Your Social Security number and the name on your Social Security card are often used by companies and government agencies as a way to check your identity. If anything is amiss, you could have a problem. That's why you should regularly check to make sure your records match. This is especially true for people who have recently changed their names, such as new brides or adopted children.
Here are a few examples of situations where mismatches can cause trouble.
Timely tax refunds. The Internal Revenue Service checks your return against your Social Security records. If your name and number don't match up, it could mean a delay in your tax refund or trouble with the IRS.
Your vote counts. But not if your voter registration records don't match up. Don't go to the polls only to discover that you don't have permission to vote because of a mismatch.
Leave the driving to us. You'll have to if you can't renew your driver's license due to a name and Social Security number mismatch with your state's department or bureau of motor vehicles.
Payroll problems. Make sure your employer and human resources department are using the correct name and Social Security number. Not only could it be a red flag to your employer when your identity doesn't match, it could affect your future Social Security benefits.
Credit where credit is due. If your earnings are not reported to Social Security under your correct name and number, you may not get the earnings credits you're due - and that could translate to lower benefit payments in your future. Such earnings discrepancies can be corrected, but it can cause an inconvenient delay when you file for benefits.
There are many reasons why your identity records should match ours. So make sure that any time you deal with a company or government agency, they have your correct name and Social Security number as it appears on your Social Security card.
Medicare drug benefit subsidy update: If you receive Medicare and you have limited income and resources, you can still apply for extra help paying for your monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments. And, if eligible, you can then enroll in a Medicare prescription drug plan without paying a penalty. The extra help could be worth an average of $3,700 per year. If your annual income is below $15,315 for an individual ($20,535 for a married couple living together), and your resources are limited to $11,710 for an individual ($23,410 for a married couple living together), you may qualify for help with your monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments.
If you plan to apply for help, you should do so right away. The easiest and most convenient way is to go online. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov/prescriptionhelp/ and select the "Apply for help" link.
To learn more about Medicare prescription drug plans and special enrollment periods, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227; TTY 1-877-486-2048) or visit www.medicare.gov. Medicare also can tell you about agencies in your area to help you with Medicare prescription drug plans.
Do you have a question or two about Social Security? Well, you're not alone. The good news is that we're here to answer your questions - and you don't have to call us on the phone for us to serve you. Just go to our Web site, www.socialsecurity.gov.
One of our most popular online services is our frequently asked questions section. There, we have listed hundreds of the most commonly asked questions along with easy-to-understand answers in plain language.
How are my retirement benefits calculated? How do I replace a lost or stolen Social Security card? How do I apply for Medicare Extra Help? How can I get a replacement Medicare card? There are nearly 600 frequently asked questions like these and others on the Web site right now.
At www.socialsecurity.gov you can apply for benefits, use our financial planners, request a replacement Medicare card or Social Security Statement, get the location of the nearest Social Security office, and more.
Of course if you don't have access to the Internet, you can still get your questions answered by calling us at 1-800-772-1213 or locally at (423) 247-9820 or by writing me at our local office at 2401 South Wilcox Drive. Who knows, I may use one of your questions for this weekly column.