I have to hand it to the US Social Security Administration. First, here’s a little background. In 2020, I took a voluntary separation agreement from my 12-year job (rather than just getting laid off, which would have been the alternative), due to the government CCP-Virus response tanking the aerospace industry. A part of that package was generous severance of 26 weeks of pay, and cash out for the over 200 hours of unused vacation. My husband, who had 40 years at his job, got a similar package. Of course, this bringing a full additional year of pay into 2020 really inflated our annual income for 2020, but it was a one-time thing.
Since I was 72 years old, I went ahead and applied for Social Security and Medicare. The SSA paid me six months of back Social Security, too, in 2020! Every year, Social Security figures out your Medicare premium by looking at your income from 2 years back, which this year was 2020. When they saw our inflated household income, they basically tripled my Medicare premium. And this increase totally wiped out my cost-of-living increase and actually reduced my Social Security benefit by $200 a month.
I knew that the SSA has a procedure for challenging that Medicare premium increase, based on a “qualifying life event”, such as losing your job, becoming disabled, etc. So, I downloaded the dreaded SSA Form 44 (the appeal form), and tried to fill it out. It was extremely difficult to fill out, so I called a friend who is a health-insurance consultant, and asked if he would help me. He said he would, so I scheduled a meeting. We went through the form, and he helped me fill out each section. I noted that both my husband and I had lost our jobs, and he had no income for most of 2021. My friend approved the form, so I sent it in to my local office at the end of December.
And I waited to hear the result. In the meantime, my Social Security benefits were reduced by the Medicare premium increase, which really didn’t make too much difference, as I’m still working at the job that was supposed to be a one-month gig back in July of 2021! I tried calling the SSA, but never actually spoke with anyone, as they are very busy and I was on hold a long time. Last week, I got the first notice that my appeal had been approved, when I got an unexpected deposit in my checking account. They paid me back the “overpayment” from January and February! And yesterday, I got the formal letter of approval.
Needless to say, I am quite happy with the way things turned out. I discovered in 2020, when first applying for benefits, that their people are great to work with, and I have to say I am quite impressed with how they handled my appeal. It really only took about seven weeks for me to get a response, which I think is pretty good.
So, THANK YOU, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION!! My application process in the first place was smooth and simple, and this appeal went smoothly too. I have benefited from working long past my full retirement age, and with the galloping inflation we are all experiencing, the extra money is welcome. Yep, the SSA is a big government bureaucracy that works well.