Benefits and belongings shouldn't be taken for granted

News and views from Rita

Social Security COLA increase

Happy New Year and I hope it is a healthy one. If you are on Social Security, you will notice that you received a whopping 1.7 percent increase in your benefit. Please spend it wisely as you probably will not get any more “good” Social Security news for the next two years.

Replacing lost or stolen credit cards and documents

I have a sad story to tell and I hope that you all learn a lesson from my misfortune. All of my identification cards were either lost or stolen and you need to read about how difficult it will be to replace them if it happens to you.

In order to replace your state ID or driver’s license, you must submit either a birth certificate, marriage license, Social Security or Medicare card or a current passport.

You can replace your Social Security card for free if it is lost or stolen. However, you may not need to get a replacement card if you know your Social Security number, for that is what is important.

You are limited to three Social Security replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in immigration status that require card updates may not count toward the limit. Also, you may not be affected by the limit if you can prove you need the card to prevent a significant hardship.

All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. Both the federal and state governments say that they cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. They also cannot accept a receipt showing that you applied for the document.

It is not easy to get a certified copy of a document showing a birth, marriage or divorce that took place in the U.S., so please keep documents like these at home when you go out shopping.

Social Security will mail your new card as soon as they have all of your information and have verified your documents. Your replacement card will have the same name and number as your previous card.

Are you eligible for SSI?

If you are low income and 65 years of age or older, you may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and I urge you to visit the website and take the short test to see. Or you can go to another good website,, for the same information. Both of these sites do not save any of your information.

A surprise (and happy) ending

Fate surely works in mysterious ways. I went to my drugstore to pick up pills for my sweet puppy, Portia, and when the clerk, her name was Caitlin, heard my name and that I had lost my “rewards card” she brought out a packet that she said she had found and, lo and behold, there were all of my credit cards and ID! That was my 2014 Christmas miracle.

But I still urge you all to be careful with your important documents because not everyone gets a Christmas miracle.

Help wanted

If there is anyone living in the Anchorage area who has the time, energy and the good spirits to want to help other people, I am more than willing and able to teach you how to do the work that I do and share the satisfaction I receive as a volunteer. I would really be grateful to be able to pass on the knowledge that I have received in my last 20 years of volunteering.

If you are interested in volunteering, I also need someone to help archive the OPAG art gallery.

Rita Hatch volunteers for the Older Persons Action Group’s Medicare assistance program and is an OPAG board member. Call her at 276-1059 in Anchorage or toll-free statewide at 1-800-478-1059. Her email address is