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Applying for Social Security

Poverty in Our Area


By Patricia Jones, Alliance Poverty Task Force

Most of us have been paying into Social Security as long as we have been earning wages. When you reach a certain age, it is time to begin collecting your Social Security benefits, specifically Medicare and Retirement.

Applying really is an easy process. Most people simply create a “My Social Security” account online at and fill out their application. Remember that if you do not have a computer or Internet at home, you can go to your local library. There is also a Social Security Administration office in Scottsbluff, at 415 Valley View Drive.

You can complete an application for Medicare or Retirement online by going to, then in the menu simply click on the highlighted word for the benefit you wish to receive. When you file online, you have to agree to a statement that says you will share information with the Social Security Administration. They will validate that information and decide whether you are eligible.

You will want to apply for Medicare within three months of your 65th birthday; Medicare provides health insurance for people over age 65. If you don't enroll when you're first eligible for Medicare, you can be subject to a late-enrollment penalty, which is added to the Medicare premium. The penalty is 10% of your monthly premium for Part A, and you will pay it for as long as you are on Medicare. Part A covers hospital, nursing home, hospice, and home health care. The penalty for Part B Medicare is 10% of your premium for each year you have delayed applying. Part B pays for medically necessary services and preventive services. If you are almost 65 but you don't want your retirement benefits to start, you can just apply online for Medicare using the "Retirement/Medicare Benefits" application.

Medicare supplements provide additional coverage for medical bills and prescriptions. They are offered by private insurance companies, not the Social Security Administration. You have to have your Medicare account set up before you apply for a supplement policy.

Social Security Retirement is part of the retirement plan for almost every American worker. You should apply for retirement benefits four months before you want to begin receiving them. The amount you receive every month is based on your highest 35 years of earnings and varies depending on how much you earn and when you choose to start benefits. You can start drawing retirement benefits at age 62, but the amount is reduced. Full retirement age is currently 66 years, 2 months, and is gradually increasing to age 67. You can delay receiving retirement benefits and the monthly amount will increase until age 70. After that there is no reason to wait to begin collecting your benefits.

If you have not worked outside the home or have not qualified for your own social security benefits, you may be able to receive spouse’s benefits for retirement. You must be at least 62 years old. Generally, you must be married for one year before you can get spouse’s benefits. However, if you are the parent of your spouse’s child, the one-year rule does not apply. 

Your full spouse’s benefit could be up to one-half the amount your spouse is entitled to receive at their full retirement age. If you are divorced and your marriage lasted at least 10 years, you may be able to get benefits on your former spouse’s record.

Social Security benefits play a vital role in reducing poverty, lifting more Americans above the poverty line than any other program. If you qualify for benefits, the application process is not hard, and assistance is available online, through a phone call, or at the Scottsbluff office.