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Published Jan. 25, 2012

Q: If I call toll-free 1-800-772-1213, can a Social Security representative take my application for Medicare prescription drug help over the phone?

A: If an interviewer is available when you call the 800 number, he or she can take your application over the phone.

If an interviewer is not immediately available, you can schedule a telephone appointment.

For the fastest and most convenient way to apply for Medicare prescription drug help, go online to

40 credits needed to get retirement benefits

Q: How long does a person need to work to become eligible for retirement benefits?

A: Social Security benefits are based on work credits. Anyone born in 1929 or later needs 40 Social Security credits to be eligible for retirement benefits.

You can earn up to four credits a year, so you will need to work at least 10 years to become eligible for retirement benefits.

Learn more by reading the publication "How You Earn Credits" at

This column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. For fast answers to specific Social Security questions, contact Social Security toll-free at 1-800-772-1213.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service