Q. What is the earliest age that I can apply for my Social Security retirement benefits?
A. The earliest age to receive retirement benefits is 62, but you can apply up to three months beforehand.
If you retire at age 62 today, your benefit would be about 25 percent lower than what it would be if you waited until you reach full retirement age.
Even if you are not ready to retire, you still should sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday. You can do both online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.
Q. What is Supplemental Security Income?
A. SSI provides monthly income to people 65 or older, blind or disabled, who also have limited income and financial resources.
To be eligible, an individual also must be a U.S. citizen and resident of the United States or a noncitizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence. There are, however, some noncitizens granted a special immigration status who are eligible.
To get SSI, an individual's financial resources (savings and assets) cannot be more than $2,000 ($3,000, if married).
For more information, read our publications, Supplemental Security Income or Understanding Supplemental Security Income. Both are available at www.social security.gov/pubs.
Q. Does Social Security provide special services or information for people who are blind or visually impaired?
A. Yes. Social Security offers a number of services and products specifically designed for people who are blind or visually impaired.
For example, we make all our publications available in multiple formats including Braille, audio cassette tapes, compact disks or enlarged print. Also, most of our publications are available online in audio format.
To get any of these products in alternative formats, go online to www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/alt-pubs.html or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY, 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, or contact your local Social Security office.
Submit questions to local Social Security Director Gregory Holmes by writing Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at email@example.com.