Coffey: Steps to show proof of your Social Security benefit

Coffey: Steps to show proof of your Social Security benefit

February 10th, 2011 By Martin Coffey in Business Diary

Q: "How do I show proof of my Social Security benefit amount?"

A: Here are four ways:

-- You can use your SSA-1099 form as proof of your income if you receive Social Security benefits;

-- You can use your annual notice that tells you your benefit amount for the year as verification of your current benefits;

-- The fastest, easiest, and most convenient way is to go online and request a proof of income letter at www.socialsecurity.gov/bene; and

-- You may call Social Security's toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Q: "How can I get an estimate of my retirement benefits?"

A: Our online retirement estimator uses your Social Security earnings record to estimate your future benefits. To use the retirement estimator, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. There, you can enter your identifying information. As long as the personal information you provide matches our records, you can use the retirement estimator to enter other information, such as your expected retirement age and estimated future wages.

This information will be combined with the information that Social Security has on record about your past earnings to provide a quick and reliable online benefit estimate. A Spanish-language retirement estimator also is available at www.segurosocial.gov/calculador. Get an instant, personalized estimate of your future benefits now at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Q: "What are the four parts of Medicare?"

A:The four parts of Medicare include:

-- Hospital insurance (Part A), which helps pay hospital bills and some follow-up care. The taxes you (or your spouse in some cases) paid while working financed this coverage, so it's premium free. For those who are not "insured," coverage may be purchased.

-- Medical insurance (Part B), which helps pay doctors' bills and other services. There is a monthly premium you must pay for Medicare Part B and you may refuse this coverage.

-- Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans, which generally cover many of the same benefits a Medigap policy would cover, such as extra days in the hospital after you have used the number of days Medicare covers. People with Medicare Parts A and B can choose to receive all of their health care services through one of these provider organizations under Part C. There might be additional premiums required for some plans; and

-- Prescription drug coverage (Part D), which helps pay for medications doctors prescribe for treatment.

Anyone who has Medicare hospital insurance (Part A), medical insurance (Part B), or a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C) is eligible for prescription drug coverage (Part D). Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary and you pay an additional monthly premium for the coverage. To learn more about Medicare benefits, read our publication, Medicare, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html.

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 jvass@timesfreepress.com.