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Social Security: Errors in retirement benefits easily fixed

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Q: I received a letter from Social Security saying I would not receive retirement for January and part of February due to estimated 2014 gross wages of $20,000. Where did this estimate come from? I retired at age 64 in 2013 and expect minimal 2014 earnings.

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A: The estimated earnings amount came directly from your 2013 retirement application, which asked for a 2013 and 2014 estimate of wage and self-employment income.

Since the estimate of $20,000 that you gave then is above the 2014 earnings test for your age, payment was adjusted to account for the excess and then resumed.

Correction is easy.  Report your 2013 earnings and update the 2014 estimate.  If your new estimate is below earnings test limits, benefits can be paid for all 2014.  See www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/whileworking.htm.

In 2014, people younger than full retirement age (FRA) the entire year can earn $15,480 while those reaching FRA during 2014 can earn $41,400 before reducing benefits.

There is no earnings limit starting with the month you reach FRA. A special rule exists for people who retire during the year after already earning over annual limits.

Update your 2014 earnings estimate as needed by calling the SSA national phone number 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or your local office. The earnings test includes only your gross wages and net-income from self-employment.

Th.e earnings test does not apply if you receive benefits because you have a disability. In this case, report starting or ending work to Social Security at the time. The earnings test does apply to family members receiving benefits through someone receiving SSA disability.

Did You Know? You can request a replacement SSA-1099 online at www.socialsecurity.gov if your mailing address is correct on Social Security benefit records. Instructions are in the “Benefits” section of the homepage.

If you have moved but not yet changed your address contact Social Security to do this because the replacement 1099 is mailed to your address of record. You can change your own SSA address online if registered for a my Social Security account.

Based in Grand Forks, Howard I. Kossover is the Social Security Public Affairs Specialist for North Dakota and western Minnesota. Send general interest questions to him at howard.kossover@ssa.gov. Read his online articles at socialsecurityinfo.areavoices.com.

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