Q. My wife died suddenly after a short illness. I'm 61 years old and she was 60 years old. Is it true that I may be eligible for benefits on her Social Security record?
A. Yes, that's correct. Benefits can be paid to a surviving spouse at age 60 or older (or age 50 to 60 if disabled) if he or she meets the other eligibility requirements. Call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 to apply for benefits.
Q. I'm 62 years old and receiving widow's benefits. I'm planning on remarrying in December. Will my widow's benefits be discontinued?
A. Generally, you can't get survivors benefits if you remarry. Since your remarriage will occur after you reached age 60, your benefits will continue. Also, since you are age 62, you may get a higher benefit on your future husband's record once you are married. Visit our Web site at www.ssa.gov or call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 to find out the options available to you.
Q. Does Medicare pay for prescription drugs?
A. Generally, original Medicare does not cover prescription drugs. However, Medicare does cover some drugs in certain cases such as immunosuppressive drugs (for transplant patients) and oral anti-cancer drugs.
There are some Medicare health plans that cover prescription drugs. You can also check into getting a Medigap or supplemental insurance policy for prescription drug coverage. Medicaid may also help pay for prescription drugs for people who are eligible.
Q. My neighbor received her Social Security Statement in the mail. She is Chinese and didn't fully understand the document. I'm not fluent in Chinese. Do you offer translation services?
A. You'll be happy to know that the Social Security Statement has been translated into seven languages besides English, and Chinese is one of them. You can view the translation on the Internet. Go to www.ssa.gov to see the translated statement.
Q. Can Social Security's website tell me about other agencies in the business of helping people?
A. Absolutely. In fact, no matter where you are, if there is a Social Security office nearby, we can tell you about other agencies and services in your area right over the Internet. Go to http://www.ssa.gov/ and select our Field Office Locator. When you enter your ZIP code, not only will we give you the address, directions and a map to your local Social Security office, but we'll also provide you with the names and addresses of other agencies and services in the area that may be able to assist you.
Q. My wife and I both worked and paid into Social Security. She received a Social Security Statement that says she can get $950 a month at full retirement age and my statement says I can get $1,300. Will we get both amounts -- $950 plus $1,300 -- a total of $2,250? Someone told me I'll get my full amount ($1,300) and my wife is eligible for one-half of my benefit amount ($650)?
A. Since your wife's own benefit is more than one-half of your amount, you will each get your own benefit -- a total of $2,250. If your wife's own benefit had been less than half of yours (that is $650), she would receive her amount plus enough on your record to bring it up to the $650 amount.
Q. Will I automatically be enrolled in Medicare when I turn 65?
A. If you are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement or disability benefits, you will be automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A and Part B.
About three months prior to your 65th birthday or 24th month of disability, you will be sent an Initial Enrollment Package that will contain information about Medicare, a questionnaire and your Medicare card. If you don't want Part B coverage, you must put an "x" in the refusal box on the back of the Medicare card form, sign the form and return it with the card to Social Security. You will then be sent a new Medicare card showing that you only have Part A.
Knight Ridder Newspapers