Whether you have a question about Social Security, Medicare or any other federal program, Senator Carper and his staff are here to help. Below are some of the most commonly asked questions that Delawareans ask.
If your question is not answered here, or you would like more help, please do not hesitate to contact Senator Carper’s office and speak with a member of his staff by clicking here.
I am turning 65 soon, do I need to sign up for Social Security and Medicare?
Most individuals will need to sign up for Medicare when they turn 65 unless they are still working and receive health insurance through a group health plan with their employer. The easiest and quickest way to sign up for Medicare benefits is online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/medicare.htm.
Deciding when to sign up for Social Security retirement benefits is a multifaceted decision, and is ultimately a personal one. A convenient and informative retirement planner which can help you explore your options for retirement can be found on Social Security’s website at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/.
I can no longer work due to a disability. How do I apply for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration?
The Social Security Administration pays benefits to people who cannot work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. Benefits are paid through two programs: The Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. More information about disability benefits can be found here: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html. Individuals can apply for disability benefits online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/applyfordisability/.
I am having trouble paying for my Medicare costs, are there any programs that can help me?
If you have limited income and resources, you may qualify for help to pay for some health care and prescription drug costs. The Medicare Extra Help program provides help with paying monthly premiums, annual deductibles, and co-payments related to the Medicare Prescription Drug program. You must be enrolled in a Medicare prescription Drug plan to get this extra help. More information about the Extra Help program can be found at www.ssa.gov/prescriptionhelp or by calling 1-800-336-9500.
The State of Delaware operates the Medicare Savings Program which assists people with Medicare who are entitled to Part A Medicare coverage and have a low income. This program is income-tiered and provides assistance with Medicare Part A and B premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses. For more information about the Medicare Savings Program, please contact the State of Delaware’s Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) ELDER info by dialing 1-800-336-9500. ELDER info provides free health insurance counseling for people with Medicare and can assist with questions and problems related to Medicare, Medicaid, Medigap, and long-term care insurance.
I’m unemployed. Where can I find job search resources?
If you are interested in jobs with the federal government, I recommend that you apply for jobs through USA Jobs, the federal government’s clearinghouse for job listings: http://www.usajobs.gov/. Please understand that given the current economic climate there are many Americans seeking employment with the federal government, including those with veterans’ and disability preference. Each job listing often receives a substantial number of applications from all across the country.
You may also be interested in visiting the CareerOneStop website, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, at the following address: http://www.careeronestop.org/. This website contains information on finding a job, determining your career goals and path, and obtaining job training. The State of Delaware also has career resources available to those seeking employment. The Delaware Department of Labor’s website has information and resources for those seeking employment, available at: http://www.delawareworks.com/. This website includes information on job training and career counseling. Furthermore, additional information and job listings for Delawareans seeking employment can be found at: https://joblink.delaware.gov/. This website also has additional information on job training and counseling.
The State of Delaware operates the Medicare Savings Program which assists people with Medicare who are entitled to Part A Medicare coverage and have a low income. This program is income-tiered and provides assistance with Medicare Part A and B premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses. For more information about the Medicare Savings Program, please contact the State of Delaware’s Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) ELDERinfo by dialing 1-800-336-9500. ELDERinfo provides free health insurance counseling for people with Medicare and can assist with questions and problems related to Medicare, Medicaid, Medigap, and long-term care insurance.
I’m having trouble making my student loan payments, or my loans are already in default. Where should I go for information and assistance?
If you have federal student loans, I recommend visiting the following website for information on repaying your loans, including information on different repayment plans, loan consolidation, deferment, and forbearance: http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans. In addition, the following website offers specific information on defaulted student loans: http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/default. I also recommend contacting your loan servicer directly to discuss your concerns. Information on loan servicers is available at the following website: http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/servicers.
If you have private student loans, I recommend contacting your lender directly to discuss your options. In addition, you may wish to visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) new website for guidance on private student loan options: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/paying-for-college/repay-student-debt/. If you have concerns about a private lender’s business practices, the CFPB has recently begun accepting complaints against private lenders. Information on filing a complaint is available at the following address: https://help.consumerfinance.gov/app/studentloan/ask.
