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Can a winter vacation affect your Social Security benefits?

With winter now in full swing, many residents of northern states look to warmer weather for a break from the cold. Some people even make an entire season out of it by maintaining a home in the south while spending spring and summer in the milder northern states. Many individuals who spend a significant amount of time away from their home of record are also old enough to collected Supplemental Security Income or disability benefits.

Could vacationing or 'snow birding' have an effect on Social Security benefits? It is possible, according to a new report published in Palm Beach Post. If you have been outside the United States or its territories for more than 30 consecutive days, you could become ineligible to receive benefits.

Citizens are protected

The good news is, as a US citizen, you are still eligible to receive benefits even if you leave for a short period. Because some specific countries may have a restriction, the SSA offers an online guide to determine your eligibility when traveling abroad. Restricted countries include Cuba, North Korea and others in Eastern Europe and the Middle East with whom the United States has poor relations.

You are always eligible to receive benefits when traveling within the United States including Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa, but there are still steps you may need to take to prevent a delay in payment.

How to prevent delays

To avoid a delay or cancellation of benefits, the Social Security Administration recommends contacting them regarding your whereabouts anytime you travel outside of the country. If you have a temporary residence in another part of the country, you may forward your mail to that address. However, some agencies need to be contacted to continue forwarding after 30 days.

You may also enroll in electronic payments which can result in receiving your check one to three weeks faster than through the mail. Instead of going to the bank, your money will be automatically deposited into your checking account. SSA may send you an annual survey about your lifestyle and travel habits. If you receive this questionnaire, it is best to fill it out and return it as quickly as possible.

If you believe you are eligible for certain Social Security benefits and are denied, an experienced local attorney can help you through the claims process.

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