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Spousal Benefits

Posted March 3, 2023 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Did you know that your spouse is eligible for benefits under your retirement benefits? These are referred to as “spousal benefits”, and they are linked to both the retired worker’s monthly benefits and the spouse’s age at the time benefits begin. By default, spouses are eligible to receive up to 50% of the retired worker’s “primary insurance amount” as spousal benefits. However, this is heavily influenced by your spouse’s age at the time benefits begin. (For an explanation of how “primary insurance amount” is calculated, see “Calculating My Retirement Benefits”.)

First, spouses must be at least 62 as of the date spousal benefits begin in order to qualify, and they must be at least 67 as of that date to receive the full 50% of the retired worker’s primary insurance amount. If they are not at least 67 on that date, their benefits will be reduced by 25/36 of one percent for each month before their 67th birthday, up to 36 months. If their 67th birthday is more than 36 months away at the time spousal benefits begin, their benefits are further reduced by 5/12 of one percent. Please note that these reductions are permanent, meaning spousal benefits, once awarded, cannot be increased even if the spouse turns 67.

To illustrate, picture someone that receives $1,200 per month as their primary insurance amount, and their spouse begins receiving spousal benefits on their 64th birthday (36 months before their 67th birthday):

The default spousal benefit would be $600 before deduction (50% of the retired worker’s primary insurance amount). Since the spouse’s benefits would begin 36 months before their 67th birthday, their benefits will be reduced by 25%. (A 25/36 reduction over a course of 36 months). This results in a monthly spousal benefit of $450. The spouse will not be eligible for the full $600, even after their 67th birthday, because they began receiving benefits prior to their 67th birthday.

By: Monte Cook Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Calculating My Retirement Benefits

Posted February 28, 2023 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

The amount of monthly retirement benefits a retired worker receives, or their “primary insurance amount”, depends on their work history, the date they became eligible for retirement, and their age at retirement. Specifically, Social Security Administration will apply the “primary insurance formula” to someone’s “average indexed monthly earnings”, then make necessary modifications due to early or late retirement to determine the retired worker’s total monthly retirement benefits. Fortunately, it’s a fairly mechanical process, so it can be broken into much more understandable steps without learning all of the technical terms.

First, Social Security will determine your average indexed monthly earnings, beginning two years prior to the year in which you become eligible for retirement. (“Indexing” is a process that controls for rising cost of living and lower past wages, but for the purpose of this explanation, you can view this as simple average monthly earnings). Retired workers are eligible to receive up to 90% of the first $1,115 of their average indexed monthly earnings as benefits. They are also eligible to receive 32% of their average indexed monthly earnings above $1,115 but below $6,721, and 15% of their average indexed monthly earnings above $6,721. (This methodical application of percentages and thresholds is known as the “primary insurance amount formula”, and it is important to note that, while the percentages themselves do not change, the actual dollar value thresholds are updated every year to adjust for inflation).

Next, Social Security determines if a reduction or increase applies due to early or late retirement. Workers become eligible for retirement at age 62. However, their benefits are reduced if they retire before “normal retirement age”, and they could be increased if they do not retire until after normal retirement age. (“Normal retirement age” is 67 for anyone born January 2, 1960 or later, but a specific table can be found on Social Security Administration’s website). If someone applies for retirement before their normal retirement age, their benefits will be reduced by 5/9 of one percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months. If they are more than 36 months away from attaining normal retirement age, their benefits are further reduced by 5/12 of one percent for each month beyond 36 months. (i.e. 5/9 for the first 36 months, and then 5/12 for each month after, resulting in a maximum reduction of 30% at age 62).

Finally, individuals can also earn additional credits (meaning “increase their retirement benefits”) by retiring after their normal retirement age. These credits are worth a specific percentage of benefits, though the actual percentage varies by birth year. (For those born in 1943 or later, it is 8% per year.) These credits can be earned until age 69, meaning a maximum of three credits could be applied to your monthly benefit.

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®

Sleep Apnea and Disability

Posted February 6, 2023 by Premier Disability Services, LLC®

What is sleep apnea?

Do you snore? Are you unusually tired during the daytime and yearn to take a nap? You may have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common medical condition and potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you are sleeping. Each pause can last for a few seconds to a few minutes and can occur multiple times throughout the night. Symptoms include snoring loudly and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep. Sleep apnea is often diagnosed with an over-night sleep study.

What is a sleep study?

A sleep study is a non-invasive, overnight exam that allows doctors to monitor you while you sleep to see what’s happening in your brain and body. For this test, you will go to a sleep lab that is set up for overnight stays—usually in a hospital or sleep center. While you sleep, an EEG monitors your sleep stages, to identify possible disruptions in the pattern of your sleep. A sleep study will also measure things such as eye movements, oxygen levels in your blood (through a sensor—there are no needles involved), heart and breathing rates, snoring, and body movements.

The data from your sleep study will usually be taken by a technologist, and later evaluated by your doctor. This may take up to two weeks, when you’ll schedule a follow up to discuss the results.

How can sleep apnea be disabling?

Each time an obstruction occurs, the oxygen circulating in our bloodstream decreases and triggers our brains to send out signals that wake us up. Waking up, even for a split second, is enough to clear the blockage and we fall back asleep. However, this brief interruption to our sleep also disrupts our natural sleep patterns. Due to this, we can feel unrested, tired, and sleepy the next day, because we didn’t get as good sleep the night before.

Physically, sleep apnea can increase your risk of falling or motor vehicle accidents, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, insulin resistance, cancer, and mental decline. Having sleep apnea can make these illnesses worse, which can impact your ability to perform the physical demands of your job, such as walking, standing, and lifting and carrying tasks.

Mentally, sleep apnea can leave you too tired to pay attention to your work. Being tired can impact your relationships with your co-workers and supervisors, as well as customers or the public at large. Your ability to persist through tasks and keep pace with your co-workers may be impacted negatively. Other mental conditions you may have could be exacerbated by lack of sleep, further impacting your ability to perform work tasks. Extra breaks or extra time may be required for you to perform work tasks due to your tiredness caused by your sleep apnea, and that could impact your ability to find work in a competitive work setting.

If you are regularly tired during the daytime or suspect you may have sleep apnea, discuss with your doctor steps you can take to diagnose and treat your condition. It is a serious chronic condition and if allowed to progress, can cause serious health defects. Treatment often includes lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, and the use of a breathing assistance device at night, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Contact our office to see if you qualify for Social Disability benefits!

By: Devon Brady of Premier Disability Services, LLC®