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Home Self-help Library Public Benefits Basic Facts About Social Security Benefits

Basic Facts About Social Security BenefitsPrintE-mailPDF

What are the different types of social security? The Social Security Administration has two basic programs. One program is the Retirement, Survivors, Disability Insurance (RSDI) program. This program provides benefits to workers with sufficient work history. The other is the Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) program. This program provides benefits to aged, blind and disabled individuals.

RSDI: SOCIAL SECURITY RETIREMENT: This program provides a cash benefit for a retired worker, spouse and minor children. Social Security benefits are based on the worker’s earnings over a lifetime.

The social security retirement age is changing. Early retirement is at age 62. Full retirement is at age 65. If you were born between January 2, 1943 and January 1, 1955 your full retirement age is 66. Early retirement benefit checks are significantly lower. Be sure you know your options before retiring. Check the SSA on-line retirement estimator.

Spouses or divorced surviving spouses of retired workers a may collect a benefit check. The check is one-half of the worker’s check. The spouse or divorced surviving spouse must be:

  • age 62 or older or caring for a child under the age of 16; and
  • not eligible for benefits under their own social security earnings.
  • A divorced spouse must have been married to the retired worker over 10 years and not be remarried.

Spouses or divorced surviving spouses may have been in the paid labor force. They will receive a benefit based on their own record. Their benefits are based on their own record only if their benefit is more than 50% of the retired worker’s benefit.

Some workers receive pensions based on federal, state or local government employment. These workers may not have been covered by social security. Any social security benefit payable to them may be reduced. This is called the government pension offset program. This rule does not apply to persons entitled to social security benefits before 1978. Other rules apply. For more information, contact your union representative or the Social Security Administration.

A widow or divorced widow may continue to collect a benefit check. This check will be in the full amount of the worker’s benefit check. Remarriage will not affect the check if the widow is over age 60. A totally and permanently disabled widow can receive benefits at age 50. A divorced widow must have been married to the deceased worker for 10 years or more and not be remarried.

A disabled divorced spouse may collect a benefit check at age 50 or older. The disabled divorced spouse must be totally and permanently disabled. He or she must have been married to the retired worker for 10 years and not remarried.

RSDI: SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY: This program provides a cash benefit for a disabled worker, spouse and minor children. Social Security benefits are based on an individual’s average lifetime earnings.

Spouses of disabled workers may collect a benefit check in the amount of one-half of the worker’s check if caring for a child under the age of 16.

Any unmarried children of the disabled worker may also collect a benefit check up to age 18. Benefits continue to age 19 for full time students.

An unmarried disabled child of an insured worker may receive a benefit check. They must apply before age 22.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): The SSI program provides a cash benefit for adults with limited or no work records. The adult may have worked only a short time. Or the worker may not have worked in covered employment. SSI benefits are available to aged, blind and disabled individuals. Household income must be below the poverty level.

Disabled minor children may also be eligible for an SSI check. Their household income must be below the poverty level. A spouse or children of an SSI recipient cannot receive benefits unless they are individually eligible.

In 2012, an adult can receive both an SSI check and either a social security disability or social security retirement benefits. Their monthly benefit must be below $698 per month. The individual must also meet certain asset limits.

Contact your local Social Security Administration office for more information. Call the toll free number below. Check their website at ssa.gov.

1-800-772-1213 is an automated telephone service. It has recorded information. You can conduct some business 24 hours a day. You can speak to a Social Security representative between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call during the week after Tuesday.

If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call the toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

 

This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.
Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated April, 2012. CE-72-F224-CLAS

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