Penny Forward Transcript: Suggestions for a Simplifying Social Security Course

Have you ever been on a Social Security Administration program? Have you tried to apply, and found the process confusing? In the next Penny Forward self-paced course we would like to attempt to simplify the many programs offered by the Social Security Administration, and in this episode we asked you for the suggestions and stories you had to share about your experiences.

If you have a suggestion of story to share please call or email us at:

(888) 332-5558


Select here to listen to the audio podcast and see the show notes…



Pre-episode Intro


Mike: Social Security benefits were great, and they get you over the hump when you need to have some income to allow you to live, however, social security’s just not enough. People need to go back to work, and actually learn how their social security is impacted by going back to work.


Chris: This is the Penny Forward Podcast, a show about blind people building bright futures one penny at a time. I’m Chris Peterson, …


MOe: I’m MOe Carpenter, …


Chris: And, Liz could not be here tonight, so Kelly Peterson is going to help us with this live podcast recording that we’re doing in Zoom, and in Clubhouse this evening, where we are going to be giving you an overview of our next online course, that we are working on right now, and the goal of this particular episode is to collect your feedback, to try and build in as many answers to your questions, or make sure that we cover the correct topics, in our next online course, which is entitled, “Simplifying Social Security.” It’s a big topic, and it may not be possible to cover every social security related question in this particular course, but don’t fear, because if it doesn’t fit here, we are going to be following up with some additional online courses later in the year, that will cover some specific social security topics in more detail. The goal of this course is to give you an overview of the system, and how it works. So, let me tell you, and MOe, chime in here and, uh, let me know if I miss anything, but let me tell you about some of the things that we have on the drawing board for the course right now. The course starts out with a lesson about what social security is, and a little bit about how it’s funded, and then we go into a history of the social security system, explaining how we got from there to here. Social security has been around since 1935, so there’s a lot of history there. And don’t worry, you’re not expected to know all of the dates and names involved, but we did want to give you an idea of how the system has evolved over time. Then, we take, uh, you on a little bit of a journey through social security numbers, and explain to you how they work. Since most people in the U.S. have social security numbers, this is something that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, and, and so it’s important to understand how you got a social security number in the first place, and what you might do with it once you have it. Next, we talk about the various benefit programs that are under the social security umbrella. So we start with retirement benefits and survivor’s benefits, and then we go into the benefits that are likely to be of interest to a lot of blind people. Social security disability insurance, and also, supplemental security income. And we also cover the variant of SSDI that is available to adult disabled children. Because there are some specific rules related to that, that people might want to understand. And, uh, then we take you on a little bit of an explanation of how work credits work, and how you earn work credits, because that explains to you how you can be eligible for these different benefit programs, and we end with a lesson on where you can find help. Because we know that while social security says that, uh, they are happy to help, they aren’t always the easiest office to deal with, and, uh, so we point you towards other organizations that are able to help you with your social security questions as well. So that’s what we’ve got right now, and our goal this evening, with you on the call, is to hear your stories about social security, or to hear about topics that you think maybe we should cover in this course that maybe I didn’t mention already. Before we get into taking people from the floor, though, I’m gonna turn it over to MOe briefly, because she’s had a chance to take a look at, at the draft course as it is, and uh, MOe, is there anything that I missed when I was going through that overview that uh, I should make sure to mention here?


MOe: I think you covered it all pretty well.


Chris: And I also want to introduce Mike Gadeno, who is a social security work incentives practitioner, and he and his partner Lori have been, and are going to continue to, help us build this course and make sure that everything that we say in it is accurate. Mike, do you want to talk a little bit about yourself?


Mike: My name is Mike Gadeno. I’ve been a practitioner now since probably about 2005. I was actually chasing, um, a couple of guys around who were teaching this information prior to developing a course, that, uh, provides a certification through Cornell University. So I had been chasing these two guys around New York City when I was working in New York City, because uh, they were teaching me what I wanted to know, and I felt that Social Security benefits were great, and they get you over the hump when you need to have some income to allow you to live, however, social security’s just not enough. People need to go back to work, and actually learn how their social security is impacted by going back to work. And uh, when we all go back to work, then we’ll all have those funds to do what we want. And uh, you know, so, I hope that I can help folks understand that at some point, and, uh, make it happen for you if you want to do that.


Chris: I’m curious, Mike, if there are any things that you think would be really important to cover in the course, or that you were hoping that we would cover, if you can remember back to when I gave the, the overview, and I  know I haven’t sent you the draft yet. But some of it’s based on stuff I got from Lori earlier in the year.


