Q: What can Social Security do to help me plan for my retirement?
A: Social Security has some great online financial planning tools you can use to make an informed decision about your retirement. Social Security's online Retirement Planner and our online Retirement Estimator are both tools you can access online at any time.
These will let you compute estimates of your future Social Security retirement benefits.
They also provide important information on factors affecting retirement benefits, such as military service, household earnings and Federal employment. You can access our Retirement Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2. Find the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Q: I understand that to get Social Security disability benefits, my disability must be expected to last at least a year or be expected to result in death. But I'm disabled now. Does this mean that I must wait a year after becoming disabled before I can receive benefits?
A: You do not have to wait a year after becoming disabled.
If you're disabled and expect to be out of work for at least a year, you should apply for disability benefits right away. It can take months to process an application for disability benefits.
If we approve your application, your first Social Security disability benefit will be paid for the sixth full month after the date your disability began.
For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to Disability Benefits (Publication No. 05-10029) at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.
Q: What is the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability?
A: Social Security is responsible for running two major programs that provide benefits based on disability.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is based on prior work and the taxes you pay into the Social Security program. To be eligible for an SSDI benefit, the worker must earn sufficient credits based on taxable work to be "insured" for Social Security purposes.
SSDI benefits are payable to eligible blind or disabled workers, the widow(er)s of a disabled worker, or adults disabled since childhood.
SSI disability payments are made on the basis of financial need to adults or children who are disabled or blind, have limited income and resources, meet the living arrangement requirements and are otherwise eligible. SSI is a program financed through general revenues.
For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Get answers to your Social Security questions each Thursday from the Social Security District Director Martin Coffey. Submit questions by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at email@example.com.