Q: Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that affect me?
A: It depends on your age. If you are full retirement age or older when you first apply, and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can choose to file and receive benefits on just your spouse's Social Security record.
This way, you could delay filing for benefits on your own record to receive delayed retirement credits.
By filing only for benefits as a spouse, you may receive a higher retirement benefit on your own record later based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.
You can earn delayed retirement credits up to 70 as long as you do not collect your own benefits.
Since the rules vary depending on the situation, you should talk to a Social Security representative about the options available to you. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Q: What is supplemental security income?
A: The SSI program provides monthly payments to people with limited income and financial resources who are 65 or older, blind or disabled. In 2010, the maximum federal SSI payment is $674 a month for an individual and $1,011 a month for an eligible couple. This amount may be reduced if you have other income. Many states supplement SSI payments. Go to www.socialsecurity.gov to view electronic leaflets about these state supplements.
To get SSI, your financial resources (savings and assets you own) cannot exceed $2,000 ($3,000 if married). If you are married and only one person is eligible, a portion of your spouse's income may be counted. You can be eligible for SSI even if you have never worked in employment covered under Social Security.
Generally, to be eligible for SSI, an individual also must be a U.S. resident and citizen or a non-citizen lawfully admitted for permanent residence. In addition, some non-citizens granted a special immigration status by the Department of Homeland Security also may be eligible.
For more information, you may want to read "SSI," Publication No. 05-11000. You also may want to read our introductory material in the booklet, Understanding SSI. Both are available at www.socialsecurity.gov.
Q: I understand my Medicare prescription plan is being discontinued and that I need to make changes to my Medicare Part D coverage. When can I do that?
A: Open season for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage runs from Nov. 15 to Dec. 31 each year. The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries to help with the costs of medications. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage. Learn more at www.medicare.gov. In addition, if you have limited resources and income, you also may be eligible for "Extra Help" to pay for monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. The Extra Help is worth an average of $3,900 per year. To find out more, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.
Get answers to your Social Security questions each Thursday from the Social Security District Director Martin Coffey. Submit questions by writing to Business Editor John Vass Jr., Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.