I’m having trouble paying my bills, where can I get assistance?
I recommend contacting the Delaware Helpline. The Delaware Helpline is a partnership between the State of Delaware and the United Way of Delaware’s “First Call for Help.” It is a toll-free service that provides information on state government agencies and referrals to community resources. The Delaware Helpline now includes a state government information service that links callers to appropriate state offices, legislators and employees, and continues to provide needs assessments, problem resolutions, and referrals for callers with health or human service needs. For additional information or referrals, please contact the Delaware Helpline at 1-800-464-4357 or visit http://www.delaware211.org/.
What should I do if I am behind on my mortgage?
Contact Your Lender– Before calling, know two things: how much you can afford to pay from this point on, and whether you foresee being able to make full payments, plus the payments you’ve missed, in the future. Explain what has happened that has caused you to fall behind on the mortgage.
Ask About Your Options– If your lender does not offer you forbearance or loan modification, ask about these options. Forbearance will give you reduced or suspended payments for a specific period, at the end of which you resume making regular payments, in addition to a lump sum payment or additional payments to make up the payments you missed. Loan modification changes the terms of your loan, either by reducing your interest or payment and extending the life of loan, or by reducing or forgiving part of your loan balance.
Selling Your Home – If your home is simply not affordable, even with loan modification or forbearance, selling the house may be the best way to get rid of the payment and possibly save enough to repay the lender for the payments you missed. As long as your home is worth more than what’s owed against it, selling will not be a problem; if your home is worth less than what is owed, your lender will have to agree to a short sale, or a sale that nets less than the loan amount.
Contact Hope Now– If you are behind on your payments, and are not sure whether to accept modified loan terms, sell your house, or find another option, call the government-organized Hope Now Alliance of credit counselors, mortgage companies, investors and other mortgage market participants. The alliance offers free advice about your situation and helps you to work with your lender, if needed. Hope Now can be reached by calling 1-888-995-HOPE.
What should I do if I owe the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), but cannot afford to pay?
File Your Tax Forms Anyway– Mail your income tax forms to the IRS, even if you cannot afford to pay all of your taxes. Not paying all of your taxes on time is not a crime. However, not filing your taxes is. Mail your forms and all that you can afford to pay by the April 15 deadline.
File for an Installment Agreement– An installment plan can help you pay the dollars you owe to the IRS. If you cannot afford to pay all of your taxes, file for an installment agreement. According to the IRS, you can apply for a payment plan either online at the IRS website or by including Form 9465 with your tax returns, if you owe less than $25,000 in taxes. Form 9465 is known as the Installment Agreement Request. Even if the request is approved, you will still have to pay penalties.
Setting up an Agreement– Tell the IRS when you will finish paying them back. When you apply for an installment agreement, tell the IRS how much you want to pay each month and when you estimate you will finish paying what you owe. Include this information on Form 9465. An installment agreement is not free: The IRS charges $105 for drafting the agreement or $52 if the IRS is allowed to deduct the money from your bank account.
Another Option– If you cannot pay, investigate an Offer-in-Compromise. If you are unsure whether you will ever be able to pay the taxes you owe, you can also apply for an Offer-in-Compromise by using IRS Form 656. Under this agreement, the IRS might agree to accept an amount of money that is less than what you owe. The IRS is now allowed to approve an Offer-in-Compromise if you can show that paying the full amount of taxes owed would create a significant financial hardship for you.
Address the Problem– Contact the IRS if you are struggling to pay your taxes. Ignoring the problem will not help, it will only make the situation worse. The sooner you call, the sooner you can work out a solution. In many cases, the IRS might grant a short-term extension–as many as 120 days–to pay all taxes owed without facing a penalty. You can reach the Delaware Taxpayer Advocate Service toll-free by calling 1-877-777-4778.
I don’t have health insurance. Is there somewhere to find information about where to purchase coverage for myself and/or my family?
I encourage you to visit www.healthcare.gov, launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The website is an innovative new on-line tool that provides resources for understanding the health care law. Called for by the Affordable Care Act, www.healthcare.gov is the first website to provide consumers with both public and private health coverage options tailored specifically for their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool.