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Congressman Bill Keating

Representing the 9th District of Massachusetts

Senior Citizens

The following information is for Senior Citizens. Please contact our office for assistance with any questions or problems you may have.

Our district is home to the largest population of seniors in the Commonwealth.  As such, much of our offices’ constituent casework involves residents who are having problems with their Social Security and Medicare benefits. If you are having difficulty dealing with the Social Security Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or any other agency handling senior benefits, please contact one of our offices.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Social Security is a retirement security program that replaces about 40% of an average wage earner’s income after retiring.  It also helps workers who are disabled and families in which a spouse or parent dies.  When you work, you pay taxes into Social Security.  Your tax money is used to pay benefits to people who have already retired or who are disabled, survivors of workers who have died and dependents of beneficiaries.  When it’s your time to collect, the taxes paid by current workers will go towards your benefits.
 
How Do I Apply for Social Security Benefits?
 
To apply for benefits, use the Social Security Administration website or contact SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778).  You can ask SSA to send you the correct forms and they can answer any questions you may have.
 
 
If you pay Social Security taxes while you work, you earn “credits” toward Social Security benefits.
 
The number of credits you need to get retirement benefits depends on when you were born. If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits, which translate into approximately 10 years of work.
 
Eligible recipients may start receiving retirement benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.  The earlier you apply, the more reduced the benefits you receive will be; however, you will receive them for a longer amount of time.  Thus, to apply for Social Security retirement benefits, you must be at least 61 years and 9 months of age and want your benefits to start in the next three months.
 
To figure out what your retirement benefits will amount to, use the SSA’s Retirement Estimator.
 
 
Federal law dictates very strict requirements to qualify for Social Security disability benefits:  you must be unable to perform work of any kind and your disability must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.
 
In general, to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must meet two different earnings tests:
 
A “recent work” test based on your age at the time you became disabled; and
A “duration of work” test to show that you worked long enough under Social Security.
 
Processing a disability application can take up to five months, so you should apply for disability benefits as soon as you become disabled.  If that application is denied, you may request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge.
 
If your request for disability benefits is approved, the benefits will be paid beginning the sixth full month after the date SSA decides the disability began. 
 
Certain family members of disabled workers also can receive money from Social Security.  Eligible persons include:
 
Your spouse, if he or she is 62 or older;
Your spouse, at any age if he or she is caring for a child of yours who is younger than age 16 or disabled;
Your unmarried child, including an adopted child, or, in some cases, a stepchild or grandchild. The child must be younger than age 18 or younger than 19 if in elementary or secondary school full time; and
Your unmarried child, age 18 or older, if he or she has a disability that started before age 22. (The child’s disability also must meet the definition of disability for adults.) 
 
 
If you pay into Social Security while working, some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward survivors insurance.
 
 
What Is Supplemental Security Income?
 
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an income assistance program for people who are elderly (65 or older), blind or disabled (physical or mental problem expected to last at least one year or result in death), who don't have many assets (the things you own are worth less than $2,000), and who don't earn much money (less than $520/per month if you don't work, and $1,073/per month if you work).
 
The program is funded by general tax revenues, not Social Security taxes. 
 
What Benefits Am I Eligible For?
 
SSA’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool can help you determine the SSA benefits for which you are eligible.
 

MEDICARE

Medicare is a federal insurance program that pays for covered health care services of qualified beneficiaries.  Generally, individuals are eligible for Medicare if they or their spouse worked for at least 40 quarters in Medicare-covered employment, are 65 years old and are a citizen or permanent resident of the US.  Medicare, which consists of four parts (A-D), covers hospitalizations, physical services, prescription drugs, skilled nursing facility care, home health visits, and hospice care, among others.
 
How do I apply for Medicare Benefits?
 
Generally, you are eligible for Medicare if:
 
you or your spouse worked for at least 10 years in Medicare-covered employment,
you are 65 years or older or if you have a disability, and
you are a citizen or permanent resident of the United States. 
 
You will be eligible for Medicare when you turn 65 even if you are not eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.
 
If you are already getting Social Security retirement or disability benefits or railroad retirement checks, Social Security will contact you a few months before you become eligible for Medicare and give you the information you need to register.
 
If you are not already getting checks, you should contact SSA at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) about three months before your 65th birthday to sign up for Medicare.

MEDICAID

Medicaid is the nation’s major public health coverage program designed to address the acute and long-term care needs of millions of low-income Americans of all ages.  Medicaid is the primary payer for long-term care covering a range of services including those needed by people to live independently in the community such as home health and personal care, as well as services provided in institutional settings such as nursing homes.  Many of these critical services are not covered by Medicare or private insurance.
 
Medicaid is available only to certain low-income individuals and families who fit into an eligibility group that is recognized by federal and state law. Medicaid does not pay money to you; instead, it sends payments directly to your health care providers.  Because Medicaid is a state administered program, each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services.
 
MassHealth is Massachusetts’s program that combines Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Administration on Aging provides information on a number of valuable services.
Compare Nursing Homes to find the right one for you or a loved one.