Friday, November 7, 2014

The weird and true story of America's most popular Social Security number

It's a bad idea to keep your Social Security card in your wallet (despite the fact that the card says you should), but it used to be common practice. In 1938, before identity theft was the problem it is today, a wallet manufacturer wanted to show potential buyers how well their Social Security cards would fit in their wallets, so they put fake ones in the ones they sold (similar to cardboard "credit cards" you may see in wallets today).

The cards in the wallets were fake, but the number on them wasn't. Douglas Patterson, vice president and treasurer of the E.H. Ferree Co., thought it would be "clever" to use his secretary's Social Security number on the cards, according to a post on the Social Security Administration's history page. The secretary, Hilda Schrader Whitcher, eventually had to be issued a new number, because so many people thought the number in their wallets belonged to them. Read more...

The weird and true story of America's most popular Social Security number
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Monday, November 3, 2014

5 Social Security changes coming in 2015

from Yahoo Finance:
Social Security recipients will receive 1.7 percent bigger checks in 2015, the Social Security Administration announced last week. And some groups of workers will begin receiving benefit statements in the mail with a list of taxes paid and an estimate of their future retirement benefit. Here's a look at the new Social Security benefits, taxes and services workers and retirees will experience in 2015:

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage: How to Choose ~ from

Should you opt for government-offered Medicare or a Medicare Part C alternative?

Decoding health insurance options can be daunting for people age 65 and over. Those who have paid 10 years of Social Security taxes qualify for Medicare at age 65. They're automatically signed up if they're receiving Social Security payments, unless they take steps to opt out. Standard Medicare comes in two parts: A and B. Part A covers a portion of hospitalization expenses, and Part B applies to doctor bills and other medical expenses, such as lab tests and some preventive screenings.

But some seniors may find better value in Medicare Part C, or Medicare Advantage. Such plans are run by private insurance companies but regulated by the government, and must offer coverage that's comparable to original Medicare parts A and B. Most also include prescription drug coverage, which is an optional add-on called Part D for seniors who keep original Medicare.

See more here: Should you opt for government-offered Medicare or a Medicare Part C alternative?

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Social Security Q&A: Will I Get My Spousal Benefit Instead of, or in Addition to, My Retirement Benefit?

From Social Security Q&A: Will I Get My Spousal Benefit Instead of, or in Addition to, My Retirement Benefit?
Question: I started taking my reduced Social Security benefits based on my own earnings. My husband will most likely defer his benefits until 2017 when he will be 70. At that point, can I receive half of his benefit instead of my own or in addition to my own?
Social Security Q&A: Will I Get My Spousal Benefit Instead of or in Addition to My Retirement Benefit?
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why Social Security Can't Go Bankrupt: Rerun --- from

It is a logical impossibility for Social Security to go bankrupt. We can voluntarily choose to suspend or eliminate the program, but it could never fail because it “ran out of money.” This belief is the result of a common error: conceptualizing Social Security from the micro (individual) rather than the macro (economy-wide) perspective. It’s not a pension fund into which you put your money when you are young and from which you draw when you are old. It’s an immediate transfer from workers today to retirees today. That’s what it has always been and that’s what it has to be–there is no other possible way for it to work.
To explain this, let’s create a simple world. Say there has been some sort of terrible global calamity and we only have ten people left. Further say that these ten decide to make the best of it and set up a society, including an economy. Of course, much of humanity’s technology is now lost to us, so our level of productivity is very low. As a starting point, assume that each of us is only able to produce enough output for herself or himself to survive.
How many people can retire under these circumstances? Obviously, none. Anyone who stops working, starves. It is irrelevant how many people over 65, disabled, or otherwise deserving there are, no one can quit because our level of productivity is too low. Nor is it helpful to have a pile of cash somewhere. No amount of money can change the fact that one person can only make enough goods and services for one person. If there are ten people to feed, clothe, and shelter, then ten people must work. This reality is inescapable and is the reason why the real determinant of the feasibility of Social Security (or any other type of retirement system, private or public) is productivity. If it falls short, then supporting a class of retirees is impossible, regardless of how much cash we have on hand; if it does not, however, financing it is trivial. This will be shown below. Read More... Why Social Security Can't Go Bankrupt: Rerun
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Disability Benefits:

The website,, is a valuable
resource for information about all of Social Security’s
programs. At their website you also can:
Apply for retirement, disability, and Medicare benefits;
Review your Social Security Statement;
Get the address of your local Social Security office;
Request a replacement Medicare card; and
Find copies of publications.
Here is the Social Security Administration's brochure for Disability Benefits:
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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Social Security Q&A: What's My Best Claiming Strategy if My Spouse Died Early?

