Jun 28, 2013 0 Share

Feeling Secure


Photo of piggy bank with glasses and hand with Social Security card.
iStockphoto

Going to the Social Security office for anything can seem like a battle, but more so when you are trying to establish benefits for someone for the first time.

My husband, Bill, will be 62 in August and is taking early retirement. So last week we embarked on a mission to the Social Security office to get things in order. Little did we know how it would affect Cody.

After we were met by security at the door and made our way through the maze of ropes we went through the metal detector.

We were then told to select an option on a computer that explains why we were there. We did and then we waited.

Finally, they called Bill’s name and we were directed to a booth where we were met by the woman who would be processing his application. She asked many of the logical questions such as his date of birth, on what date did he plan to retire and was he aware that he would receive a lesser amount each month since he was not waiting until his full retirement age. For Bill that would be 66 years of age.

Then she sat and entered the information into her computer and punched numbers on her calculator.

After a few moments she asked Bill if he was supporting any disabled children.

“Yes, but he’s my stepson,” Bill replied.

“How old is he?” she asked.

“He’ll be 27 this month.”

“And he lives with you?”

 “Yes.”

“How long have you supported him?”

“Twenty-four years.”

“Does he receive SSI?”

“Yes.”

“How much per month?” 

Bill answered and all became quiet once again. 

I thought perhaps we were nearing the finish line on this visit but wondered why there were so many questions about Cody.

“Okay well his SSI will stop and if he receives Medicaid that will probably stop too,” she said quite matter-of-factly. 

I was stunned and confused. I didn’t think Cody’s SSI should have anything to do with Bill’s income whether it was Social Security retirement or income from employment. Cody is well over 18 years of age and considered by the Social Security Administration to be financially separate from any income Bill and I receive. We asked what Bill’s retirement benefits have to do with Cody’s SSI. 

The woman stated that Cody would be entitled under the Family Benefits provision to receive a larger sum of money from the Social Security Administration as a dependent disabled child than he would from SSI on his own. And sometimes depending on how much that income increases a person may no longer qualify for Medicaid. 

When we left, I was still confused. Cody’s income would only be increasing by about $130 per month. He would still be well in what be considered the poverty level. 

When we arrived home I called the Missouri Family Support Division and asked for information regarding what would happen with Cody’s Medicaid status when he no longer received SSI but received Family Benefits from Bill’s retirement instead. We were informed the only change that may happen is Cody might have to go on the Medicaid Spend-Down program. 

Under the Missouri program the base income must be no more than $814 per month. If a recipient makes more than that they can still qualify for Medicaid coverage by either providing to their Family Support Division an equivalent amount of medical receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, or by writing a check to the Missouri HealthNet Division for the difference between the set limit for maximum income and the actual income they receive. 

Learning this information was a huge relief given the fact he will no longer have Bill’s group health coverage and we will be on a fixed income. In Cody’s case our out-of-pocket expense will be very minimal. 

All in all it was a good day. Bill’s retirement benefits are now established and the small added expense for Cody each month will be more than offset by the increase in his check from the family benefit he will receive under Bill’s retirement. In the end we considered it a battle won.

Editor's Note: Please check with your state's Medicaid office for specific information regarding benefit programs in your area. 

For further information on public funding such as Social Security and Medicaid, click here.