The Social Security Administration can provide benefits in three different categories, they include; when you retire, if you become disabled, and lastly when you die. Information about Social Security benefits can be found on the Social Security Administration’s website. The age to receive full retirement benefits has been 65 for many years now however for people born after 1938 it is gradually increasing until it reaches the age of 67 for people born after 1959. An individual may start receiving retirement benefits as early as age 62, however if an individual decides to receive benefits starting at age 62 then their benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age. To find out how much an individual would lose if they retire at age 62 you can visit the social security web site. An individual has the choice to retire between the age of 62 and the full retirement age. An Individual qualifies for Social Security benefits by earning Social Security credits when they work in a job and pay Social Security taxes.

The credits are based on the amount of the individual’s earnings and their work history is what determines their eligibility for retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits when an individual dies. For the year 2007 an individual receives one credit for $1,000 of earnings, up to the maximum of four credits per year. Each year the amount of earnings needed to receive credits increases slightly as the average earnings level increases. The credits earned remain on the individual’s Social Security record even if they change jobs or are without earnings for a while. There are special rules that apply for Social Security coverage for certain types of work.

If an individual is self-employed then they earn the same amount of credits as employees however special rules apply if they have net earnings of less than $400. For individuals in the military they earn credits the same way civilians do however there is an opportunity to get additional credits under certain conditions. There are also special rules that apply to individuals that have jobs that include; domestic work, farm work or individuals that work for the church or church-controlled organizations that don’t pay Social Security taxes.

There are also types of work that don’t count toward Social Security. Most federal employees hired before 1984, because since January 1, 1983 all federal employees have paid the Medicare hospital insurance part of the Social Security Tax. Others who are affected by this are railroad workers who have more than 10 years of service. Employees of some state and local governments chose not to participate in Social Security also don’t qualify and lastly children younger than the age of 21 who do household chores for a parent. An individual also may choose to delay retirement benefits. If this is the case their benefits will be increased by a certain percentage depending on the year they were born and the increase will be added automatically from the time they reach full retirement age until the time they decide to retire or until they reach age 70, whichever comes first. One last thing to consider about retirement benefits is if an individual works and gets benefits. An individuals earnings in or after the month they reach full retirement age will not reduce their Social Security benefits however their benefits will be reduced if their earnings exceed certain limits for the months before they reach full retirement age.

If an individual works and starts receiving benefits before full retirement age then $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $2 in earnings they have above the annual limit. In 2007 the limit is $12,960. In the year that the individual reaches full retirement age then their benefits will be reduced $1 for every $3 they earn over a different annual limit, for 2007 its $34,440, until the month they reach their full retirement age. Once the individual reaches their full retirement age they can keep working and their Social Security benefits won’t be reduced no matter how much they earn.

Another helpful benefit that the Social Security Administration offers is disability benefits. The Social Security Administration pays disability benefits in two different ways, one being through the Social Security disability program insurance, the second one is through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. To find information regarding the SSI disabilities program please click on the link provided. Social Security pays benefits to people who can’t work because they have a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death. The federal law requires such strict definition of disability, while some other programs give individuals benefits who have a partial-disability or have short-term disability, Social Security doesn’t. An individual must meet certain earnings requirements in order to be eligible for benefits. Individuals must meet two different earnings tests to be eligible for disability benefits. The first test is a “recent work” test which is based on the individual’s age at the time they became disabled and the second test a “duration of work” test to show that they worked long enough under Social Security. An individual should apply for disability benefits as soon as they become disabled because it can take a long time to process the application for disability benefits. It typically takes about 3 to 5 months. After the application is sent the Social Security Administration will review their application and make sure they meet some basic requirements for benefits such as whether they worked long enough to qualify and they will evaluate any current work activities. If these requirements are met then they will then send your application to the Disability Determination Services office in their state. This agency makes the decision for the SSA, they use their doctors and disability specialists to ask their doctor information about their condition, all facts in their case will be considered. They will also use evidence from any hospital, doctor’s office, clinics or institutions that the individual has been treated in order to obtain all other information.

Lastly another option that the Social Security Administration offers is Survivor’s benefits. People usually only consider Social Security as paying retirement benefits however some of the Social Security taxes that individuals pay go towards providing survivors insurance for workers and their families. The value of the survivors insurance the individual has under Social Security is probably more than the value of their individual life insurance. As an individual works and pays Social Security taxes they earn credits toward their Social Security benefits. The number of years and individual needs to work depends on the age of the individual when they die. The younger a person is the fewer the years they need to have worked, but no one needs to work more than 10 years in order to be eligible for Social Security benefits. Under a special rule if an individual has only worked for a year and a half in the three years just before death, benefits can be paid to individuals and their spouses who are caring for the children. Those who are eligible for survivor’s benefits include; the individual’s widow/widower at age 65 if they were born before January 1, 1940 or at age 67. Reduced widow benefits can be obtained as early as age 60. The individual’s widow or widower can receive benefits at any age if he/she takes care of their child who is eligible to a child’s benefit and is age 16 or younger or who is disabled. An individual’s unmarried children who are under age 18 or 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary education full time. Their children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled. Under certain circumstances benefits could also be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren, or adopted children. Dependent parents may also receive benefits if they are 62 or older. If an individual was divorced their former spouse is eligible if they are 60 and older and if their marriage lasted longer than 10 years. If an individual’s former spouse doesn’t meet the age requirement or length-of-marriage requirement but are caring for his/her child under the age of 16 they can still be entitled.

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