published Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Social Security: Even president pays into retirement system

Martin Coffey

Q: Do members of Congress have to pay into Social Security?

A: Yes, they do. Members of Congress, the president and vice president, federal judges and most political appointees have paid taxes into the Social Security program since January 1984. They pay into the system just like everyone else, no matter how long they have been in office. Learn more about Social Security benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Q: How long does it take to complete the online application for Social Security retirement benefits?

A: It can take as little as 15 minutes to complete the online application. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation to mail in. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative.

To retire online, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.

Q: My mom is interested in getting help with her Medicare Part D prescription costs, but she has about $10,000 in the bank. Would she still be eligible?

A: Based solely on the bank account balance you mention, yes. However, there are other factors to consider as well, including your mom's income. If your mother has other resources, they may be included, too.

This year a person's total resources are, in most cases, limited to $13,070 (or $26,120 if married and living with spouse) to qualify for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. The resource limits shown on the application include a $1,500 per person exclusion for burial purposes.

Resources include the value of the things you own, such as real estate (other than the place you live), cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and retirement accounts like IRAs or 401(k)s. There are exceptions. Read more about how to qualify and apply for the Extra Help at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp/index.htm.

Submit questions to local Social Security Director Martin Coffey by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@timesfreepress.com.

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