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Social Security answers your questions

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I can’t find my Social Security card. How can I get a new one?

First, consider whether you really need a new card. You only need to apply for a replacement Social Security card if you don’t know your Social Security number or if you need to show your card to a new employer or other entity. If you decide that you do need a card, you can replace it for free in three easy steps.

Step 1: Complete an Application For a Social Security Card (Form SS-5).

Step 2: Show us documents proving your: Identity; and U.S. citizenship or immigration status.

Step 3: Take your completed application and original documents to your local Social Security office or your local Social Security Card Center. You’ll receive your replacement card in the mail in about 10 to 15 days.

You can find all the information you need, including what documents you will need to submit at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

How can I calculate my own retirement benefit estimate?

We suggest you use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator. Our Retirement Estimator produces estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record, so it’s a personalized, instant picture of your future estimated benefit. Also, you can use it to test different retirement scenarios based on what age you decide to start benefits. For example, you can find out your estimated monthly payments if you retire at age 62, 70, or anytime in between. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.

How do I earn Social Security credits?

“Social Security credit” (sometimes referred to as a “quarter of coverage”) is the measure of your work under the Social Security program. We use your total covered yearly earnings from both wages and/or net earnings from self-employment to compute Social Security credits. The amount needed for a credit increases automatically each year as average wages increase. For example, in 2014, you earn one credit for each $1,160 of wages or self-employment income. You can receive a maximum of four credits for any year. Generally, you need 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by reading our publication, How You Earn Credits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

What information do I need to apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Here are some of the things we will ask for when you apply for SSI. Even if you do not have all of the things listed below, apply anyway. The people in the Social Security office can help you. But keep in mind that the more information you can provide, the faster the decision process will be. You will need:

Your Social Security number;

Your birth certificate or other proof of your age;

Information about the home where you live, such as your mortgage or your lease and landlord’s name;

Payroll slips, bank statements , insurance policies, burial fund records, and other information about your income and the things you own;

The names, addresses and telephone numbers of doctors, hospitals, and clinics that you have been to, if you are applying for SSI because you are disabled or blind; and

Proof of U.S. citizenship or eligible noncitizen status.
If you have a bank or financial institution account, you should have the account number available so we can deposit your benefits directly into your account. Learn more about SSI by reading our online publication, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

My application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on my disability was recently denied. Can I appeal the decision?

Yes, if you disagree with a disability decision made on your claim, you can appeal it. The steps you can take are explained in our online publication, Your Right To Question A Decision Made On Your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Claim, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. Also, you have the right to be represented by an attorney or other qualified person of your choice. You can request your appeal online. Simply visit the online services page at www.socialsecurity.gov/onlineservices. Then select the “Appeal a decision” link and follow the simple instructions. To learn more, read our online publication, Your Right To Representation, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

What is the difference between the disability application and the disability report? Do I have to complete both?

Yes, you will need to complete both when you apply for disability benefits. To receive Social Security disability benefits, you must file a disability application. A disability report provides information about your current physical or mental condition, and we need this to process your disability application. You should complete a disability application, a disability report, and an authorization for release of your medical records to file a claim for disability benefits. You can do all of this online. To learn more, and to apply online, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability.

How do I know if I have enough work to get Social Security disability benefits?

The easiest way to find out is by reviewing my Social Security to see how many credits you already have. If you don’t have a my Social Security account, you may create one at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. To get benefits, you must have worked long enough—and recently enough—under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2014, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,160 of wages or self-employment income. When you have earned $4,640, you’ve earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits. Twenty of the 40 must have been earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. To learn more, see our Disability Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan.

I am applying for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. Can state agencies help with my Medicare costs?

When you file your application for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs, you can start your application process for the Medicare Savings Programs — state programs that provide help with other Medicare costs. When you apply for Extra Help, Social Security will send information to your state unless you tell us not to on the application. Your state will contact you to help you apply for a Medicare Savings Program. Learn more about how Social Security can provide Extra Help with your Medicare prescription drug costs by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp.