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Yolanda York , Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in San Diego, CA

Yolanda York, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in San Diego, CA

Social Security Column-04-29-2009

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This is the line Charles Dickens used to open his novel A Tale of Two Cities. It could just as easily be used to describe the situation for people who benefit from the marvels of modern medicine, yet find it difficult to afford the high costs of those prescription drugs.

This Mother’s Day is the best of times to help your mom save an average of $3,900 a year on her prescription drug costs. Here’s how.

If your mother is covered by Medicare and has limited income and resources, she may be eligible for extra help — available through Social Security — to pay part of her monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. The extra help is worth an average of $3,900 per year.

To figure out whether your mother is eligible, Social Security needs to know her income and the value of her savings, investments and real estate (other than the home she lives in).

To qualify for the extra help, she must be receiving Medicare and also have:

  • Income limited to $16,245 for an individual or $21, 855 for a married couple living together. Even if her annual income is higher, she still may be able to get some help with monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments. Some examples where income may be higher include if she or her husband:
  • Support other family members who live with them;
  • Have earnings from work; or
  • Live in Alaska or Hawaii; and
  • Resources limited to $12,510 for an individual or $25,010 for a married couple living together. Resources include such things as bank accounts, stocks and bonds. We do not count her house or car as resources.

Social Security has an easy-to-use online application that you can help complete for your mom. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp. To apply by phone or have an application mailed to you, call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the Application for Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs (SSA-1020). Or go to the nearest Social Security office.

To learn more about the Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

So this Mother’s Day, help make this the best of times by saving your mom, or any loved one, an average of $3,900 a year on prescription drugs. In times like these, every dollar counts.

Questions ans Answers


Question: I’ve heard there is a way for my son to get his disability application on the “fast-track.” How does this work?

Answer: Take a look at whether you son has one of the 50 impairments — 25 rare diseases and 25 cancers — on the list at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances. If your son has one of those impairments, it may allow his application to be fast-tracked. Recently Social Security announced this “Compassionate Allowances” initiative. It allows applicants to receive a decision on their disability application within days, if their medical conditions are so severe that they obviously meet Social Security’s definition of disability. Over time, more diseases and conditions will be added to the list. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

Question: I am expecting a child and will be out of work for six months. Can I qualify for short-term disability?

Answer: No. Social Security pays only for total disability — conditions that render you unable to work and are expected to last for at least a year or end in death. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability, including benefits while on maternity leave. The disability evaluation process considers any current work activity you are doing, and your medical condition and how it affects your ability to work. For more information, we recommend that you read the publication, Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and request a copy.



For years, I’ve enjoyed the convenience of having my Social Security benefit directly deposited into my bank account. I’ve recently changed banks. How do I change my direct deposit from one bank to another?

Answer: You can sign up or change your direct deposit account by:

  • Contacting your bank, credit union, or savings and loan association, or financial institution;
  • Filling out a Direct Deposit Sign Up Form and taking it to your financial institution or Social Security office. The form is available at www.socialsecurity.gov/deposit/1199a.pdf.
  • Calling Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778); or Obtaining a password at secure.ssa.gov/acu/IPS_INTR/main.jsp. Then you can start or change direct deposit online by going to www.socialsecurity.gov (for Social Security benefits only).

When you contact us, be sure to have your Social Security number and a personal check or statement from your new account. We will need information from these documents to start your new direct deposit. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Question: What’s this I hear about a one-time recovery payment for Social Security beneficiaries? Will I get a payment?

Answer: If you get Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), then you should receive a one-time recovery payment of $250. On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Among its provisions are one-time payments to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries. You should receive your payment by the end of May. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/payment.


Question: How much money can I earn and still get Social Security benefits?

Answer: It depends on your age. Social Security uses the formulas below to determine how much your benefit must be reduced when you earn money:

  • If you are under your full retirement age when you start getting your Social Security payments, we deduct $1 in benefits for each $2 you earn above an annual limit. For 2009, that limit is $14,160.
  • In the year you reach your full retirement age, we will deduct $1 in benefits for each $3 you earn above a different limit. For 2009, this limit is $37,680.
  • Starting with the month you reach full retirement age, you can earn as much as you want and still receive all of your Social Security benefits. To learn more, read our publication How Work Affects Your Benefits available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10069.html.


    Question: I just got turned down for disability benefits. Can I appeal the decision, or should I file a new application?

    Answer: You can appeal the decision, and the most convenient way to go about it is to appeal online. An Internet appeal is a starting point to request a review of our decision about your eligibility for disability benefits.

    If your application is denied for:

    • Medical reasons: You can complete and submit the required appeal request online. The disability appeal report asks you for updated information about your medical condition and any treatment, tests or doctor visits since we made our decision. You’ll find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.
    • Non-medical reasons: You should contact your local Social Security office to request the review. You can find your local office by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov and selecting “Find a Social Security Office.” You also may call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), to request an appeal.

    Question: I am disabled but I’d like to try returning to work. Can Social Security help?

    Answer: We may be able to help you try to return to work without losing your benefits. Social Security has several work incentive programs to encourage those who can work to try doing so. For information about these incentives, visit our “work site” online at www.socialsecurity.gov/work. You can also read the Red Book on Work Incentives at www.socialsecurity.gov/redbook.

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