Q: I received a notice in the mail about direct deposit. Do I have to use direct deposit?
A: Social Security strongly encourages all beneficiaries to receive their monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments by direct deposit. You can still receive your benefit by check, but you should consider all the advantages direct deposit offers -- safety, security, convenience and reliability.
Q. I'm getting Social Security disability benefits, and I've used up a few of my trial work months. Did the amount I can earn in a month without counting it as a trial work month change?
A. Yes, we've increased the monthly earnings amount that we use to decide if a month counts as part of the trial work period. In 2002, a person who gets disability benefits must earn $560 or more during a given month before that month counts as one of the nine trial work months. (For 2001, the amount was $530.) For more information on the trial work period, visit our Web site at or call us at (800) 772-1213. You also can visit your local Social Security office.
Q. My wife and I separated several years before she died. Can I get the lump sum death payment?
A. Probably not. Unless you meet all of the requirements for surviving spouse benefits at the time of her death, the death payment won't be paid to you. The death payment is payable to a spouse who was living with the deceased at the time of death. You may qualify even when separated if it was a temporary separation due to illness or active duty in the military. For more information, visit our Web site at or call us at (800) 772-1213. You also can visit your local Social Security office.
Q. I got my Social Security Statement in the mail and noticed that part of my social Security number is missing. Is this a mistake?
A. No, it's our way of protecting you from identity theft. We've dropped the first five digits of your number from the Statement so that if it is ever lost or stolen, no one else will be able to use it. Armed with your Social Security number and birth date, a criminal can steal your identity, open bank accounts and get credit cards. Your number is still nine digits -- but if it falls into the wrong hands, they'll only have four of them!
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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