I'm 69½ and finally retiring! I'll turn 70 on Oct. 28. When I do, I plan to switch from my current Social Security benefit as a surviving spouse to my own benefit. Can I do this online? During a pandemic, the idea of standing on line with many other people is terrifying. Can I apply for Medicare online at the same time?

For the very reason you cite, local Social Security offices aren't currently making face-to-face appointments. But you can make a telephone appointment to speak with a Social Security representative at your local office who can help you switch from your survivor benefit to one based on your work record. To find the phone number of your local office, go to ssa.gov and type "office locator" in the search engine.

If you were collecting a survivor benefit when you turned 65, you were notified that it was time for you to apply for Medicare. But you could have postponed that application without incurring a penalty if you still had health coverage though a current job at a company with 20 or more employees.

It sounds as if that's what you did.

To get Medicare Part B without a premium penalty after you retire, you must submit paperwork showing that you've been covered through your job until now, says Barry Klitsberg, a Health Insurance Information Counseling and Assistance Program counselor at FCA in Mineola. You can do this online. But first, discuss your Medicare application with the Social Security agent you speak to about your change in benefit; that agent can explain the process and tell you what information you and your employer need to provide.

The bottom line

Local Social Security offices are closed for in-person appointments, but open for telephone appointments.

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