Senior Life

News & information for the seniors in our community

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Social Security FAQs on retirement and Medicare

By Judith Bartels, Social Security district manager in Springfield

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[April 30, 2012]  RETIREMENT -- Question: How long does it take to complete the online application for Social Security retirement benefits?

It can take as little as 15 minutes to complete the online application. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you're done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation to mail in. Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. There's no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. To retire online, go to

 I have never worked, but my spouse has. What will my Social Security benefit be?
You can be entitled to as much as one-half of your spouse's benefit amount if you start your benefits when you reach full retirement age. If you want to get Social Security retirement benefits before you reach full retirement age, the amount of your benefit will be reduced. The amount of reduction depends on when you will reach full retirement age.

For example, if your full retirement age is 66, you can get 35 percent of your spouse's unreduced benefit at age 62. The amount of your benefit increases at later ages up to the maximum of 50 percent if you retire at full retirement age. However, if you are taking care of a child who is under age 16 or who gets Social Security disability benefits, you get full benefits, regardless of your age. Learn more at

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My mom is interested in getting help with her Medicare Part D prescription costs, but she has about $10,000 in the bank. Would she still be eligible?

Based solely on the bank account balance you mention, yes. However, there are other factors to consider as well, including your mom's income. If your mother has other resources, they may be included too. This year a person's total resources are, in most cases, limited to $13,070 (or $26,120 if married and living with spouse) to qualify for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. The resource limits shown on the application include a $1,500 per person exclusion for burial purposes. 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 like IRAs or 401ks. There are exceptions. Read more about how to qualify and apply for the Extra Help at

[By JUDITH BARTELS, Social Security district manager in Springfield]

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