Thursday, March 31, 2011

Setting Up Withholding From Checks

Stanley from California writes:
Without going to the SS office in Palm Springs, where do I find the forms to have withholding tax withheld from my monthly checks. I had it done in 2009 then canceled the WH in 2010 because I wasn't working, but guess what, this 80 yr old Pharmacist has been invited back to be PIC (Pharmacist in Charge) of a concierge infusion pharmacy catering to the uninsured elders with means to pay for this service. Your help would be appreciated.

ANSWER: Well Stanley congratulations are in order on your new position! Now I wonder what a concierge infusion pharmacy is? But getting back to your question, if you choose to have SSA withhold taxes from your benefits, you must file IRS form W-4v with the Social Security Administration. You can simply mail it to your local SSA office. Here is a link to the IRS for a down-loadable and fill-able form with instructions:

If you have not been to the locall SSA office lately and want to check for its current location, here is a link to the online SSA office locator:

Note that monthly withholding is not required, you can pay directly to IRS with quarterly estimated payments if you are familiar with that process. But I suppose you would prefer the convenience of withholding now that you are going to a very busy man. Again, congratulations.

When the Payment Date Is A Sunday

Ramon from California writes:
I receive my check on the 3rd of the month, which falls on Sunday. Will it be delivered on Saturday or Monday?

ANSWER: When the payment date is on a Saturday, Sunday, or a legal Federal holiday, the check will be dated for the first day before that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal Federal holiday. So this year the checks will be paid on Friday, April 1. Let's see if there's any April Fool's jokes in the envelope.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Widow's Benefit On Top Of Disability Benefit

Suzanne from Florida writes:
I only have one question - I am 58 years old and am on social security disability. My husband is 78 years old and gets regular social security. If he dies (heaven forbid) do I get any of his benefits as a survivor on top of my disability payments????

ANSWER: Yes Suzanne, you would be eligible for a widow's benefit even though you are under age 60 because you are disabled. Disabled widows are eligible as young as age 50 if totally disabled. The benefit would be reduced for age as if you were age 60. The difference between your disability benefit and the widow's benefit would be added to your disability amount, so although you would be receiving two benefits, the total would be no higher than the widow's benefit amount alone. Of course, if your own disability benefit is higher you would continue to receive that. You could also defer receiving the widow's benefit to full retirement age to get an unreduced benefit then if it is higher.  But let's hope you don't need to consider these things for a long, long time!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Disability Benefits at 62 Years Young

Mark from Hawaii writes:
In February I became 62 but I have been disabled from work since 52 years old. Do I get an increase in my pay for being 62 years young?
Mahalo and thank you.

ANSWER: Sorry Mark, no. The disability benefit amount is already figured as if you were at Full Retirement Age when it was awarded. At Full Retirement Age (age 66 for you) the disability benefit will be converted to a retirement benefit, but the amount stays the same.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Child Under 18 Paid All Year

Kathy from Ohio writes:
For a child under 18 and in school, on Social Security benefits, are the benefits paid all year long or only when the child is in school--nine months?

ANSWER: Yes they are paid all year long. When the child turns 18, if he or she is in secondary school, benefits continue till graduation. If the child takes secondary school level courses after graduation, benefits can continue up to age 19 if the child is in full time attendance, and even a couple of months after 19 depending on the school program.  The benefits are paid during vacation months, unless the child turn 19 in non-attendance month, at which time they stop.

Delayed Retirement Credits Not For Wife Or Child

Bill from Missouri writes:
Thank you for making your book "Social Security Benefits Handbook" available on the internet. It is the clearest and most helpful resource I have found. I have a question.
I am 61 years old. When I file for Social Security benefits sometime between age 62 and 70 my wife and disabled child will become eligible for payments equal to 1/2 of my monthly benefit. If I then exercise my option to either suspend my payments, or invest them and return them to the Social Security Administration at age 70, thus making my payment go up by 32%, will my wife's and my child's payments also go up by 32%, or will their payment amounts always be based on my benefit back at the time I originally applied?
Thank you for your help.

ANSWER: Thank you for your very kind compliment. I wish I could have better news for you, but no, the Delayed Retirement Credits are not applied to your wife's or child's benefits. The amount of your increased retirement benefit however will be used to figure a widow's benefit if you should predecease your wife. And by the way, if you take benefits before 70 and then withdraw the application and pay them back to get the 32% increase, you would also have to pay back the wife and child benefits paid on your account, which makes that a less desirable option.

