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Malti Patel
By MALTI PATEL - [email protected]

Q. If I apply for the extra help and am approved, will I automatically be enrolled in a prescription drug plan?

A. Only if you do not enroll on your own. If you do not enroll on your own, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will send you a letter that will tell you which plan you have been enrolled in and how to change plans. However, you could lose months of benefits and you may not get the plan that is best for you if you wait to be automatically enrolled.

Q. If I call 1-800-772-1213, can a Social Security representative take my application for Medicare prescription drug help over the phone?

A. When you call the 800 number, if an interviewer is available, he or she can take your application over the phone. If an interviewer is not immediately available, we will schedule a telephone appointment for you. For faster service, you can apply online at

Q. Is there a time limit when I can apply for the extra help with prescription drug plans?

A. You can apply any time, but you should apply as early as possible so you will know what assistance you can receive.

Q. The application that I received in the mail indicates that the resource limits are $11,710 for singles and $23,410 for married couples. But I have heard elsewhere that the resource limits are $10,210 for singles and $20,410 for married couples living together. I am confused; what are the actual resource limits?

A. The limits are $10,210 for singles and $20,410 for couples. But the resource limits shown on the application include a $1,500 per person exclusion for burial purposes. So, if you expect to use some of your resources to pay for burial or funeral expenses, your resource limit is $11,710 if you are single or $23,410 if you are married and living with your spouse.

Q. Is there a time limit on Social Security disability benefits?

A. No. Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. Your case will be reviewed at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled.

If you are still receiving disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, they will automatically be converted to retirement benefits.

Q. If I go back to work, will I automatically lose my disability benefits?

A. No, the Social Security Administration has several work incentives that may help you to return to work without losing your benefits.

For more information about Social Security's work incentives you should call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213; contact your local Social Security office; or visit

Q. Can a working SSI recipient lose his or her Medicaid coverage?

A. One of the biggest concerns SSI recipients have about going to work is the possibility of losing Medicaid coverage. Section 1619(b) of the Social Security Act provides some protection for these recipients. To qualify for continuing Medicaid coverage, a person must:

" Have been eligible for an SSI cash payment for at least one month; and

" Still meet the disability requirement; and

" Still meet all other non-disability SSI requirements; and

" Need Medicaid benefits to continue to work; and

" Have gross earnings that are insufficient to replace SSI, Medicaid and publicly funded attendant care services.

This means that SSI recipients who have earnings too high for an SSI cash payment may be eligible for Medicaid if they meet the above requirements. SSA uses a threshold amount to measure whether a person's earnings are high enough to replace his/her SSI and Medicaid benefits.

These questions and answers are courtesy of Malti Patel, 1607 Wood Creek Lane, Allen, Texas 75002. Patel recently published a book "Lifting the Mists: A simple guide to a complex welfare system for elderly immigrants and their families." Contact Patel at [email protected] to order the book.

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