If you’ve applied for and received “Extra Help” from Social Security, September is the month where some of you will be audited. Social Security doesn’t actually call it an audit, but it’s essentially the same thing; they select a group of people who had previously qualified for Extra Help and ask them to send in proof they still meet the thresholds. If those people don’t respond within 30 days, they automatically lose the extra help.
What is Extra Help?
Some people with limited resources and income may be able to get Extra Help with the costs — monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and prescription co-payments — related to a Medicare prescription drug
plan. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year. To find out if you qualify, you will have needed to apply for this – it’s not automatic in most cases. The form is here. You will have to do a bit of legwork and disclose personal financial situation such as how much money is in your checking and savings accounts, investments, real estate (other than your home), and your income. If you’re married, this information needs to be provided about your spouse as well as your habitation status.
How Do I Qualify?
To qualify for Extra Help, your resources must be limited to $13,640 for an individual or $27,250 for a married couple living together.
Resources include the value of the things you own. Some examples are:
• Real estate (other than your primary residence)
• Bank accounts including checking, savings and certificates of deposit
• Bonds, including U.S. Savings Bonds
• Mutual funds
• Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
• Cash at home or anywhere else.
What Does Not Count As a Resource?
Social Security does not count:
• Your primary residence;
• Your personal possessions;
• Your vehicle(s);
• Resources you couldn’t easily convert to cash, such as jewelry or home furnishings;
• Property you need for self-support, such as rental property or land you use to grow produce for home consumption;
• Non-business property essential to your self-support;
• Life insurance policies;
• Burial expenses;
• Interest earned on money you plan to use for burial expenses; and
• Certain other money you are holding is not counted for nine months, such as:
—Retroactive Social Security or Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) payments;
—Tax advances and refunds related to earned income tax credits and child tax credits;
—Compensation you receive as a crime victim; and
—Relocation assistance from a state or local government.
To qualify for Extra Help, your annual income must be less than $17,820 for an individual or $24,030 for a married couple living together. Even if your annual income is higher, you may still be able to get some help.
Extra Help Eligibility Review
In early September, Social Security sends out a form to a select bunch of folks to check and see if they still qualify for this extra help. Watch your mailboxes, folks. Interestingly, they do not have an online form. You must use paper (scratches head).
When you get the form, you’ll have to complete it and send it in within 30 days or you will automatically lose your subsidy. It’s essentially applying again as the information they’re asking for is essentially the same Social Security asked for when you originally applied. Have your checking, savings, investments, etc. all ready to go – you’ll have to re-enter that information again on a paper form. Then, you must sign and return the form in the envelope they provide you. Remember… 30 days is all you get!
Be Prepared and Be Precise!
• Identify the things you own alone, with your spouse,
or with someone else, but do not include your home,
vehicles, burial plots, life insurance policies, or personal possessions;
• Review all your income; and
• Gather your records in advance to save time.
The records you’ll need are:
• Statements that show your account balances at banks,
credit unions, or other financial institutions;
• Investment statements;
• Stock certificates;
• Tax returns;
• Pension award letters; and
• Payroll slips.
The Social Security Agency won’t ask for proof to support the information you provide, but they will match your information with data
available from other government agencies to make sure it
Watch your mailbox in early September if you get Extra Help. If you do not return the form they send you within 30 days, your help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs will end. If for some reason you need more time, you get to wait on hold with the federal government, folks! The only way to get a 30 day extension is by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Be prepared. Have your statements ready, because if you misrepresent your resources, they will be cross-checking what you put down with “other data available.” Be honest, and be on time!