GENERAL

Q. Can I refuse to give my Social Security number to a private business?

A. Yes, you can refuse to disclose your Social Security number, and you should be careful about giving out your number. But, be aware, the person requesting your number can refuse services if you don’t give it. Businesses, banks, schools, private agencies, etc., are free to request someone’s number and use it for any purpose that doesn’t violate a federal or state law. To learn more about your Social Security number, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

RETIREMENT

Q: I plan to retire in spring. How soon can I file for my Social Security benefits?

A: You can file four months before you plan to receive benefits. Go ahead and apply now if you plan to retire when winter’s frost finally lets up. To apply, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/applytoretire. Applying online has never been easier—you can do it from the comfort of your home. All you need is 15 minutes and Internet access.

DISABILITY

Q: I am expecting a child and will be out of work for six months. Can I qualify for short-term disability?

A: No. Social Security pays only for total disability — conditions that render you unable to work and are expected to last for at least a year or end in death. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability, including benefits while on maternity leave.

MEDICARE

Q: I didn’t enroll in Medicare Part B back when my Part A started a few years ago. Can I enroll now?

A: It depends. The general enrollment period for Medicare Part B, medical insurance, begins January 1 and runs through March 31. Keep in mind that although there is no monthly premium for Medicare Part A, there will be a premium for your Medicare Part B. And in most cases, that premium goes up each 12-month period you were eligible for it and elected not to enroll. If you are covered by a group healthcare plan based on your employment or the employment of a spouse, you may qualify for a special enrollment. Special enrollments may be processed at any point during the year, but require proof of coverage. To find out more about Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov or www.socialsecurity.gov/medicare.

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