published Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Social Security: You may be able to delay benefits, apply as spouse

By Gregory Holmes
  • photo
    Gregory Holmes, district manager for Social Security

Q Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that work?

A It depends on your age. If you are between full retirement age and age 70 and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can apply for retirement benefits and request the payments be suspended. Then, you can choose to receive benefits on your spouse's Social Security record. You then will earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70, as long as you do not collect benefits on your own work record.

Later, when you do begin receiving benefits on your own record, those payments could very well be higher than they would have been otherwise because you earned delayed retirement credits.

Q Do disabled children qualify for disability benefits?

A There are two Social Security disability programs that provide benefits for disabled children. Under the Supplemental Security Income program, a child from birth to age 18 may receive monthly payments based on disability or blindness if:

• The child has an impairment or combination of impairments that meets the definition of disability for children; and

• The income and resources of the parents and the child are within the allowed limits.

Under Social Security, an adult child (a person age 18 or older) may receive monthly benefits based on disability or blindness if:

• The adult child has an impairment or combination of impairments that meet the definition of disability for adults.

• The disability began before age 22.

• A parent of the adult child worked long enough to be insured under Social Security and is receiving retirement or disability benefits, or is deceased.

Under both of these programs, the child must not be doing any substantial work. The child also must have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Learn more at

Q I need to make changes to my Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. When can I do that?

A Open season for Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage runs from Oc. 15 to Dec 7. The Medicare Part D prescription drug program is available to all Medicare beneficiaries. Joining a Medicare prescription drug plan is voluntary, and participants pay an additional monthly premium.

While you are looking at changing your plan, you might want to revisit the Application for Extra Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs.

If you have limited income and resources, you also may be eligible for extra help to pay monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription copayments.

The extra help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year. To find out more, go to

For more information about the Medicare Part D prescription drug program itself, visit or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048).

Submit questions to local Social Security Director Gregory Holmes by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at

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