From Social Security may be your largest or one of your largest assets. How you manage it, by deciding which benefits to collect and when, can make an absolutely huge difference to your lifetime benefits. And those with the highest past covered earnings have the most to gain from maximizing their Social Security. MORE...
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014


What is the “Help Desk”?
It is a very basic public service specifically created to address the needs of people with Social Security issues that come up after they have already been approved for benefits. (These are called Post Entitlement Issues, discussed below.) Lawyers can’t charge a fee to perform these services, so typically they won’t help.   I see the need.  I would like to help but needed a very cost-effective way to provide it.  (After all, I do have bills to pay.)

Enter Altheia Lindsey.

Altheia has degrees in Social Work and Criminal Justice.  She established a non-profit corporation called: House of Purpose that provides low-cost housing for disabled women.  House of Purpose is attempting to expanded into low cost housing for men and emergency shelter for women.  House of purpose also helps locate other services disabled people need.

Altheia likes to help.  People who need help find me.  What I do and what she likes to do fit together.  Thus, the “Help Desk.”

She is available from 3 pm to 5 pm every day except Tuesday.  I do oversee what she does on Social Security issues and I do pay her (far, far less than her time is actually worth).   Demand is high.  There is no guarantee that we will choose to help any specific person.  If we choose not to help you, it’s nothing personal.

Examples of Post Entitlement Problems:
1.       When someone’s identity is stolen, earnings can be reported that don’t belong to the actual Social Security number holder.  Benefits can be reduced or cut off entirely. The IRS can get involved.

2.      Sometimes, the Social Security Agency will determine for one reason or another that they have paid a beneficiary too much. The person has what is referred to as an “Overpayment.” Then the Agency wants its money back.  This can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  People suddenly find themselves with greatly reduced benefits – or no benefits at all.

3.      If someone is awarded benefits, and is found not capable of managing their own funds, a payee can be needed.

4.      The Agency will do “Continuing Disability Reviews” to make sure the person continues to be disabled.  If the Agency determines that the person can go back to work, benefits will stop.  The person does get notice this is about to happen but they don’t know what to do about it. So they do nothing, which only creates more problems.

You can find out more about House of Purpose and Altheia at;   707-208-7831

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It's a good day to have a good day!
45 years ago on this date, the first automated teller machine in the United States was installed in Rockville Centre, New York. (1969)
* Japan signed its unconditional surrender, finally ending six years of WWII (1945)
* Vietnam declared its independence from France, forming a republic (1945)
* The United States and Russia agreed to cooperate to build an international space station (1992)
* The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland, Ohio (1995)
* Happy 50th birthday to actor Keanu Reeves (1964)
*  And, on this day in 490 BC, after the Battle of Marathon, where the Greeks defeated the invading Persians, Pheidippides, who had already run 140 miles over two days and nights, ran an additional 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to carry the news of the victory. His last words before he collapsed and died, “Rejoice, we are victorious.” (The first marathon)
Photo credit: cishore – flickr – cc

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Get details about your future social security benefits:

A great way to keep up with the fruits of your labor is by opening a my Social Security account at With a personal account, you can check your earnings record, get your Social Security Statement for details about your future benefits, and much more.
Details about your future social security benefits:

And Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Social Security Board of Trustees: No Change in Projected Year of Trust Fund Reserve Depletion!/post/7-2014-2

From "Official Social Security Website"
The Social Security Board of Trustees today released its annual report on the long-term financial status of the Social Security Trust Funds. The combined asset reserves of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds are projected to become depleted in 2033, unchanged from last year, with 77 percent of benefits still payable at that time. The DI Trust Fund will become depleted in 2016, also unchanged from last year's estimate, with 81 percent of benefits still payable.

Read more...!/post/7-2014-2

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Age sometimes matters...

Email Received:
Describe why you cannot work and tell us what questions you have here:
I have carpoul tunel, tendnites, and arthrites in both arms and hands, along with my middle finger on my right hand is very curved
(carpal tunnel, tendinitis, arthritis and trigger finger of right hand third metatarsal)

Dear "27 year old Female,"

You asked for a lawyer to consult with you about your disability with an eye toward filing for Social Security benefits.

