Your Social Security taxes pay five major categories of benefits: retirement, disability, family benefits, survivors and Medicare. Your Social Security benefit is a percentage of your earnings averaged over most of your working lifetime. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov to calculate your benefits or apply for benefits, or call 800-772-1213.
Social Security Retirement
Benefits are payable at full retirement age (with reduced benefits available as early as age 62) for anyone with enough Social Security credits. The full retirement age is 65 for persons born before 1938. The age gradually rises until it reaches 67 for persons born in 1960 or later. People who delay retirement beyond full retirement age get special credit for each month they don't receive a benefit until they reach age 70.
Social Security Disability
Disability under Social Security is based on your inability to work. You will be considered disabled if you cannot do work you did before and Social Security decides that you cannot adjust to other work because of your medical condition(s). Your disability also must last, or be expected to last, for at least a year or to result eventually in death. This is a strict definition of disability. The program assumes that working families have access to other resources to provide support during periods of short-term disabilities, including workers' compensation, insurance, savings and investments. You should apply at any Social Security office as soon as you become disabled. You may file by phone, mail or by visiting the nearest office. Note that, while you may receive benefits dating back to the date you became disabled, they are limited to one year before the date you filed for benefits. Click here for more information.
If you are eligible for retirement or disability benefits, other members of your family might also be able to receive benefits. These include: your spouse if he or she is at least 62 years old or under 62 and caring for a child under age 16; and your children if they are unmarried and under age 18, under 19 but still in school, or 18 or older but disabled. If you are divorced, your ex-spouse could be eligible for benefits on your record.
Supplemental Security Income
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to disabled adults and children who have limited income and resources. SSI benefits also are payable to people 65 and older without disabilities who meet the financial limits. People who have worked long enough may also be able to receive Social Security disability or retirement benefits as well as SSI. Click here for information on how to apply for SSI.
If the deceased had paid into Social Security for at least 40 quarters, two types of benefits are possible:
- Death benefit: $255 for burial expenses is available to eligible spouses or dependent children. The survivor can complete the necessary form at the local Social Security office, or the funeral director may complete the application and apply the payment directly to the funeral bill.
- Survivor's benefits: A variety of benefits are available depending on the age and relationship of any survivors. You may be eligible for benefits if you match any of these circumstances:
- surviving spouse age 60 or older
- Disabled surviving spouse age 50 or older
- Spouse under 60 who cares for dependent children under age 16 or disabled children
- Children of the deceased under age 18 or who are disabled
Click here for more information about survivor's benefits.
Apply for Medicare
You can also apply for Medicare benefits on the Social Security website. In most cases, it takes just 10 minutes and no furhter action is required. You should apply for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday, regardless of whether or not you need benefits right away. Through the online application, you can sign up for Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you can turn it down. If choose not to enroll in Medicare Part B and then decide to do so later, your coverage may be delayed and you may have to pay a higher monthly premium for as long as you have Part B. Your monthly premium will go up 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it, unless you qualify for a "Special Enrollment Period." Click here for more information about applying for Medicare online.
Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs
Medicare beneficiaries can qualify for Extra Help with their Medicare prescription drug plan costs. The Extra Help is estimated to be worth about $4,000 per year. To qualify for the Extra Help, a person must be receiving Medicare, have limited resources and income, and reside in one of the 50 States or the District of Columbia. Click here for more information.