Q: I am receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and my checks go directly to the bank. I'm changing banks and I'm not sure what will happen with the direct deposit. Will the new bank make the change for me or do I have to go into the local Social Security office? H.J., Louisville
A: You can take care of the change with a phone call. Open the new account first and then call Social Security at 800-772-1213. The representative will need the new account information to complete your request. Although the information is placed on your record very quickly, the actual switch between banks might take a little longer. Don't close the old account until you're sure the SSI check is being deposited at the new bank.
Q: I am the legal representative of a person filing for Social Security disability benefits. The case has gone to the hearing level, and I have completed all of the necessary paperwork for my fee charges. My client has no income, and he will likely file for bankruptcy before the judge hears the case. I am only involved with the Social Security disability, not the bankruptcy. Do I have any responsibility in notifying Social Security if this happens? F.T., Twinsburg
A: Yes. If you know your client has filed for bankruptcy and you are due a fee, you should notify Social Security immediately.
Once the agency receives notice of the bankruptcy action, all representative fee actions stop. Social Security cannot approve or disapprove a fee agreement, set the amount of the representative's fee based on a fee petition or an approved fee agreement or pay an authorized fee to an attorney representative from past-due benefits.
The automatic stay that follows a bankruptcy proceeding does not automatically eliminate the debt, but it does suspend the adjudication or collection of the debt.
Social Security will wait for instructions from the Bankruptcy Court before taking any further action on fee requests. If Social Security would release a fee payment in error, the money would have to be returned.
For more information, go to our Web site at http://socialsecurity.gov.
Q: I'm looking for Medicare programs that offer prescription coverage and was told they are called Advantage plans. Where can I find out more information? B.R., Barberton
A: There are many Medicare Advantage plans and they vary by costs, benefits and geographic area. Advantage plans are approved by Medicare but administered by private companies.
The four basic Advantage options available are: Managed Care Plans, Private Fee-for-Service Plans, Preferred Provider Organization Plans (PPOs) and Specialty Plans.
To be eligible to enroll into an Advantage plan, you must have Medicare Part A and B. To find out more about Advantage plans and prescription drug coverage, go to Medicare's Web site at http://www.medicare.gov.
Send questions to Joe Paukovich, Social Security Administration, Second Floor, Federal Building, 2 S. Main St., Akron, OH 44308. Fax: 330-375-5616 or e-mail: Joseph.Paukovich@ssa.gov.