Husband's Earnings Don't Count Against Wife's Own Benefits

Wayne from Minnesota writes:
I am writing after reading your book SS Answer Book. I am 61 and will continue to work for 3-4 more years. My wife is 61 and "retired" last year. We file our taxes jointly. Can she file for SS benefits at 62 regardless if I am still working full-time and our "joint" income exceeds the limit for SS? She will not have any W-2 income, just income from her investments.
Thank you

ANSWER: Good question Wayne, but not to worry, if she is filing on her own earnings record. She can collect her own benefits without your earnings having any effect. It is only if she collects a spouse's benefit on your account that your earnings may be considered for withholding of benefits. Of course, her SS benefits may be subject to taxation by IRS.

Changing to Widow"s Benefit

Gail from Indiana writes:
My father-in-law passed away two weeks ago. What do we need to do to change the social security status to widow for my mother-in-law?

ANSWER: Sorry to hear of your family's loss. If your mother-in-law was receiving spouse benefits on your father-in-law's account, it is a simple matter. Simply call SS toll free at 1-800-772-1213. They may have already been informed by the funeral home. Otherwise, they may need a certified copy of the death certificate. If you need to visit your local SS office, here is a link for the online office locator. If your mother-in-law has a benefit on her own account as well as as a spouse, and if she is under Full Retirement Age (FRA), she may consider deferring the widow's benefit until FRA to maximize the monthly amount. In thatb case she should go to the SS office to discuss her options.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Delayed Retirement Credits After Reduced Widow's Benefits

Anonymous from Florida writes:
My ex passed away when we were both in our 50's, and I came across a copy of your excellent reference book [Social Security Benefits Handbook]. So at age 60 I filed for and receive reduced SS survivor benefits on the record of my ex. Your book indicates in an example that I can change to a full benefit on my own record when I reach my FRA. What isn't indicated is whether that change could occur at any age I'm eligible for a higher benefit on my own record. In particular, can I continue the survivor benefit as long as I wish, thus delaying my benefit until age 68 or 70 and receive delayed credits. If this is possible, do I need to inform SSA of my intentions at some point?

ANSWER: Thank you for the compliment about my book! I do appreciate it. The direct answers to your questions are: yes, you can delay filing for your own retirement benefit so as to maximize the amount of delayed retirement credits, and no, you don't have to inform SSA of your intentions, until you make the application. You can file for the retirement benefits on your own account whenever you wish, whether before or after FRA (full retirement age). If you file before, the benefit will be reduced for age, but if it's higher than the widow's benefit and you need the money, you can do this. Or, as you indicated, if you want to wait to get the Delayed Retirement Credits, you can do that too. In short, you can file for your own benefits whenever it is advantageous for you.

Student benefits

Marlana from Indiana writes:
I need to know if I will be able to receive my check from my dad’s disability Social Security when I start college this fall. I will be 18 in June but will still need help for some of my college expenses.

Answer: No, sorry to tell you. Your Social Security benefits as a child terminate when you turn 18 unless you are in high school, in which case they can continue up to the end of the semester that you turn 18. These benefits are no longer payable for college students.

Divorced Wife Benefits

Janet From Alaska writes:
My ex husband has been disabled since 2004 and I was married to him for 18 yrs. I am on ssi supplementary income also. At what age would I be able to get his ssi.? I was born in 1961. Thanks

ANSWER: You will never get “his SSI” because that is a federal welfare program for the aged, blind and disabled who are in need. You are already receiving SSI youself. You are probably thinking of divorced wife's benefits on your ex-husband's account. You will be eligible for these benefits at age 62, if your ex is eligible for social security benefits on his work record. Should he die before you, you may be eligible for surviving divorced wife's benefits at age 60, or at age 50 if you are totally disabled at that time, and if you are not remarried.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Age 62 Retirement

Marilyn from Alabama.
My husband was diagnosed with COPD in 2009. He works as a multi drop driver for a stationary company. He has lost time from work with infections and is finding the lifting harder. They have given him lighter duties but are now looking into getting rid of him as he is 62. Will he be entitled to any benefits and can they terminate his employment.

Answer: Your husband will be entitled to a reduced retirement benefit when he applies. If his medical condition prevents him from working he could possibly be eligible for Social Security disability, which is an unreduced benefit. If he stops working he should definitely apply for both benefits. Whether the company can terminate him is an area of state law but if they fire him for age, that would be age discrimination in violation of a federal statute. If that occurs you should consult with a local attorney.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Check for Deceased Beneficiary

Betty from Montana
If a person dies February 28 at 4:00 a.m. does the Social Security check received in February have to be returned to Social Security? I can understand returning the March check but not the February. Thank you.

ANSWER: You are right. The check received in February is actually payment for the month of January, because Social Security pays in arrears (this does not apply to SSI checks which are paid for the current month). So if the person dies in February the check received in that month is for January and is payable to the surviving spouse with whom the decedent was living at the time of death, or who was entitled as a spouse on that account. If there is no such spouse, then SS will pay to certain relatives (children/parents/widow) according to a priority system. I describe that system in my Social Security Benefits Handbook in Section 1408.