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Answers to Your Most Frequent Questions about Social Security Benefits

During Financial Literacy Month we asked our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ friends what questions they had related to Social Security benefits and retirement. Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we received and the answers that our partner at the Social Security Administration provided.

What is the minimum age to collect Social Security benefits?

As early as 62 years of age for reduced benefits, or unreduced benefits at your full retirement age.  Full retirement depends on your year of birth. Learn about the pros and cons of early retirement or delaying retirement.

How can I collect benefits if I have a child with a disability?

If you are the parent of a child who has a physical or mental impairment that causes severe functional limitations, your child could be eligible for Supplemental Security Income. Visit:http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/ssi.htm to learn more and complete a disability report. You can also call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment with the SSA.

Is my spouse eligible for benefits?

A spouse could receive an amount equal to 50 percent of the amount the beneficiary receives at full retirement age, if the spouse is of full retirement age as well. If this spouse receives a pension from an employer not covered under Social Security, benefits will be reduced. You can find more information on the Government Pension Offset (PDF).

Survivor benefits, how does this work?

If you are a widow, the child or the parent of a deceased worker, you may be eligible for monthly benefits orLump-Sum Death Payment.

There is no statute of limitations on receiving survivor death benefits if you are a child, parent or surviving spouse of a deceased worker for as long as you meet the eligibility criteria.  Detailed information can also be found here information here: How Social Security Can Help You When A Family Member Dies (PDF).

What are the benefit implications of delaying retirement?

If retirement is delayed, the worker will be eligible for Delayed Retirement Credits. Delayed Retirement Credits from Social Security are an eight percent increase in the benefits for every year, after worker turns Full Retirement Age, and benefits are delayed.

If a beneficiary currently receives Social Security benefits, and he or she is not of full retirement age, up to $15,480.00 in 2014 could be earn in regular or self – employment. Social Security will deduct $1 from the benefits for each $2 earned above that limit.

If you reach full retirement age this year, the beneficiary can earn $41,400 in the months before the month full retirement age is attained. If he or she earns above the limit, Social Security will deduct $1 from these benefits for every $3 earned above the limit.


How do I apply for Medicare?

A worker is eligible for Medicare at 65 years old.  Younger workers would be eligible if receiving disability benefits (there is a 24 months waiting period).  More information is available at  http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/medicare.htm

Medicare does not pay for all the costs of medical expenses. Some beneficiaries choose to enroll in Medicare supplemental insurance. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services offers more information about Medigap policies (supplemental insurance).


What if I collect other benefits from the federal government?

Social Security benefits are not affected by a Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) pension.  However, a pension from The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) will reduce Social Security benefits if you apply for benefits on your Spouse’s Social Security record. More information on the Government Pension Offset is available on the Social Security Administration’s website.

My benefits seem to low, how can I have my benefits reviewed?

It is possible to be eligible for additional benefits if the beneficiary does not have any other income and has limited resources. Social Security has a toll free number 1-800-772-1213 where a representative can be requested to review a record.

I currently live outside of the United States, can I still collect benefits?

If a beneficiary has worked in the United States but now lives abroad it may be possible to collect benefits. More information on payments while overseas is on the Social Security Administration’s website. A beneficiary can also contact the U.S. embassy in the country where they reside.

More questions or concerns regarding your benefits?

Contact the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 and speak to a representative who can review your record or who could further help answer your questions.

Government Benefits for People With Disabilities

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five people are affected by disabilities. Some of those disabilities happen at birth, while others are the result of injury, illness, or aging.

Despite the limitations these conditions may cause, there are government programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities.

Social Security benefits
The Social Security Administration offers two programs to help people with disabilities and, often, the benefits can last for over a year. The programs are:

To apply for these benefits, contact the Social Security offices at 1-800-772-1213 or at 1-800-325-0778 (TTY for the hearing impaired).

Help for military personnel
There is also help for veterans who become disabled or injured while performing military service. Some of these benefits include:

  • Concurrent Retirement Disability Pay. This benefit is for retired veterans who are 50 to 90 percent disabled. The amount of payment is determined by the person’s degree of disability. Veterans who are completely disabled receive the full benefit.
  • Combat-Related Special Compensation. Retired veterans who were injured during military combat receive tax-free monthly payments.

Disabled military personnel and veterans can also receive financial help to buy a car that accommodates their needs, get dental care, a clothing allowance, and more. You can read more about benefits for disabled veterans (PDF).

You can apply for these programs by calling 1-800-827-1000 or by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

It’s worth noting that some veterans may also receive disability benefits from Social Security.

Help for special education
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provides free education services to children with special needs, to help them develop, learn, and succeed in school.

Those who meet the requirements receive an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a plan that contains individualized learning goals as well as the services the child needs.

If your child has a disability, talk to the school staff to find out how to receive these special education benefits.

Read this note in Spanish.

WATCH: What are Social Security credits and why do you need to earn them? 

Social Security and Retirement Plan

Many people like to get a head start on planning their family’s economic future. And without a doubt, a major part of that process concerns retirement.

When planning your own retirement, it’s important to consider factors such as your current economic situation, your future needs, and if you will be depending on other sources of income.

Social Security is an essential part in planning your retirement from the work force, and so it’s recommended that you get to know some of its most important aspects.

1.  Retirement Age

In order to retire and be able to collect Social Security benefits, you must be at least 62 years-old. However, if you begin to collect at that age, the funds will be permanently reduced. If instead you decide to retire at age 67, you will be able to collect your full benefits.

See the Social Security department’s Retirement Planner for further information.

2. Number of Social Security Credits Needed to Retire

In addition to reaching retirement age, you should also have accumulated a total of 40 credits. You earn credits depending on the number of years you worked. Generally you get four credits for every year you’ve worked.

If you’ve already accumulated 40 credits and you’d like to know the amount of money that you’d collect during your retirement, you can create an online Social Security account and receive a copy of your benefits.

If you don’t have the required 40 credits but would like an estimate of the amount of benefits you’d receive, you can use the retirement benefits calculator.

3. Retirement Abroad

You have the right to collect Social Security benefits even if you live in another country. But if you are receiving retirement payments from another country that isn’t the United States, Social Security may reduce those benefits.

There are certain regulations for U.S. citizens and residents, and for those living in countries such as Cuba, North Korea and others. You can find more information about your payments while living outside the United States.

Use this tool to see if you can continue receiving your Social Security Payments abroad.

Applying for retirement benefits and other information

You can apply for retirement benefits online or at a Social Security office near you.

If you’d like to receive more information, get in touch with Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or at 1-800-325-0778 (TTY, for people with hearing disabilities).

Read this note in Spanish.

I have a photo copy of my s s card - I need the original today for my new job. how can i get one today.

Asked by an anonymous Tumblr user.

There are three steps to replacing a Social Security card:

  1. Gather documents to prove you identity and U.S. citizenship or current work-authorized immigration status.
  2. Complete an Application for a Social Security Card (PDF).
  3. Take or mail your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.

After the Social Security Administration receives your application and verifies your documents, you should receive your replacement Social Security card by mail within 10 business days.

Find out how to verify if a replacement card has been issued.