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Social Security answers your questions

Published: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:32 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 27, 2013 2:33 p.m. CDT

General questions

Question:

What can I do if I think someone has stolen my identity?

Answer:

You should do several things, including:File a report with the local police or the police department where the identity theft took place, and keep a copy of the police report as proof of the crime;Notify the Federal Trade Commission (1-877-ID-THEFT or 1-877-438-4338);File a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov; andContact the fraud units of the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax 800-525-6285; Trans Union: 800-680-7289; and Experian: 888-397-3742.

If your Social Security card has been stolen, you can apply for a replacement card. But you usually don’t need a new card as long as you know your number.To protect yourself in the future, treat your Social Security number as confidential and avoid giving it out. Keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. Learn more by reading our publication, Identity Theft And Your Social Security Number, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10064.html.

Disability

Question:

I heard that my disability must be expected to last a year to qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Does this mean I have to wait until I’ve been disabled an entire year before applying for disability through Social Security?

Answer:

No. If you believe your disability will last a year or longer, apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled. It can take an average of three to four months to process an application. If your application is approved, we will pay your first Social Security disability benefits for the sixth full month after the date your disability began. For example, if your state agency decides your disability began on Jan. 15, Social Security will pay your first disability benefit for the month of July.

Social Security pays in the month following the month for which they are due, so you will receive your July benefit in August.For more information about Social Security disability benefits, refer to our publication, Disability Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.

Retirement

Question:

What can Social Security do to help me plan for retirement?

Answer:

Social Security provides great financial planning tools that can help you make informed decisions. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov and open a my Social Security account to access your online Social Security Statement. The Statement lists your earnings and the Social Security taxes you paid over the years. It also estimates the Social Security benefits you (and dependent family members) may be eligible to receive. The Statement can help you plan for your financial future.Also, use Social Security’s online retirement planner and our online Retirement Estimator. These will give you 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 estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

Question:

How long must I work to become eligible for retirement benefits?

Answer:

Most people need 40 Social Security “credits” to be eligible. You can earn up to four credits per year. In most cases, you need at least 10 years to be eligible for retirement. During your working years, you earn credits based on earnings. The amount of earnings needed to earn one credit rises as average earnings levels rise.

In 2012 and 2013, you receive one credit for each $1,160 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year.If you become disabled or die before age 62, the number of credits you need depends on your age at the time you become disabled or die.

You must have a minimum of six credits, regardless of your age. Retire online at www.socialsecurity.gov. More information may be found in our publication Medicare at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10043.html or by visiting www.medicare.gov.

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