I went to court last month. Was I nabbed by the diabetes police? Nope. How about the regular police? Not them either. Was I dragged into the legal system for breaking the rules by dosing insulin off my CGM? Nothing like that. So what was I doing?
I was getting my ducks in a row.
What does that have to do with Social Security and Medicare? The answer to that is a lot.
As you approach your initial sign-up date for retirement benefits under Social Security, you need to be sure that you have the required documentation for your claim. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA) website, in most circumstances you will need the following documents:
•your Social Security card (or a record of your number);
•your original birth certificate or other proof of birth (You may also submit a copy of your birth certificate certified by the issuing agency);
•proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the U.S. [More Info];
•a copy of your U.S. military service paper(s) (e.g., DD-214 – Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) if you had military service before 1968; and
•a copy of your W-2 form(s) and/or self-employment tax return for last year.
My advice is to consider this list at least 3 months before signing up for Social Security so that you will have time to obtain any missing documents. Although I had a copy of my birth certificate, I chose to get a certified copy just to be safe. It took about 3 weeks to get the official document from the vital records department of my birth state.
Fortunately if you have any gaps in documentation, you can and should sign up for Social Security on time. From the Social Security Administration (SSA) website:
“Even if you don’t have all the documents you need, don’t delay signing up for Social Security. You can submit any documents you do have. You can provide the missing documents later or we may be able to help you get them.
In many cases, your local Social Security office can contact your state Bureau of Vital Statistics and verify your information online at no cost to you. If we can’t verify your information online, we can still help you get the information you need.
If you delay signing up, you could lose some benefits you may be due.”
So why did I have to go to court?
I had to get a court order for an official name change. Since 1976 I have had a discrepancy between the middle name on my driver’s license and the middle name on my Social Security card. When I got married I chose to keep my maiden name as my middle name and abandoned my previous middle name. Or so I thought. I went to Social Security and had a card issued in my new name. When we moved to Minnesota, the DMV required me to use the old middle name on my driver’s license. I don’t remember how my passport was handled, but it has always matched my driver’s license. So my two main forms of ID for the last forty years have not matched my tax information, bank accounts, and everything else that we own.
I should have fixed this discrepancy years ago, but it amazingly has never been a problem. Thinking of approaching Social Security and handling our assets in our senior years, I finally determined that it was time to resolve the issue.
Changing your name is not difficult. I didn’t need to use an attorney, but did so because a good friend was willing to help me. I filled out a lot of paperwork, seemingly the same thing over and over again. I signed a form allowing for a criminal background check by the FBI. I completed another form for a background check by the MN BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension). More than once I signed that I was not changing my name for fraudulent reasons or to hide assets. On my scheduled court date, I went before a judge with two witnesses and received an official court order for a name change.
With the certified copy of my court order, I have applied for a new driver’s license and will apply for a new passport once the DL arrives.
It is possible that my name discrepancy might not have been noticed with my Social Security application. However in our increasingly ID-conscious society, it seemed to be an unnecessary risk to be a citizen with two aliases. Two aliases sounds so criminal compared to two middle names….
I don’t know everything about Social Security and Medicare yet, but at least I have my ducks in a row. Most of you won’t have to go to court to get ready for Medicare. However, you may have other things that should be taken care of as you enter this new stage of your life.
Now is as good a time as any to get your ducks in a row.