative payee. Go to for more information.


I applied for Medicare benefits last week. How can I check the status of my application?

You can check the application status online with your personal My Social Security account at, but you must wait five days from the date you originally filed. If you are unable to check your status online, call 900-772-1213 (TTY 900-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.


I want to sign up for a Medicare Part C and D plan, but I’m not sure which plan I want. Is there a resource to help me find a plan?

Yes. has an online plan finder and instructions available on how to use this tool. To access the Medicare Plan Finder, visit


Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that work?

It depends on your date of birth. If you were born on or before Jan. 1, 1954, and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you may apply for retirement benefits on your spouse’s record as long as you are at your full retirement age. You then will earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70, as long as you do not collect benefits on your own work record. Later, when you do begin receiving benefits on your own record, those payments could very well be higher than they would have been otherwise. If your spouse also is full retirement age and does not receive benefits, your spouse will have to apply for benefits and request the payments be suspended. Then you can receive benefits on your spouse’s Social Security record. If you were born on or after Jan. 2, 1954, and wish to receive benefits, you must file for all benefits for which you are eligible. Social Security will determine the benefits for which you are eligible and pay you accordingly. For individuals born on or after Jan. 2, 1954, there is no longer an option to select which benefit you would like to receive, even beyond your full retirement age. Widows are an exception, since they can choose to take their deceased spouse’s benefit without filing for their own. For more information, visit


I’m creating my budget for next year. How much will my benefit increase at the beginning of the year?

The annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI-W) as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the years when a COLA is due, you will receive your COLA starting in January. Visit our website, to see if a COLA is in effect for this year.


Recently, I was told I shouldn’t be carrying My Social Security card around. Is that true?

We encourage you to keep your Social Security card at home in a safe place. Do not carry it with you unless you are taking it to a job interview or to someone who requires it. Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America, and the best way to avoid becoming a victim is to safeguard your Social Security card and number. To learn more, visit


If I get Social Security disability benefits and I reach full retirement age, will I then receive retirement benefits?

Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when disability beneficiaries reach full retirement age. In most cases, the payment amount does not change. The law does not allow a person to receive both retirement and disability benefits simultaneously on one earnings record. To learn more, visit


I’m reaching my full retirement age and thinking about retiring early next year. When is the best time of year to apply for Social Security benefits?

You may apply as early as four months before when you want your monthly benefits to begin. To apply, just go to Applying online for retirement benefits from your home or office is secure and can take as little as 15 minutes.


Vonda VanTil is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan. You may write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email to


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