I claimed Social Security Early Retirement benefits, is there any way I can get more money?

Yes! You can retire as early as age 62, but your benefits will be reduced by 25 percent compared with your payment if you had waited until full retirement age to collect.  For example, if your unreduced benefit is $2000 per month, and you retire early at 62, then your benefits will be reduced 25% to $1500 per month.  But there is still hope to increase your payment!  If you can prove that you were disabled before your full retirement age  then you may be able to get your unreduced benefit for as long as you were disabled, sometimes for the rest of your life.  In this example, your payment would increase from $1500 to $2000 per month.  Not bad, right?  Act quickly though, because you can only get the higher benefit retroactively for twelve months before you apply!  For example, if you became disabled on January 1, 2012, and you apply for benefits today, you are only eligible to get payments from August 2015 onward.  You will not get payments retroactive to 2012.  Don't forget that you also must meet the Social Security Administration's definition of disabled - which is an extremely strict and hopelessly complex standard.  There are many other exceptions and rules, so it is best to consult with an attorney if you're not sure.  Disclaimer: This is a simplified and shortened version of the law/rules and is meant for information only.  

Beware! Baltimore Seniors are Getting Scammed by Fake Contractors!

Baltimore Seniors need to be careful when hiring a contractor to do work on their homes. Recently, at least one person has been approaching Seniors in the Canton/Highlandtown/Dundalk area and promising them quality contracting work.  "There was a guy doing work for someone nearby. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and gave all the right answers about our kitchen remodel. I trusted him because he was doing work for someone I knew, and had completed a previous job that I knew of," said a Senior homeowner from the Canton/Highlandtown area, "so we gave him $8,000 to start on the kitchen. That was 2 months ago, and we haven't heard from him since. Turns out he wasn't even a licensed contractor." In this case, the con man had previously been convicted on operating as a contractor without a license. Here are some tips to lessen the chances of being ripped off:

1. Call the Maryland Home Improvement Commission at 410-230-6309 to find out if the person you are considering is actually a licensed contractor. You can also find out if that person has any complaints against them. 

2. Log on to maryland casesearch to find out if the person you're considering has a record in the Maryland Court system.

3. Put the contract in writing before you hand over any money.  A contract will ensure that both parties are clear about their rights and responsibilities.

4. Give the contractor as little money as possible up front, and schedule payments to coincide with work completed. The contractor will be more motivated if he knows that he won't get paid until he does the work.

If you've been scammed, you can call your local Office of the State's Attorney or file a civil lawsuit.