Understanding My Social Security Benefit

Parts of Social Security and How They Benefit You

When the average person thinks of “Social Security,” he thinks of the monthly check he will receive once he reaches retirement age. However, the federal government has actually set up several different funds through Social Security to make sure citizens of all types of needs and ages have sufficient financial means.

Retirement Benefits

Seventy-one percent of Social Security recipients are retirees who are at least 62 and have enough work credits to be eligible. A recipient must have recorded at least 40 work credits. (Four work credits are available each year you work.) People who have enough work credits have paid into the system through their taxes for an average of 10 years of work.

Only partial benefits are paid out at 62. A person must be the age of 70 to receive his maximum benefit. This amount is based on the average of earnings in the 35 years in which he worked the most. However, there is a cap on how much one can receive.

Spouses of a living retired worker can also collect retirement benefits if the spouse is at least 62 years old, has a child who is under age 16, or a child who is disabled. If the spouses are divorced, he or she can still collect retirement benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. Remarriage automatically disqualifies him or her from the spouses benefit.


Disability Benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is set aside for people who have been working but become disabled and unable to work. These workers have contributed to the Disability Insurance Trust Fund through taxes during the working years. If a person becomes disabled at an age younger than 24, he or she is required to have worked at least one and half years during the prior three years in order to collect SSDI.

For people over age 24, there must be a medical condition that is severe. The disability needs to be on the “impairment list” written by Social Security. The person must be unable to do any of their previous jobs or another job he is qualified for. The disability must be expected to last at least one year.

The worker’s spouse and children can also collect disability benefits if the breadwinner becomes disabled. A spouse is eligible if he or she is at least 62, has a child under age 16 or a disabled child, or is divorced but was married to the worker for 10 years. Dependent children of disabled workers are also eligible if they are under 18, under 19 and still in high school, or are adults who were disabled before age 22.

Supplemental Security Income Benefits

Supplemental Security Income is also a program that supports disabled workers. However, this program is for people with disabilities who have either never worked or have not earned the 40 work credits to make them eligible for SSDI. This program is strictly need-based, according to income and assets, and is funded by general fund taxes instead of from the Social Security trust fund.
For a person to meet the SSI income requirements, they have less than $2,000 in assets. For a couple, the limit is $3,000 in assets. A person must also have a very limited income. Most people who qualify for this fund are also eligible to receive Medicaid and food stamps. The amount an eligible person will receive is dependent on where they live and the amount of regular, monthly income they have. In 2017, the monthly benefit was $735 per month for individuals and $1,103 for couples.

Survivor Benefits

Social Security also provides a “death benefit” in a one-time payment of $255 to the spouse and children of a deceased worker. Continual survivor benefits are available in the following situations:

  • The spouse is at least 60 years old.
  • The spouse is disabled and at least age 50.
  • The spouse has a child younger than 16 or a disabled child.

Spouses receive either their widow/er payment (which may be 100% of the spouse’s amount if the survivor waits to claim it at full retirement age) or their own SSI payment – whichever is higher. A parent of a deceased worker can also be eligible for benefits from a deceased child if they are at least 62 and were dependent on their child for more than 50% of their income.  Children of a deceased worker can also collect Social Security, including dependent step children. They must be under 18, under 19 and still in high school, or an adult who became disabled before 22.

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“What are the Different Types of Social Security Benefits,” Legal Zoom



“What Is the Difference Between Social Security Disability (SSDI) and SSI?” Disability Secrets