Social Security: Changing citizenship requires form, documents

Social Security: Changing citizenship requires form, documents

August 9th, 2012 Greg Holmes in Business Diary

Q How do I change my citizenship status on Social Security records?

A To change your citizenship status shown in Social Security records:

• Complete an application for a Social Security card (Form SS-5), which you can find online at www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.html

• Locate documents proving your age, identity and new or revised citizenship status. Only certain documents can be accepted as proof of citizenship. These include your U.S. passport, a Certificate of Naturalization, or a Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to see your current immigration documents.

Then, take (or mail) your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.

All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.

Q I just got back from an overseas military deployment and I want to plan ahead for my retirement. How will my military retirement affect my Social Security benefits?

A Your military retirement won't affect your Social Security benefits at all. You can get both.

Generally, there is no offset of Social Security benefits because of your military retirement. You will get full Social Security benefits based on your earnings. However your Social Security benefit might be reduced if you also receive a government pension based on a job in which you did not pay Social Security taxes.

You can find more information in the publication Military Service and Social Security at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10017.html. You also may call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

Q My doctor said he thinks I'm disabled. Who decides if I meet the requirements for Social Security disability benefits?

A We first will review your application to make sure you meet some basic requirements for Social Security disability benefits, such as whether you worked enough years to qualify.

Then we will send your application to the disability determination services office in your state, often called the "DDS" or "state agency" to determine whether you meet the legal definition of disabled.

Your state agency completes the disability decision for us. Doctors and disability specialists in the state agency ask your doctors for information about your condition. They consider all the facts in your case. They use the medical evidence from your doctors and hospitals, clinics or institutions where you have been treated and all other information.

The state agency staff may need more medical information before they can decide if you are disabled. If more information is not available from your current medical sources, the state agency may ask you to go for a special examination.

The preference is to ask your own doctor, but sometimes the exam may have to be done by someone else. Social Security will pay for the exam and for some of the related travel costs. Learn more about disability benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

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.