As I understand it, your problems are primarily with your  hands, wrists and arms. You are 27 years old.
Based upon this, I do not believe that I can help you.  It is not because you do not have severe medical issues.  It is because you are so young.

Disability is a legal question, not a medical one.  One of the most important factors is your age.  To qualify under the Social Security Act, you must show that there is no job in the national or regional economy that you are unable to do.  Without proof that your condition(s) prevent you from sitting 6 hours of an 8 hour work day, the Social Security Vocational Expert will conclude that there are other jobs you could do, even with your limitations.

There are a couple of things you might try doing.  First, google California State Disability Insurance.  You may qualify under that program to receive 66% of your wages until you can return to work, or 12 months, which ever happens first.

If you are not going to be able to do your past work, you should contact the California State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.  Voc Rehab’s job is to help people with physical or mental disabilities retrain so they can re-enter the work force.

I am sorry that I am unable to help you further and I do wish you much better health.

Kay Tracy, Esq.*
Social Security Attorney
Claims Representative
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

No More Double Dipping!

Social Security twist for Boomers with public, private jobs
As seen in USA Today:

Are you a Baby Boomer who has worked for both the public and private sector during your working career? If so, you are probably feeling pretty good about your retirement options, which very likely include a public pension, as well as Social Security. Unfortunately, under the Windfall Elimination Provision, you may not be eligible for all the Social Security benefits you think are coming to you.
No more "double dipping"
More info... 

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Monday, July 21, 2014

An Overpayment Notice - get help!

Occasionally, people come to me very worried because they got a letter saying they were paid too much by Social Security.  This is  called an “Overpayment Notice.”

It is nearly impossible to find a lawyer to help in these situations.  First, check around to see if there is a Legal Aid office that does this kind of work.  Failing that, you will either need to find someone willing to work for chocolate, call your Congressman (seriously, see #3) or go it alone.  When I was at Legal Aid (not in California), a happy client once brought two hot, freshly made Lemon Meringue pies.  Yes, there can be more to life than money.

There are ways to resolve these things.  You can make a payment arrangement that will fit your budget and not cause you hardship.  You can challenge whether their conclusion that there is an Overpayment is correct. You can appeal the whole thing to a Judge.  Or, you can just give up.

If you can’t find a Legal Aid Office, or someone who will work for pie, here are some things you might consider:
1.  Check the Social Security Website to get as much information as possible.  has one of the best search engines there is. In the upper right hand corner is a search box.  Type in a word or a question and chances are very good you will find what you need in easy to understand language.
2.  Call the National Call Center 1-800-772-1213 (beware of the hold music).
3.  Call your Congressman’s Office or send an email from their website.  People do not realize that your Congressman is willing, and more than able, to help.  Most have a special staff person whose job it is to help with Social Security payment problems. You may not realize this, but we vote for these people to help us. All of the staff I’ve spoken to are very nice, caring people who do return calls and respond to emails, letters and faxes promptly; they make an inquiry and the Social Security Agency will call them back.
4.  There are some homeless shelters and other non-profit agencies who may have someone who can help.  Mission Solano and Community Action-NorthBay (CAN-B) are two places you might start in Solano County California if you can’t find a Legal Aid Office.
5.  If you go into the field office, take someone with you.  Two heads are better than one. Take notes. Don’t make a snap decision. Write down the name of the person with whom you speak and the date/time you met with them,
Social Security lingo is hard to understand.  The Counter worker or Claims Rep will try their best in the language they know to explain it to you.  Unfortunately, some people are better at explaining this stuff in easy to understand language than others.
I have never seen a Social Security Rep intentionally mislead anyone or give anything other than their best effort about anything.
But realize, they are not there to be you advocate or give you any advice about what option you should pick.  They will tell you your choices and give you the forms. Then, you’re on your own. They aren’t Social Workers.  They’re more like bank tellers.  If you want money management advice, you go to the banker, not the teller.
6.  When you are speaking to someone at the Field Office, write down their name and the date and time of your conversation.  If you are convinced the person with whom you are speaking does not understand you, ask for an appointment with a specialist or supervisor – politely, of course.  Go up to the supervisor’s supervisor, always politely.
But do realize that even the supervisor is not your advocate.  All they can do – indeed all they should be doing – is telling you what your options are and giving you the right forms and instructions.
And see #3 above.  The Social Security Agency will respond to a Congressional inquiry.


As always, none of this is legal advice and I am under no obligation to help you. It is based on my personal experience over the past decade or so.