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An Independent View of Social Security
What you must report to the Social Security Administration
It is important to notify Social Security promptly - either in person, by phone or by mail - whenever a change occurs that could affect your benefits. The changes you need to report to them are described below.
Family members receiving benefits based on your work also should report events that might affect their payments.
Information you give to another government agency may be provided to Social Security by the other agency, but you also must report the change directly to the agency.
NOTE: If the agency finds that you provided false information on purpose, your benefits will be stopped. For the first violation, your benefits will be stopped for six months; for the second violation, 12 months; and for the third, 24 months. Also, if you do not report a change, it may result in your being paid too much. If you are overpaid, you will have to repay the money.
Have your claim number handy when you report a change. If you receive benefits based on your own work, your claim number is the same as your Social Security number followed by the letters "HA." If you receive benefits on someone else's work, your claim number will be the other person's Social Security number followed by a different letter. The award notice you received when your benefits started shows your claim number. You also should be prepared to give the date of the change, and, if different, the name of the person about whom the report is made.
If you work while receiving disability payments
You should tell Social Security if you take a job or become self-employed, no matter how little you earn. If you are still disabled, you will be eligible for a trial work period, and you can continue receiving benefits for up to nine months. Also, tell Social Security if you have any special work expenses because of your disability (such as specialized equipment, a wheelchair or even some prescription drugs) or if there is any change in the amount of the expenses.
If you receive other disability benefits
Social Security benefits for you and your family may be reduced if you also are eligible for workers' compensation (including payments through the black lung program) or for disability benefits from certain federal, state or local government programs. You must tell the agency if:
- You apply for another type of disability benefit;
- You receive another disability benefit or a lump-sum settlement; or
- Your benefits change or stop.
If you are offered services under the Ticket to Work Program
Social Security may send you a Ticket that you can use to obtain services to help you go to work or earn more money. You may take the Ticket to your state vocational rehabilitation agency or to an Employment Network of your choice. Employment Networks are private organizations that have agreed to work with Social Security to provide employment services to beneficiaries with disabilities. Your participation in the Ticket Program is voluntary and the services are provided at no cost to you. For more information, ask for Your Ticket To Work (Publication No. 05-10061).
If you move
When you plan to move, tell Social Security your new address and phone number as soon as you know them. Also please let them know the names of any family members who are getting benefits and are moving with you. Even if you receive your benefits by direct deposit, Social Security must have your correct address so they can send letters and other important information to you. Your benefits will be stopped if Social Security is unable to contact you. You can change your address at www.socialsecurity.gov/changeaddress.html.
Be sure you also file a change of address with your post office.
If you change direct deposit accounts
If you change financial institutions or open a new account, be sure to say that you want to sign up for direct deposit. You also can change your direct deposit online if you have a personal identification number and a password. Or, they can change your direct deposit information over the telephone. Have your new and old bank account numbers handy when you call Social Security. They will be printed on your personal checks or account statements. It takes about 30-60 days to change this information. Do not close your old account until after you make sure your Social Security benefits are being deposited into the new account.
If you are unable to manage your benefits
Sometimes people are unable to manage their money. When this happens, Social Security should be notified. The agency can arrange to send benefits to a relative or other person who agrees to use the money to take care of the person for whom the benefits are paid. The person who manages someone else's benefits is called a "representative payee." For more information, ask for A Guide For Representative Payees (Publication No. 05-10076).
NOTE: People who have "power of attorney" for someone do not automatically qualify to be the person's representative payee.
If you get a pension from work not covered by Social Security
If you start receiving a pension from a job for which you did not pay Social Security taxes - for example, from the federal civil service system, some state or local pension systems, nonprofit organizations or a foreign government - your Social Security benefit may be reduced. Also, tell the agency if the amount of your pension changes.
If you get married or divorced
If you get married or divorced, your Social Security benefits may be affected, depending on the kind of benefits you receive.
