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One Day Can Make a Difference for Social Security Payments
Q: I will turn 62 on Dec. 2. A Social Security representative told me that my first Social Security check would be paid in January. So, I understand Social Security holds back one month's pay. But why did my friend have to return her mother's April Social Security check when she died on April 30?
A: Remember that old song, "What a Difference a Day Makes?" Well, you'll be humming that tune by the time you finish reading this column.
There are three government rules at work here. And they demonstrate that just one day can make a huge difference when it comes to Social Security payments.
The first rule says you must be at least age 62 for an entire month in order to be eligible for Social Security benefits.
The second rule says that Social Security benefits are always paid in arrears. In other words, you get the benefit for July in August, August's benefit in September, etc.
The third rule says you must be alive for an entire month to be eligible for that month's Social Security check.
In the case of your friend's mother, she died on April 30. In other words, she wasn't alive the entire month of April — almost an entire month, but not quite. And as we all know, close only counts in horseshoes, certainly not in legal matters. So, the April Social Security check (the one that came in May) had to be returned.
In your case, you turn 62 on Dec.
So, why did the Social Security representative tell you you'd get your first check in January? It's because you are helped by a strange little twist in the law. That legal twist says a person actually attains his or her birthday on the last minute of the day preceding the actual birth date. (That's not a Social Security law. It's some kind of old established common law.)
In other words, even though your birthday is Dec. 2, the law assumes you will attain your 62nd birthday on Dec. 1. That means you are 62 for the entire month of December, which is why you will get a Social Security payment for December, payable in January.
Had you been born just one day later, on Dec. 3, then you would not have been legally age 62 for the entire month of December. And your first Social Security check would have been the January check, payable in February.
And had your friend's mother lived one more day, until May 1, then her family would have received her April Social Security check, which would have been payable in May.
"What a difference a day makes,
Twenty-four little hours.
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain."
And it also brings you an extra Social Security check or takes one away, depending on the day you were born or the day you die!
To find out more about Tom Margenau and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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