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Don't sign baby's new SS card; he does at 18

Q: Can a person own a home and still get Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

A: Yes, a person or couple who owns a home and lives in that home can be eligible for SSI benefits. SSI is different than Social Security. It is funded by general revenues, not SSA taxes, and based on need rather than your past work.

SSI is for individuals and couples of low income and resources if at least age 65 or at least age 18 and disabled or blind. Benefits also exist for disabled or blind children under age 18. Not everything you own counts in deciding SSI eligibility. Usually not counted are the home you live in and the land it is on, life insurance policies with a face value of $1,500 or less, your car, your burial plots, and up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse. Limited amounts of your income are also not counted.

In 2008, maximum possible monthly SSI benefits are $637 to an individual and $956 to a couple. These benefits exist to be used. If SSI might help you, or someone you know, contact Social Security immediately to make an appointment. Call the national SSA toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or your local office. More information is in Supplemental Security Income, publication 05-11000 (socialsecurity.gov/pubs/11000.html) or from the above sources.

Q: My newborn child just received his Social Security card and, obviously, cannot sign it. Who should sign it?

A: For now, no one. Children should not sign their Social Security card until their first job or age 18, whichever comes first. A signature on the card is not required for the card to be valid. Keep your child's Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you. You should also leave your own Social Security card in a safe place and not routinely carry it with you.

Q: Can Social Security answer questions about economic stimulus payments?

A: No. These payments are being handled by the Internal Revenue Service and information about them is on the IRS website, www.irs.gov. A section labeled "Rebate Questions?" is at the top center of the IRS home page. According to the IRS, the only way to receive a stimulus payment in 2008 is to file a 2007 tax return.

The vast majority of taxpayers must take no extra steps to receive their stimulus payment beyond the routine filing of their tax return. No other action, extra form or call is necessary.

Certain people who normally are not required to file but who are eligible for the stimulus payment will have to file a 2007 tax return. This includes low-income workers or those who receive Social Security benefits or veterans' disability compensation, pension or survivors' benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007. For them, the IRS is releasing a special version of a Form 1040A that highlights the simple, specific sections of the return that can be filled out by people in these categories to qualify for a stimulus payment.

Be aware that the IRS is already aware of identity related scams, including by email, related to the economic stimulus payments. As always, protect your personal and bank account information. Remember, according to the IRS, the only way to receive a stimulus payment in 2008 is to file a 2007 tax return. Social Security personnel cannot answer questions about economic stimulus payments.

(Howard Kossover is a public affairs specialist with the Social Security Administration office in Grand Forks, N.D. You can reach him by e-mail at howard.kossover@ssa.gov.)

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