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About Howard Kossover

I am the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Based in Grand Forks ND, I work with organizations, government agencies and businesses concerning all aspects of the Social Security programs.

DDS makes disability decisions

Q: Do Social Security employees have medical training so they can evaluate medical information for disability application decisions? 

A: Local Social Security employees do not make medical decisions for disability applications and do not evaluate medical evidence for Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications. 

Whether a person files online or by personal interview, when a disability application is received, Social Security representatives review it to verify that the non-medical eligibility requirements are met. For example, the SSA employee will verify that an applicant for Social Security disability meets the work requirement or that a person filing for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) meets the income and resource requirements of that need-based program. If these non-medical requirements are not met, they will complete the application to a denial since a medical decision would not be required. 

When non-medical requirements are met, the local office reviews application materials for completeness, including applicant details to describe the disabling impairments, medical treatment, medical releases and related employment and vocational information. 

For the actual medical decision, the disability claim goes to a State agency, usually called a Disability Determination Service (DDS). These state agencies, fully funded by the Federal Government, are responsible for developing medical evidence and making the initial determination on whether or not a claimant is disabled or blind under the law. Samples of DDS decisions from all the States are reviewed within Social Security to maintain national requirements. 

Following a national, step-by-step disability evaluation process, DDS employees make the disability decision and return the application to the local Social Security office for additional work as needed. Depending on the decision, this could be to complete any remaining development before payment begins or, if a denial, holding a file for the appeal period.

Social Security Twitter Chat today at 1:30 p.m. EDT

As part of National my Social SecurityWeek, the Social Security Administration is hosting its first Twitter Chat, titled #mySocialSecurity: Planning for Your Financial Future today August 21, 2014 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT

Joining will be the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Trade Commission.

During the Twitter Chat, you can ask questions relating to the topic using the hashtag #mySocialSecurity.

This week the Social Security Administration hopes to educate the public about the benefits of having a my Social Security account.

Individuals can use their my Social Security accounts to access their Social Security Statements to check their earnings and get estimates of future Social Security benefits.

People already receiving Social Security benefits can get benefit verification letters, change their address and phone number, and start or change their direct deposit information.

Participate in the my Social Security Twitter Chat today, Thursday August 21, 2014, 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. EDT.

Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount and create your my Social Security account today.

National my Social Security Week

If you receive Social Security benefits or have Medicare, you can use a mySocial Security online account to:

1. Get your benefit verification letter;

2. Check your benefit and payment information and your earnings record;

3. Change your address and phone number; and

4.Start or change direct deposit of your benefit payment.

 If you do not receive benefits, you can use a mySocial Security online account to:

A) Get yourSocial Security Statement to review:

          1) Estimates of your future retirement, disability, and survivors benefits;

          2) Your earnings once a year to verify the amounts we posted are correct and see the estimated Social Security and Medicare taxes you’ve paid.

B) Get a benefit verification letter stating that:

          1) You never received Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare; or

          2) You received benefits in the past, but do not currently receive them or

          3) You applied for benefits but haven’t received an answer yet.

Get your free personal online my Social Security account today! http://www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/

 

Frances Perkins

Following up on yesterday’s 79th anniversary of the Social Security legislation, here is a composite photograph of President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935.

Standing in a position of importance immediately behind FDR, there is one woman in the photograph. Who is she? Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor, and very important in the history of Social Security.

In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt appointed Ms. Perkins as his Secretary of Labor, a position she held for twelve years, longer than any other Secretary of Labor and making her the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the United States.

As Secretary of Labor she played a key role writing New Deal legislation, including minimum wage laws. However, her most important contribution came in 1934 as chairwoman of the President’s Committee on Economic Security, the committee instructed to study the entire problem of economic insecurity and to make recommendations that would serve as the basis for legislative consideration by the Congress.

As chairwoman of this committee, Frances Perkins was involved in all aspects of the reports and hearings that ultimately resulted in the Social Security Act of 1935. 

Read about Frances Perkins here 

The history section of the Social Security website is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/history/index.html.

 

 

Planning for Someday with the SSA retirement planner

Planning for retirement, including learning the basics of Social Security, should begin well before you actually retire.  

Based on the questions I receive, advance planning is not always done. 

Lots of SSA retirement planning information is on the Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov, in the Retirement Benefits section and especially in the Retirement Planner area at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/.  

 Here is a partial list of Retirement Planner topics:

     Finding your retirement age (full retirement age – FRA)

     Estimating your retirement benefits and other calculators

     Working after retirement

     Discover your retirement options

     Benefits for family members

     Needed documents

     Online retirement application

     Applying just for Medicare

 Someday you will want to retire. Start planning today to make someday possible.

