Q I recently signed up for Social Security. Are there other benefits I should know about?
A According to the federal government’s benefits website, www.benefits.gov, “Benefit programs come and go based on changing laws and funding constraints,” so it’s always worth a look to see what might be available through state and federal benefit programs. There are grants and loans, called financial assistance, and there are service programs, such as healthcare, vocational training, and mental health counseling.
The Social Security Administration oversees Social Security Retirement benefits, for those who have paid into that system through payroll taxes, Social Security Disability, for those who cannot work, and Supplemental Security Income, which is additional cash assistance for people with limited income who are age 65 and over, blind or disabled. There are federal benefits for Native Americans, victims of natural disasters, victims of violence, housing assistance, loan repayment, tax help, and more if you search.
Medicare, an “entitlement program,” is health insurance for those 65 and older who paid into it through payroll deductions and their spouses. Disabled people under 65 can get Medicare after a rigorous application process. Medicaid is health insurance for people who have low income. You can have Medicare as your “primary” insurance, and Medicaid as your secondary. You do not need to join an HMO to use Medicare, but you may have to for Medicaid, depending on your state. You can also buy secondary insurance privately.
There is no cost of living increase in Social Security benefits for 2016. There are some changes to Medicare that could affect Part B premium payers. If your Part B premium comes out of
your monthly Social Security check, you will not see the price rise. If you pay privately, or if you enroll in Medicare in 2016, your Part B premium will most likely be substantially higher than 2015 rates. Deductibles will also go up in 2016 for Part B and Part D (drug benefit). There is no deductible for Part A.
Benefits may be based on eligibility, geography, age, illness or disability. Applications, which are primarily online, can be lengthy and confusing. We suggest getting the required documents
together before applying and having a friend or family member help.