Many of our clients rely on benefits they receive from the Social Security Administration to help them meet their daily needs. There are several programs within Social Security that provide these essential benefits, and the program under which you might receive those benefits depends on your circumstances.
Retirement benefits: Retirement benefits are available to people who have worked for at least ten years and have paid Social Security taxes out of their earnings. The age at which you can receive full retirement benefits depends on how long ago you were born. If you were born after 1959, you can receive full retirement benefits at age 67. If you were born before 1959, your full retirement age falls somewhere between age 65 and 67. You can opt to take a reduced benefit as early as age 62 or a greater benefit by delaying you retirement age as late as age 70.
Disability: Social Security has two programs that provide benefits for people of any age who are disabled.
- Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is typically available to people who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least ten years total and for at least five of the past ten years. To qualify for SSDI, you must also show that you are disabled under Social Security’s rules – that you have a disability that is expected to last at least twelve months (or to end in death) that prevents you from working. While the SSDI program is not needs-based (i.e., you do not have to prove that your income and/or resources are below a certain level), there are limits on how much money you can earn from work each month in order to continue to qualify for SSDI.
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program for adults and children who are disabled or have reached retirement age, but they have not worked enough to qualify for SSDI or retirement benefits. In 2018, the monthly SSI benefit is $750. To qualify for SSI, you have to show that you have either reached retirement age or are disabled under Social Security’s rules. You also have to show that your income and the value of your resources (the things that you own) fall below certain levels.
Survivor’s benefits: If your spouse has died, and he or she was eligible for Social Security benefits, you may be able to continue to receive those benefits. Here are the circumstances under which you can receive benefits based on your spouse’s work record:
- If you are 60 years old or older (or if you are 50 years old or older and disabled under Social Security’s rules), you may receive benefits based on your spouse’s work history.You must wait until full retirement age (or be disabled) to receive the full benefit.
- If you are a surviving divorced spouse, you may receive benefits as described above as long as your marriage lasted at least 10 years and you did not remarry prior to the age of 60 (age 50 if you are disabled).
- If you are caring for any of your spouse’s children who are under the age of 16 or who are disabled.
Survivor’s benefits are also available to an unmarried child of a deceased worker if the child is under 18 years old (19 if he or she is still in elementary or secondary school) or over 18 and has a disability that began before he or she turned 22.
Disabled adult children: An adult (age 18 or older) who is disabled may receive Social Security benefits based on a parent’s record if all of the following are true:
- The adult child can show that he or she was disabled under Social Security’s rules before he or she turned 22 and is still disabled.
- The adult child is not married.
- The parent is receiving retirement or disability benefits, or is deceased and was eligible for Social Security benefits while alive.
To find out whether you have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and to find out what your monthly benefit would be based on your current work record, you can create an account on Social Security’s website. From there, you can access your Social Security statement. You can also call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.