If your benefits are stopped because of marriage or remarriage, they may be started again if the marriage ends.
|If you get:||Then:|
|Your own disability benefits||Your benefits will continue|
|Spouse's benefits||Your benefits will continue if you get divorced and you are age 62 or over unless you were married less than 10 years.|
|Disabled widow's or widower's benefits (including disabled divorced widow's and widower's benefits)||Your benefits will continue if you remarry when you are age 50 or older.|
|Any other kind of benefits||Generally, your benefits will stop when you get married. Your benefits may be started again if the marriage ends.|
If you change your name
If you change your name - by marriage, divorce or court order - you need to tell Social Security right away. If you do not give them this information, your benefits will be issued under your old name and, if you have direct deposit, payments may not reach your account. If you receive checks, you may not be able to cash them if your identification is different from the name on your check.
If you care for a child who receives benefits
If you receive benefits because you are caring for a disabled worker's child who is younger than age 16 or disabled, you should notify Social Security right away if the child leaves your care. You must give them the name and address of the person with whom the child is living.
A temporary separation may not affect your benefits if you continue to have parental control over the child, but your benefits will stop if you no longer have responsibility for the child. If the child returns to your care, Social Security can start sending your benefits to you again.
Your benefits usually stop when the youngest, unmarried child in your care reaches age 16, unless the child is disabled.
If you become a parent after entitlement
If you become the parent of a child after entitlement (including an adopted child) let Social Security know so that they may determine if the child qualifies for benefits.
If a child receiving benefits is adopted
When a child who is receiving benefits is adopted by someone else, let the agency know his or her new name, the date of the adoption decree, and the adopting parent's name and address. The adoption will not cause the child's benefits to stop.
If you have an outstanding warrant for your arrest
You must tell the agency if you have an outstanding arrest warrant for:
- A crime that is a felony under the laws of the state in which you live; or
- A crime punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year in states that do not classify crimes as felonies.
You cannot receive disability benefits for any months in which there is an outstanding arrest warrant for a crime that is a felony (or a crime that is punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year).
If you are convicted of a crime
Tell Social Security right away if you are convicted of a crime. Benefits generally are not paid for the months a person is confined for a crime, but any family members who are eligible for benefits based on that person's work may continue to receive benefits.
Benefits usually are not paid to someone who commits a crime and is confined to an institution by court order and at public expense. This applies if the person has been found:
- Not guilty by reason of insanity or similar factors (such as mental disease, mental defect or mental incompetence); or
- Incompetent to stand trial.
If you violate a condition of parole or probation
You must tell Social Security if you are violating a condition of your probation or parole imposed under federal or state law. You cannot receive disability benefits for any month in which you violate a condition of your probation or parole.
If you leave the United States
If you are a U.S. citizen, you can travel to or live in most foreign countries without affecting your Social Security benefits. There are, however, a few countries where Social Security payments can not be sent. These countries are Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cuba, Cambodia, Georgia, Kazakstan, Kyrgzstan, Moldova, North Korea, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
Let Social Security know if you plan to go outside the United States for a trip that lasts 30 days or more. Tell them the name of the country or countries you plan to visit and the date you expect to leave the United States.
Social Security will send you special reporting instructions and tell you how to arrange for your benefits while you are away. Be sure to notify them when you return to the United States.
If you are not a U.S. citizen and you return to live in the United States, you must provide evidence of your noncitizen status in order to continue receiving benefits. If you work outside the United States, different rules apply in determining whether you can get your benefits.
For more information, ask any Social Security office for Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States (Publication No. 05-10137).
If your citizenship status changes
If you are not a U.S. citizen, let Social Security know if you become a U.S. citizen or if your noncitizen status changes. If your immigration status expires, you must give them new evidence that shows you continue to be in the United States lawfully.
If a beneficiary dies
Let the agency know if a person receiving Social Security benefits dies. Benefits are not payable for the month of death. That means if the person died any time in July, for example, the check received in August (which is payment for July) must be returned. If direct deposit is used, also notify the financial institution of the death as soon as possible so it can return any payments received after death.
Family members may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits when a person getting disability benefits dies.
If you are receiving Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits
If you are receiving both Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits based on your spouse's work and your spouse dies, you must tell Social Security immediately. You no longer will be eligible to receive both benefits. You will be notified which survivor benefit you will receive.