How to Get Social Security Benefits
Social Security benefits are a vital source of income for millions of Americans with a wide range of needs, from retirees to disabled individuals. The Social Security program provides billions of dollars in benefits each year, but navigating the system and getting those benefits can be a complicated and confusing process. Whether you are nearing retirement age, disabled, or seeking survivor benefits, there are steps you can take to make the process smoother and ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve.
In this article, we will cover the basics of Social Security benefits, including who is eligible, how to apply, and what steps you can take to ensure you receive the maximum benefits possible. We will also provide updated information from government resources, including changes to the program and the impact of COVID-19 on Social Security.
Who Is Eligible?
The Social Security program provides benefits to individuals who have paid into the system through payroll taxes, as well as to their spouses, children, and survivors. To qualify for retirement benefits, you must be at least 62 years old and have earned enough credits through your work history. The number of credits required varies depending on your age and the year you were born, but you can earn up to four credits per year. In 2021, you need to earn $1,470 in covered earnings to get one Social Security or Medicare credit and $5,880 to earn the maximum four credits for the year.
For those who are disabled, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) provides benefits to eligible individuals who are unable to work because of their disability. To qualify for SSDI, you must have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) definition of disability and have earned enough credits through your work history. In addition, the condition must be expected to last at least one year or result in death.
Survivor benefits are available to the spouses, children, and parents of a deceased individual who was eligible for Social Security benefits. This can include retirement, disability, or survivors benefits. To be eligible for survivor benefits, the surviving spouse must have been married to the deceased for at least nine months. However, there are exceptions to this requirement, such as if the death was accidental or if the surviving parent is caring for the deceased’s child who is under 16 or disabled.
How to Apply for Social Security Benefits
The process of applying for Social Security benefits can seem daunting, but it is essential to ensure that you receive the benefits you are entitled to. The following steps will guide you through the process of applying for retirement, disability, or survivors benefits.
Step 1: Gather Required Documents
Before you begin your application, you will need to gather the necessary documents to prove your eligibility for benefits. These may include your Social Security card and birth certificate, W-2 forms or tax returns for recent years, and medical documentation for disability claims. You may also need documentation of marriage or divorce for spouse and survivor benefits.
Step 2: Apply Online or In Person
The SSA offers an online application process that allows you to apply for benefits from the comfort of your own home. The online application process is relatively straightforward and allows you to complete the application in stages, saving your progress as you go. If you prefer to apply in person, you can visit your local SSA office or call the toll-free number to schedule an appointment.
Step 3: Wait for Processing
After submitting your application, you will need to wait for the SSA to process it. This can take several weeks or even months, depending on the complexity of your case and the number of applications being processed at that time. If there are issues with your application or documentation, the SSA may contact you to request additional information.
Step 4: Review Your Decision Letter
Once your application has been processed, you will receive a decision letter from the SSA outlining the benefits you are entitled to receive. It is important to review this letter carefully and follow any instructions provided. If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal.
Maximizing Your Benefits
Getting Social Security benefits is just the beginning of the process. There are several things you can do to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits possible, including:
Delaying Retirement: If you are eligible for retirement benefits but have not yet reached full retirement age, delaying retirement can increase your monthly benefits. For each year you delay retirement beyond full retirement age, your benefits will increase by 8%. Delaying retirement until age 70 can result in a 32% increase in your monthly benefits.
Maximizing Your Work History: Your Social Security benefits are based on your work history and the amount of money you have earned over the course of your career. To ensure that you receive the maximum benefits possible, it is essential to work for as long as possible and earn as much as you can. In addition, if you have worked for more than one employer, it is important to make sure that all of your earnings are properly reported to the SSA.
Claiming Spousal Benefits: If you are married and your spouse has a higher earning history, you may be eligible for spousal benefits. This can provide you with up to 50% of your spouse’s monthly benefit amount, even if you have not worked or have a lower work history. However, if you claim spousal benefits before your full retirement age, your benefit amount will be reduced.
Claiming Survivor Benefits: If you are the survivor of a deceased individual who was eligible for Social Security benefits, you may be entitled to survivor benefits. This can include retirement, disability, or survivor benefits. To ensure that you receive the maximum benefits possible, it is essential to file for survivor benefits as soon as possible after the death of your loved one.
COVID-19 and Social Security Benefits
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the Social Security program, including changes to the benefits available and the way that the SSA operates. Some of the key changes related to COVID-19 include:
Stimulus Payments: As part of the COVID-19 relief measures, the federal government provided stimulus payments to eligible individuals. These payments were based on income and tax filings and were separate from Social Security benefits.
Remote Services: Due to the pandemic, many SSA offices have had to close or reduce their services. This has led to an increase in remote services, including online applications and telephone appointments.
Disability Claims: The pandemic has led to an increase in disability claims as more individuals are unable to work because of their health or because of COVID-related job loss. However, the SSA has also had to reduce or suspend some of its disability-related services, leading to delays in processing claims.
Social Security benefits are a vital source of income for millions of Americans, providing financial security for retirees, disabled individuals, and survivors. While navigating the complex Social Security system can be challenging, understanding your eligibility, applying for benefits, and maximizing your benefits can ensure that you receive the support you need in your later years. By following the steps outlined in this article, as well as staying up-to-date on changes related to COVID-19, you can ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve.
Getting SS (Social Security) benefits
Getting SS (Social Security) benefits is considered achievable for some 96% of the American workforce. Social Security benefits of this kind, as comprise one of the primary emphases for this government agency, are accordingly provided in the form of retirement benefits.
According to the agency, people who believe they will be getting SS retirement benefits in this way should refer to the information published by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as to how such benefits can be legitimately achieved, and as to how the level of benefits provided will be determined and might potentially be increased.
Determining SS benefit levels
People who know they will be getting SS benefits can determine the specific amount to which they will be due by the Social Security Administration through the number of Social Security credits which they hold.
The required level of credits needed to be held by the specific applicant before getting SS benefits is determined in accordance with the date on which that particular individual was born. Individuals born on or after 1929 will require 40 credits in order to go through the process of getting SS benefits.
Further relevant factors in getting SS benefits
The Social Security Administration will also take into consideration such factors as the age at which the recipient of SS benefits decides to retire from the active U.S. workforce and the earning power which the recipient was able to achieve in the course of holding employment. People who wish to be eligible for getting SS benefits can retire, at the earliest, at the age of 62.
Moreover, the financial assistance provided by getting SS benefits at this age or later will be determined according to the consistency with which the individual in question was able to maintain employment. As such, people who went through periods of unemployment in the course of their working lives should expect, upon retirement, to getting SS benefits at lower amounts.
The online Retirement Estimator is a function provided by the Social Security and made available to any individual with a working Internet connection through which people can learn how much they will be due through getting SS benefits.
Retirement prior to age 62
People interested in getting SS benefits who know or believe that they will not be working up to the set age of 62 can still be due to the benefits provided in this way. Though early retirement will lower the amount to which such people will be due through getting SS benefits, eligibility for the program will not be completely cancelled out through this means.
Retirement after age 62
People who decide to retire after the age of 62 years can accordingly use this means as a function through which they can increase the amount to which they will be eligible through getting SS benefits. Accordingly, people can further refer to the online Retirement Estimator in order to determine the extent to which they can increase their financial benefits in this way.