Q. When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, who is eligible for survivors benefits?
A. Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:
• Widows or widowers -- unreduced benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60
• Disabled widows or widowers -- as early as age 50
• Widows or widowers at any age if they take care of the deceased's child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits
• Unmarried children under age 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending secondary school full time. Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren and grandchildren
• Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled
• Dependent parents age 62 or older.
Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivors benefits. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
Q. What is the purpose of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI?
A. The purpose of SSI is to help aged, blind and disabled people who have little income and few resources to support themselves. It provides financial assistance to meet basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. You can receive SSI even if you have not worked and paid into Social Security. SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). Find out more at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.
Q. I pay my monthly premium directly to my Medicare prescription drug plan provider. Why can't I also pay my income-related monthly adjustment amount directly to my Medicare prescription drug plan provider?
A. By law, we must deduct your income-related monthly adjustment amount from your Social Security payments. If the amount you owe is more than the amount of your payment, or you don't get monthly payments, you will get a separate bill from another federal agency, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or the Railroad Retirement Board. Read our publication, Medicare Premiums: Rules for Higher-Income Beneficiaries, for an idea of what you can expect to pay. You'll find it at www.social security.gov/pubs.
Gregory Holmes is district manager for Social Security in Chattanooga.