By Betty Berry, Tuesday, June 29, 2010  Q: While paying into Social Security I have had several name changes. How can I determine if my earning records are accurate?

A: I asked Social Security to explain the process followed when it receives an earnings report that does not match the name and Social Security number in the files.

The agency goes to great length to find the correct record to which to credit the earnings. It checks for common errors such as use of nicknames, misspellings or transposition of letters or numbers. If these methods don’t work it attempts to contact the worker or employer to resolve the discrepancy.

If earnings remain unassignable they are placed in a “suspense” file; however, investigation continues.

You can help ensure accurate records. When a name change occurs advise Social Security so it can update the records. If you change jobs use the same name with each employer. Avoid using nicknames on your payroll records and review your W-2 form to make sure your employer has your correct name and Social Security number.

Review your personal earning statement that you receive from Social Security each year. If you find an error contact Social Security so the discrepancy can be investigated.

Q: My doctor has determined that I am unable to work, and I wonder if I am entitled to Social Security disability benefits. What are the eligibility requirements?

A: Requirements for qualifying for and collecting Social Security disability benefits are very strict.

Eligibility is based on inability to do any kind of work for which you are suited, a disability that must be expected to last for at least one year, and the length of time you have paid into Social Security.

The process used to determine eligibility requires detailed answers to several basic questions. Are you working? Can you do the work you previously did? Can you do any other type of work?

You should apply for disability as soon as you become disabled. The claims process generally takes three months; however, benefits do not begin until your sixth full month of disability.

Information you need to provide includes Social Security number, proof of age, names and addresses of medical providers, work record for the past 15 years and a W-2 or federal tax return for the past year.

Disability benefits are available only if you have enough work credits, and the number required depends on your age. Disability benefits are available at any age, but your monthly benefit will be based on your lifetime average earnings covered by Social Security.

If you are receiving disability benefits when you reach your full retirement age your benefits will become retirement benefits. The benefit amount will remain the same. You will be automatically enrolled in Medicare after you have collected disability benefits for 24 months or when you reach age 65 whichever comes first.


Thursday 11 a.m. “Salute To Our Veterans” ceremony and barbecue at Cypress Place Senior Living, 1200/1220 Cypress Point Lane, Ventura. For information call 650-8000.

Brain Fitness Program: Six-week program July 19-Aug. 27 at Senior Concerns Day Center, 401 Hodencamp Road, Thousand Oaks. For more information and reservations, call Susan at 497-0189.

— Betty Berry is a senior advocate for Senior Concerns. The advocates are at the Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; phone 495-6250 or e-mail You are invited to submit questions on senior issues.


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