Mid-year retirement and the annual earnings test

Q: I have been working all year and will retire soon. Does Social Security start counting my wages with the day I start retirement or from the beginning of the year? Can I start Social Security retirement now or must I wait until 2015 due to my earnings? 

A: If you are at least age 62 and meet all requirements, start Social Security retirement when you want, whether this year after you retire, in 2015, or some other time.  

Your question refers to the annual retirement earnings test. Earnings for the retirement test include your calendar year gross wages and net income from self-employment. Other income is not included for the earnings test. 

People retire all during the year. Since those retiring mid-year might have already earned over earnings test levels for the year, there is a special one-time rule, usually used during the first year of retirement, that lets people receive Social Security retirement benefits based on monthly earnings. Using this one-time exception, you should be able to start SSA retirement when you retire despite your total earnings for this year.

Based on this one-time rule, a person retiring in 2014, at least age 62 but younger than full retirement age the entire year, can receive Social Security retirement for months that gross wages do not exceed $1,290 even though overall calendar year earnings are far above retirement test amounts. Slightly different rules apply for self-employment.   

Earnings test amounts for 2015 are not yet known, but 2014 information is here 

What is your Someday?

The newest Social Security Update became available today and includes a section, partially reprinted here, about a time that everyone seems to look forward to – Someday – and how you can help plan for yours.

From the Update newsletter: 

For many people, Someday is an elusive day on the far-off horizon—always seeming close enough to see, but too distant to touch. Perhaps Someday you plan to go skydiving. Or enter a hot dog-eating contest. Maybe Someday you plan to ride a mechanical bull. Or travel around the world. Or visit all of America’s national parks.

Someday, you will want to retire. If you are mid-career, Someday, you will need to start planning for retirement. Even if you are just now starting your career, Someday you’re going to want to see what your future Social Security benefits will be and check your earnings for accuracy. Someday has arrived. Open a my Social Security account at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, and you’ll see what we mean. 

Millions of people have opened a my Social Security account, and our Someday campaign will help millions more learn about my Social Security and sign up for their free online account. Someone opens a new account just about every six seconds. 

Watch our new Public Service Announcement at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.

 

SSI Recipients by State and County, 2013

Last week I posted information about the annual publication OASDI Beneficiaries by State and County, 2013, containing Social Security beneficiary information to the individual county level.

Newly released is the publication SSI Recipients By State and County, 2013, containing local area data for the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.  

Administered by the Social Security Administration, but very different from Social Security, SSI is a cash assistance program providing monthly benefits to low-income aged, blind, or disabled people, including children.

People can receive both Social Security and SSI if the individual program requirements are met. SSI Recipients By State and County, 2013 shows the number of SSI recipient’s also receiving Social Security (OASDI) benefits.

When looking up your state or county information, note that benefit amounts are shown in thousands of dollars.

Anniversary of Medicare legislation

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed H.R. 6675 to provide health insurance for the elderly. It was signed in Independence, Missouri, in the presence of Harry S. Truman who opened the fight for such legislation in a message to Congress in 1945.

The Social Security website history section contains information about the development of Medicare. Much of this information is from there

“Lack of adequate protection for the aged against the cost of health care was the major gap in the protection of the social insurance system in 1963. Meeting this need of the aged was given top priority by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Administration, and a year and a half after he took office this objective was achieved when a new program, “Medicare,” was established by the 1965 amendments to the social security program. 

The special economic problem which stimulated the development of Medicare is that health costs increase greatly in old age when, at the same time, income almost always declines. The cost of adequate private health insurance, if paid for in old age, is more than most older persons can afford. Prior to Medicare, only a little over one-half of those aged 65 and over had some type of hospital insurance; few among the insured group had insurance covering any part of their surgical and out-of-hospital physicians’ costs. Also, there were numerous instances where private insurance companies were terminating health policies for aged persons in the high risk category.”

Most of the new Medicare program became effective July 1, 1966. It included two related health insurance plans for persons aged 65 and over. These were a hospital insurance plan (Part A) providing protection against the costs of hospital and related care, and a supplementary medical insurance plan (Part B) covering payments for physicians’ services and other medical and health services to cover certain areas not covered by the hospital insurance plan.

General information about Medicare as it is today, go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare/

Detailed Medicare coverage information is at http://www.medicare.gov/

Here is a Medicare poster from 1965: