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Social Security Questions
By Gary Case

Published in the Idaho Press Tribune Feb 2011

My last couple of columns dealt with questions about Social Security Benefits. In our recent workshop a spokesperson for Social Security covered several benefits administered by the agency: Medicare, Disability, Survivor, and Retirement.

The main idea that I took away from that meeting is that Social Security Benefits are complex and probably require assistance from both Social Security and a trusted advisor to ensure success in applying for and receiving the benefits available. In a past column I mentioned a few complicating factors related to the optimum time to take your retirement benefit. Additional considerations include what benefits you are entitled to and how to determine them. For instance, if you were married for at least 10 years and then divorced, you are likely eligible for retirement benefits either under your own earnings, those of your current spouse (if you remarried) or your ex-spouse’s benefit.

While it is possible to figure your retirement benefits using some or all of the many social security websites, it became evident to me that Social Security regulations are dynamic, changing very often, so it might make sense to visit face-to-face with a Social Security representative in order to best understand your options. That said, Social Security personnel are not allowed to recommend a particular course of action, only to make you aware of your options. It therefore may make sense to consult with your financial planner or other trusted advisor to determine which of the options best suits your situation.




Other benefits available from Social Security include Medicare, SSI and Disability. These programs are no less complex than the retirement benefit and failure to understand and act in a timely manner to claim benefits available can be costly. For example, failure to enroll in either Medicare parts B or D within the proper enrollment period could subject you to higher costs when you do enroll. Further, enrollment periods have been changing and are different this year than last.

The majority of initial Social Security Disability claims are denied. However, by persistently moving through the appeals and hearings process most claims are approved. The unfortunate side effect of this process is the time lag on up to two years before you can finally get to the judge to make the ultimate decision could erase your assets. It was pointed out that the judges have greater discretion to grant claims than the initial processors.

Ultimately, most of us will likely benefit from the advocacy of a trusted advisor to assist us in navigating the labyrinth that is Social Security.


Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge and Cornerstone Financial Planning are not affiliated.