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Published: Thu, September 27, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.

Q. Is it true that you can apply for spouse's benefits over the Internet now?
A. Yes, it is! People have been able to file for retirement benefits online since November 2000, but now you can file for spouse's benefits, using the Internet, too! Hundreds of people are taking advantage of this convenient service. If you would like to take a look, just visit our Web site at www.ssa.gov and go to Online Services.
Q. People say that Social Security helps senior citizens stay out of poverty. Do you have any statistics to back this up?
A. As a matter of fact, we do. Social Security pays retirement benefits to more than 31 million older Americans. More than nine out of 10 American seniors who are age 65 or older get Social Security benefits. Without Social Security, 50 percent would be in poverty. Social Security makes all the difference in the lives of millions of older Americans.
Q. Who is eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits? Can any needy person apply?
A. People who are age 65 or older or who are blind or severely disabled can receive SSI payments if they have little or no income and resources. An individual can have up to $2,000 in resources and still be eligible. For a couple, the resource limit is $3,000.
Q. My father just died and my mother has never worked. She's too young to retire or collect survivor's benefits and she doesn't have any children at home. But she's physically in no condition to work because of her ailments. Can Social Security help?
A. It sounds like your mother needs to file for Supplemental Security Income benefits, if she has limited income and resources. For information, visit our Web site at www.ssa.gov or call us toll-free at (800) 772-1213 or visit your local Social Security office.
Q. I originally refused Medicare Part B when I turned 65. Can I enroll now?
A. Anyone who has refused, terminated or withdrawn from Medicare Part B or premium-free Part A coverage can enroll again. You can enroll during January, February or March of each year. This is referred to as the General Enrollment Period. Your Medicare coverage will begin July 1. You may or may not have to pay a premium surcharge. Call Social Security at (800) 772-1213 for an appointment or visit your local Social Security office.
XThis column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. For answers to specific Social Security questions, contact Social Security toll-free at (800) 772-1213.
Knight Ridder Newspapers

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