The transition to retirement means lots of interaction with the Social Security Administration and Medicare. It hasn’t gone well…
It Doesn’t Work the Way You think
If you called Social Security and said “Hi, I want my benefits to start in April 2019”, when would you expect your first SSA payment? If you said “April”, you would be wrong. SSA payments are made 30 days in arrears, so my benefit for April will be paid in May.
We have been planning and studying this stuff for months, and at no time did we ever see the “30 days in arrears” “feature”. So our first month in retirement will be an exercise in Fiscal Austerity. Lovely.
Sixty Days Is Not Enough
Since I was already receiving spousal benefits (a separate topic), I assumed that a phone call to SSA to switch to my benefits would be sufficient. But no, it’s like starting over, so I hit a two week delay before an interview with SSA could be scheduled in mid-February. The interview was completed, and I got a letter a few days later confirming the interview, and that the changes would be in place within 30 days. No communication from SSA after that.
Phone Calls Are Not Sufficient
I called a couple of times to check on the status of my SSA application and Medicare Part B coverage (they are tightly coupled, as it turns out). “Everything looks good” I was told. But on day 45, with no Part B activated and my application still in “Pending” status, I decided that I would have to pay a visit to the local Social Security office.
Surprise, Surprise, Surprise
New definition of Hell: sitting at your local SSA office without an appointment. Don’t ask.
SSA Employee #9 was able to tell me that my Medicare Special Enrollment Period application (submitted in December, 2018) was never processed. I had a copy of the app, so she was able to add it to the system. The next morning, my Medicare account showed Part B as active for April, 2019, so I could proceed with signing up for a Medicare Advantage Plan (aka Medicare Part C) just in time to be covered for April. Whew!
After another wait in the lobby , SSA Employee #5 was able to look at my stalled application and determine that it was on hold for “confirmation of US citizenship”. WTF? I had received zero communication from SSA about this requirement. After a bit of conversation with me, and an online chat with another SSA minion, this hold was (allegedly) cleared, and I was told that my application should be completed by April 7th. We’ll see, and I still don’t know if they have calculated the correct benefit amount yet.
With 10,000 Baby Boomers a day retiring, there are bound to be some glitches in such a huge system, so 1) file early, 2) ask about the status of your application sooner rather than later, 3) get some face time ASAP if things are not going as you expect.