Mike: What struck to me was, was that um, you didn’t mention the fact that blind folks are treated very differently with social security. Although you kind of mentioned it, but, I, I think that that really needs to come into play with the history, uh, portion of the, um, outline. Because I, I think that uh, blind folks were really doing the advocacy work way back in 1938, and, I, I think that we really need to include a little piece of that.


Chris: That’s a good idea. I don’t know a great deal about the history of the advocacy from blind people. So, that’s uh, that’s an area that I would be interested in learning more about as well.


MOe: And I know we do mention a couple places there is a difference in the income that is given, or the income limits that are given, to blind individuals, but we can definitely go into more depth.


Chris: Yes we can. There are also blind work incentives for supplemental security income that we could cover, and one thing that I’ve struggled with, and I’m curious to get everybody’s feeling on, on how important this is to get into an overview course or not, is uh, talking about overpayments. Overpayments are a big deal. So many of us have run into that in the past, and weren’t sure how to deal with it. I struggle with whether that needs to be its own course, or whether that’s something that’s possible to cover in, uh, in an overview course.  Okay. So let’s turn to the people in the audience on Zoom, and on Clubhouse, for their questions or their feedback about our, uh, social security course. Starting with Zoom. Uh, MOe, do we have any raised hands in Zoom so far?


MOe: Robert Armstrong just raised his hand.


Robert: I kind of have a story to tell. I just moved my checking account from one bank to another, and I needed to, um, change where my direct deposit from social security comes in. So, I went on line to do it, and it said, “You have two choices. We can begin with the July payment, or we can begin with the August payment.” And I did this in April. So, I thought, “That’s too long. ‘Cause I want to be done with the old bank long before July or August. So then I called Social Security, and it took me a couple of days to get through to them, but when I finally did get through, they were able to set the option to start the new payment in May. Which I could not have done online.


Chris: Oh that’s good to know, Robert. And we can sure make sure to add a note in the course about direct deposits. I’m certain that we haven’t covered direct deposits at all. How long did you stay on hold with social security when you were trying to get through to them?


Robert: I tried on a Monday, and they even tell you online that Mondays are not a good day, and they wouldn’t even let me stay on hold. They basically said “We’re already full up.” Then I tried on Wednesday, and I think I may have stayed online, on hold for about, … I’m gonna say fifteen minutes, something like that.


Chris: Okay. That’s actually surprisingly short. (Laugh.) So, um, and you just called the 800 number, right? You didn’t call the, try to call your local office?


Robert: No, I just called the 800 number, yeah.


Chris: Okay. I just heard a sound on Clubhouse, so I’m gonna turn over there to Kelly to see if anyone is on Clubhouse that maybe has a question.


Kelly: We have a couple people, oh, Mary, go ahead.


Mary: I only just wanted to say, back a few years ago, there was a successful lawsuit in Indiana by some people who were blind who received SSI and SSDI, and they had been receiving their notices of overpayment and etc. in an inaccessible format. So, it was always print. And they won a lawsuit that really guaranteed their right to receive it in Braille if they needed to, or some other form of accessible format, I guess, but particularly Braille. And I just wondered if any other states were dealing with that kind of thing also, and if that’s something maybe worth looking into.



Chris: Yeah. Mike, do you know anything about that?


Mike: We are able to get social security notices in an alternative format of our choice. It could be Braille, it could be large print, or it could be a telephone call. So, um, there are ways of doing that, and we may want to include a little bit of that in the overview based on the fact that it is available, and many folks don’t know about it.


Chris: Yeah. I think that’s a great idea. Thank you, Mary. Rick, go ahead.


Rick: I do have a question in regard to overpayments. Interestingly enough, this has been quite some time ago, I did receive overpayment, turned around and sent it back, but my question is, what happens if you don’t send it back? Um, and then to expand on that further, I thought I had achieved a place where I was no longer receiving payments, but was using the Medicaid that was associated with SSI, and went for several years and didn’t receive any payments because of, you know, the income situation, and then out of the blue, there had been several months where there was no income, and  got a great big overpayment deposit. Like I went for several years, and didn’t get anything, and then just out of the blue, got a big deposit. And that was just recently.


