Senior Living


Health & Spirit

Social Security and You: Short and Quick

Tom Margenau on

A: SSA is very strict about privacy laws. Those laws say the information from your mother's records can only be given to her. If she is mentally incapable of handling her own affairs, they can be shared with her representative. You can get a power of attorney designation for lots of reasons, not just mental incompetence. If your mother is mentally alert, she has to change her own address. If she is not, then you should request to be what SSA calls her "representative payee." If you do that, it not only means you can handle her Social Security affairs, it also means her Social Security benefits will come in your name for her.

Q: Why does the law require me to carry my Social Security card and my Medicare card with me at all times?

A: There is no such law. I haven't had my Social Security card in my wallet for over 40 years. And my Medicare card is buried in one of my desk drawers. I dig it out when I go to the doctor. But even they rarely ask to see it anymore.

Q: I am getting Social Security. We have a 16-year-old daughter who has been severely disabled since birth. She is also getting benefits on my account. Will her checks stop when she turns 18?

A: No, her Social Security checks will continue, probably for the rest of her life. But shortly before her 18th birthday, you need to contact SSA and fill out some forms to get her converted from regular dependent child's benefits to what they call "disabled adult child" benefits.

Q: I know you've answered this question a thousand and one times before. But now I'm 62 and it applies to me and I'm finally paying attention! Can I take my husband's Social Security now and save my own until I'm 66?

A: Well, for the thousand and second time, no! If you take any Social Security before age 66, you MUST apply for your own benefits first. By the way, I was assuming your husband is still alive. If he's not, then you can do what you proposed because the rule I just cited doesn't apply to widows.

Q: Recently, I got a letter from Social Security telling me they overpaid me about $5,000. They want the money back. What can I do?

A: If you disagree with the reason for the alleged overpayment, you should file an appeal and ask them to review your case. If you accept the fact that you've been paid too much, you've got three choices. Pay it back all at once. Pay it back in installments, letting them take a certain amount each month out of your Social Security check. Or if you can't afford to pay it back, and if you can prove to them that it wasn't your fault that you were overpaid, you can file for a waiver, essentially asking them to write off the debt.


If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has the answer. Contact him at To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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