published Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Social Security: Area offices provide free 800-numbers

Martin Coffey

Q: "I thought the Social Security offices for Chattanooga, Cleveland and Athens were all in the 423 area code, but when I looked them up online, I discovered none of the offices uses the 423 area code. Why is that?"

A: Each of the three Social Security offices you mentioned provides service to multiple counties and calling areas.

The Chattanooga office provides service to Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties in Georgia as well as Hamilton, Marion, Sequatchie, Rhea and Bledsoe counties in Tennessee. The Cleveland office provides service to Bradley and Polk counties, and the Athens office provides service to McMinn, Monroe and Meigs counties in Tennessee.

To enable customers to contact the appropriate servicing office without incurring a long-distance charge, each office has converted to an 800-number. For general inquiries for these offices, please call:

• Chattanooga: 866-964-0029

• Cleveland: 855-207-4867

• Athens: 866-964-7431

Q: "I want to estimate my retirement benefit at several different ages. Is there a way to do that?"

A: Use our retirement estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to get an instant, personalized retirement benefit estimate based on current law and your earnings record. The retirement estimator, which also is available in Spanish, lets you create additional "what-if" retirement scenarios based on different income levels and "stop work" ages.

Q: "Is it true that a person can own a home and still be eligible for Supplemental Security Income benefits?"

A: Yes. A person who owns a home and lives in that home can be eligible for SSI benefits. Although there is an asset limit for people to qualify for SSI, some things don't count toward that limit, such as a house, a vehicle and some funds set aside for burial.

To learn more about SSI and eligibility requirements, browse our booklet, Supplemental Security Income at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000.html

Submit questions to local Social Security Director Martin Coffey by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at dflessner@timesfreepress.com.

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