Chris: I think we should talk about what happens if you don’t send an overpayment back. Both what could happen, and, maybe what does happen in reality. Uh, ’cause the two are different things. Mike, I’m guessing that Rick had that happen because there was an automated periodic review of his file, and something wasn’t entered correctly, and so they saw that he wasn’t receiving payments and they paid him for back payments.


Mike: Um, there’s a program, and Rick, what you had mentioned was that you had continued to need Medicaid coverage. And that program is, has got a name, it’s a regulation, it’s called 16 19 B. And that program allows you to keep your Medicaid, as long as you, um, use your Medicaid at least once during the course of each year and you do need that Medicaid to cover your medications. So yes, that program exists. However, when you’re in a 16 19 B status, you’re still on SSI. And, if the Social Security Administration sees that you are not being paid via your, your payment records, that are, that are sent to them, they may turn around and send you a payment. And, um, it’s usually the other way. Um, usually you have to beg and plead with them to get payments when, when you stop working and, and have no income, but um, you’re the first time I’m hearing a story as them paying you without requesting.


Rick: Well I definitely did not request it, so …


Chris: Oh, I had this happen to me several times when I was on social security and on SSI and SSDI, you know, twenty-five years ago. I distinctly remember. I was home from college for Christmas. It was in January before I went back to college. All of a sudden, there was eighty-seven hundred dollars in my checking account. And I had no idea where it came from, and I had never seen that much money in my life. And so I called my bank to find out where it, where it came from, and they said, “Oh, it was, it was deposited by the Social Security Administration.” And so I called the Social Security Administration and said, “I don’t know why I got this. Is this correct?” And they said “Yeah, you, you were supposed to get this.” And, uh, of course, then, sometime later, years later, I received an overpayment letter and my benefits were cut, you know, maybe because of this, so, I was young and stupid and really didn’t know what questions to ask or how hard to push. But I knew that I wasn’t allowed to have more than two thousand dollars in the bank, so that money went, uh, went away pretty fast.


MOe: I did want to take a moment just to mention that we will be doing some other social security based courses coming up as well, not just the simplifying it. So you know, all the suggestions will, if they’re not in this next course, may be used in future courses.


Chris: Yes. That is really a good point. Some of the ideas for those courses are one specifically about SSI, and its regulations, one specifically about SSDI, and its regulations, perhaps one on work incentives, and how returning to work, or resuming work after receiving benefits works in  detail, and then, you know there is this, this issue of overpayments as well. And I see uh, Mike has his hand raised. Mike, go ahead.


Mike: I think that, um, in an overview and an introduction, you may want to touch on the topic of creating a My Social Security account, and how they work, and what type of tasks can be manipulated in one of those accounts.


Chris: Uh, good idea. In fact I was just in my, my Social Security account the other day, and I know that we haven’t created a lesson on that yet. So, thank you for that. Very good idea. Well that concludes our short discussion on what kinds of things we might want to include in our next online course, which is called “Simplifying Social Security.”  We’re expecting it to come out right around the first of July, or maybe a little earlier than that. So stay tuned for that, and if it’s a topic that you’re interested in, and you would like to get access to that course when it comes out, you can always join Penny Forward, by going to our website, and choose the “Join Penny Forward” link, right near the top of the page. Our memberships cost 9 dollars a month, or 99 dollars a year, and for that price, you get access to all of our online courses, the ones we’ve produced now, and the ones we will produce in the future, access to our weekly members only group chats, where we cover financial topics in detail, along with financial current events, and cover the Penny Forward news of the week, and finally, you get access to one to one financial counseling from our accredited financial counselor candidates, who are on staff, who are learning the financial counseling field right now, from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education, or AFCPE. And by receiving counseling from them, you’re also helping them out to gain necessary experience hours to receive their AFC certifications. We each have to have a thousand experience hours, so we really need to, uh, get a chance to, uh, help you out with uh, some of your counseling questions. Again, you can access all of that on our website, which is

And, stay tuned for big news coming up in the next couple of months regarding Penny Forward’s appearances at both the ACB and NFB national conventions. We’ll be talking more about that in the next few episodes.


The Penny Forward podcast is produced by Chris Peterson and Liz Bottner, with assistance from MOe Carpenter. Audio editing and post production is provided by Brynn Lee at

and transcription is provided by Anne Verduin. The music is composed and produced by Andre Louis. For all of us in the Penny Forward community, I’m Chris Peterson, …


MOe: I’m MOe Carpenter, …


Kelly: And I’m Kelly Peterson.


Chris: Have a great week, and thank you for listening.


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