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Medicare: Not Mandatory But Advisable

ADON TAFT, Life to the Fullest Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 8, 2013 at 12:08 PM

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Q. - I have been on Social Security Disability since 2003. I am now turning 65. My health care is provided through the VA. I have received a letter from Social Security that beginning next month they will be deducting a Medicare premium from my monthly check.
If I am not using Medicare is there anything I can do to stop this deduction? I am already on limited income and this will lower it each month?

Spring Hill

A. - Medicare is not mandatory. For most people, it is advisable. Medicare Part A (which covers 80 percent of most hospital costs) is free if you sign up for it. Plan B (which covers 80 percent of most doctor charges and some tests) is voluntary and costs a monthly premium (presently $97.40 a month for most of those on Medicare) deducted from your Social Security benefit. Whether Medicare A or B would be wise for you depends on just what the VA provides for you and for how long it will give you that care.

Q. - When I read you "Traversing the Social Security Maze" column in The Tampa Tribune today regarding spousal benefits, it piqued my interest. I retired from Civil Service in 1994 after 20 years employment under the old CSRS program. I also have been drawing Social Security at age 62 for my earnings for periods I worked outside of CSRS.
It makes me wonder if I am entitled to spousal benefits in lieu of mine. I am aware that I am not entitled to both but I would think the spousal benefit exceeds the Social Security benefit I receive now.
My husband retired in 1992 at age 62. (I didn't raise this question before because I was led to believe I couldn't apply for spousal benefits until my husband was deceased.)
Spring Hill

A. - You may be entitled to a Social Security spousal benefit but it may end up not being as much as you might think.
A spousal benefit would be half of what your husband was entitled to at age 65, assuming you are at least 65 years of age. If not, that benefit would be reduced by 25/36ths of one percent for each month you are younger than 65 when you apply (if you are at least 62 years of age).
That amount would be reduced by two-thirds of the amount of your pension. There would be no retroactive payments beyond six months.
Should your husband die, you would be entitled to a widow's benefit which would be equal to the amount of the benefit he was entitled to at age 65. That amount is available if the widow is at least 60 years of age (or as young as 50 if there are children younger than 18 at home) but is reduced by 19/40ths of one percent for each month she is younger than 65 up to 36 months and then a lesser amount up to age 60.
None of those benefits is in addition to the woman's own work record benefit but an amount that would bring that retirement benefit up to equal the spousal or widow's benefit.

Q. What are the Social Security guidelines for retirees who choose to live full time in a foreign country? Do the rules differ, depending on the country?

Fort Lauderdale

A. - Both your citizenship and the country in which you reside matter. An American citizen may receive Social Security benefits with no problems almost anywhere except a handful of forbidden countries, such as Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and some republics of the former USSR.

If you have questions about any issues connected with aging, except medical conditions, please write to Life to the Fullest, Hernando Today, 13299 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville, Fla. 34613, or send e-mail to Please include your name and address.

Adon Taft is a resident of Brooksville.

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