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Social Security Q & A

I’m retired and the only income I have is from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Are my IRA withdrawals considered “earnings”? Could they reduce my monthly Social Security benefits?

No. We count only the wages you earn from a job or your net profit if you’re self-employed. Non-work income such as annuities, investment income, interest, capital gains, and other government benefits are not counted and will not affect your Social Security benefits. Most pensions will not affect your benefits. However, your benefit may be affected by a government pension from work on which you did not pay Social Security tax. For more information, visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov or call us toll free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

How do I know if I’ve worked long enough to get Social Security disability benefits?

To get Social Security disability benefits, you must meet the definition of disability under the Social Security Act. And you must have worked long enough—and recently enough—under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits.

The amount of work you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 10 years of work, and that must include working 5 out of the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with as little as one and one half years of work earned in the three-year period ending when the disability starts. See our Disability Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dqualify3.htm for credit requirements at different ages.

I want to apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug costs. Can state agencies also help with my Medicare costs?

When you file your application for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug (Medicare Part D) costs, you also 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. To apply for Extra Help and learn more, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/extrahelp.

How can I protect myself against identity theft?

First, don’t carry your Social Security card with you. Keep it secure at home with your other important papers. Second, don’t readily give out your Social Security number. While many banks, schools, doctors, landlords, and others will request your number, it is your decision whether to provide it. Ask if there is some other way to identify you in their records.

If you are the victim of identity theft, you should report it right away.  To report identity theft, fraud, or misuse of your Social Security number, the Federal Trade Commission (the nation’s consumer protection agency) recommends you:

1. Place a fraud alert on your credit file by contacting one of the following companies (the company you contact is required to contact the other two, which will then place alerts on your reports):

  • Equifax, 1-800-525-6285;
  • Trans Union, 1-800-680-7289; or
  • Experian, 1-888-397-3742.

2. Review your credit report for inquiries from companies you have not contacted, accounts you did not open, and debts on your accounts you cannot explain;

3. Close any accounts you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently;

4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place; and

5. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY 1-866-653-4261).

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