No news is good news for seniors

People who plan meetings for local senior citizen organizations often invite me to visit their group to speak about “changes in the Social Security program that affect seniors.” Although I enjoy the opportunity to talk about Social Security to any group of people, I usually don’t have much to say if I limit my remarks to “changes” that affect current Social Security beneficiaries. If you are older than 65 and are already receiving Social Security benefits, the only changes that usually happen are a once a year cost-of-living increase in your monthly payment and generally a corresponding increase in the Part B Medicare premium deduction. Beyond that, your Social Security life is probably a rather quiet one. That, of course, is how you want it to be. In this case, no news really is good news. There is a simple and convenient way to keep up with any developments that do occur with Social Security. Just add your name to our electronic mailing list for a monthly publication we call “eNews.” About a quarter million of your fellow citizens already receive this electronic newsletter that’s packed with information from Social Security. To subscribe, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/enews. And after you subscribe, hit the “back” button on your web browser and go to the homepage of Social Security’s award-winning website. If the back button doesn’t work, just type in www.socialsecurity.gov. It is known as one of the best and most helpful websites of all government agencies. Add this site to your list of favorites and refer to it often. You can do everything from requesting a replacement Medicare card online to viewing any one of dozens of publications that explain Social Security programs and policies. If you are a social Security beneficiary, one publication you will want to pay particular attention to is “Social Security: What You Need to Know If You Get Retirement Or Survivors Benefits.” This publication explains the rights you have as a Social Security beneficiary. But just as important, it explains your responsibilities. For example, it reminds you that we need to know if you move (even if you have direct deposit), if you get married or divorced, or if your spouse dies. I also have several messages for lower income senior citizens. If you’re having trouble making ends meet and you haven’t checked into the Supplemental Security Income program, please do so. You might be eligible for extra cash benefits from SSI, which in turn could be your ticket to extra health coverage through the Medicaid program. SSI is a federal program that pays benefits to low income seniors and people with disabilities. SSI is not another kind of Social Security benefit funded by Social Security taxes. It is paid for out of general tax revenues and just happens to be managed by the Social Security Administration. Even if you don’t qualify for SSI, you may be eligible for some help paying your Medicare premiums. Call your local social services office for more details. For more information about Social Security or SSI, call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Or as I mentioned earlier, check out our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.

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