Q. I'm trying to decide when to retire. Can Social Security help?
A. The best place to start is with a visit to the online Social Security Statement. The Statement provides you with estimates of benefits for you and your family as well as your earnings record and information you should consider about retirement and retirement planning. Find out more about the Statement -- and get yours -- at www.socialsecurity.gov/mystatement. The "right" time to retire is different for everyone and depends on your individual situation. To help you make your own decision, we offer an online fact sheet with some of the factors to consider at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html.
Q. My husband has been in poor health for some time, and doctors have recently diagnosed him with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease. I've heard Social Security has a "fast track" for some people who are disabled. Can you tell me about it?
A. We have two processes to "fast track" applications for disability benefits. Our Compassionate Allowances initiative allows us to fast-track certain cases of individuals with very severe disabilities. There are 165 different types of disabilities that qualify for this expedited decision, including ALS, and that list continues to expand. Learn more about Compassionate Allowances and see the full list of conditions at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.
Another way we speed up decisions is with our Quick Disability Determinations initiative, which uses technology to identify applicants who have the most severe disabilities and allows us to expedite our decisions on those cases. Read more about Quick Disability Determinations at www.socialsecurity.gov/disabilityresearch/qdd.htm.
Q. My aunt is considering applying for Extra Help with Medicare Part D prescription drug costs, but she has about $10,000 in the bank. Would she still be eligible with this much money?
A. Based on the resources you mentioned, it sounds like she may qualify. However, there are other factors to consider. In most cases, recipients of Extra Help are limited to $13,070 (or $26,120 if married and living with a spouse) in resources in 2012. Resources include the value of the things you own, such as real estate (other than the place you live), cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and retirement accounts. To learn more, visit the Medicare link at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Submit questions to local Social Security Director Gregory Holmes by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.