Social Security Assistance

This page is divided into 3 sections. Click on the section you are most interested in below to be sent directly to that specific information:

General Social Security Information
Social Security Disability Insurance
Supplemental Social Security Income

General Social Security Information

Background
Social Security is run by the Social Security Administration (SSA). While best known for retirement benefits, it also provides disability income and survivor benefits. Social Security is largely a pay-as-you-go program. This means that today’s workers pay Social Security taxes into the program and money flows back out as monthly income to beneficiaries.

Average Month Social Security Benefit
The average monthly Social Security benefit in June 2017 was:

$1,391 a month for retired workers;
$1,307 a month for widows or widowers over the age of 60;
$1,172 a month for disabled workers;
$2,278 a month for a disabled worker and a spouse;
$2,664 a month for a widowed mother and two children.

The maximum Social Security benefit for a worker retiring at the 2017 full retirement age is $2,687 a month.

*Will be updated when newest figures are available.

Social Security’s Full-Benefit Retirement Age
Social Security’s full-benefit retirement age is currently 66 years and 2 months for people born in 1955, and it will gradually rise to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Early retirement benefits will continue to be available at age 62, but they will be reduced more. When the full-benefit age reaches 67, benefits taken at age 62 will be reduced to 70 percent of the full benefit and benefits first taken at age 65 will be reduced to 86.7 percent of the full benefit.

Financial Bonus for Delayed Retirement
There is a financial bonus for delayed retirement. An individual reaching the full-benefit age in 2017 (66 years and 2 months old) receives a monthly benefit that is 8 percent higher for each year he or she delays collecting benefits until the latest claiming age of 70, at which point benefits are 132% of what they would have been at the normal retirement age. (When the full benefit age reaches 67, benefits claimed at age 70 will be 24 percent higher because of that delay.)

The maximum retirement benefit in 2017 for someone who waits until age 70 to collect benefits is $3,538 a month.

Secrets to Increasing Your Social Security Benefits
According to the folks at Investopedia, there are some secrets that could help increase the benefits you receive for Social Security. These tips are not too complicated or difficult to execute, and anyone can take advantage of them by investing a little effort and time. I start out with the basic tenets of Social Security, then dive deeper into some of the more little-known benefit-boosting secrets of the system.

1. Work 35 Years to Maximize Earning
You can receive Social Security benefits after working as little as 10 years, and you can receive retirement benefits starting as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Your benefit amount is based on the average of your 35 highest-earning years, so if you work for fewer years, then a lot of zeros could be averaged in. Also, since your benefit is based on averaging your highest-earning years, the more you earn, the higher your benefit.

2. Work a Little Bit Longer
You can retire as young as age 62. If you do, though, your benefits could be reduced by 25% to 30%. Full retirement for those born after 1942 happens at 66, with two months added for each year after 1954; for those born in 1960 and after, it is 67. You should try to work long enough to qualify for full retirement benefits. Even better, if you wait longer to retire then you could be eligible for delayed retirement credits that would increase your monthly rate.

3. Don’t Overlook Spousal Benefits
You may be eligible to receive social security benefits through your spouse if you’re at least 62 years old and have a child in your care. A spousal benefit can be as much as 50% of the other spouse’s benefit, depending on when they retire. People often overlook this important Social Security filing secret, including the fact that both parties in a divorce can claim spousal benefits based on the other spouse’s Social Security earnings. However, if you have remarried, you cannot collect your ex-spouse’s benefits.

4. File for Restricted Application and Receive Spousal Benefits While Working
If both spouses earn about the same amount of money and one retires, gets Social Security benefits and is at full retirement age, then the other spouse can claim spousal benefits by filing a “restricted application” and keep working. Once that second spouse decides to retire, they can apply for their own, higher benefit. Younger spouses no longer qualify for this benefit, which was eliminated under a 2015 Budget Act.

5. Monitor Earnings After Retirement to Avoid Exceeding Allowable Limit
If you do decide to retire before full retirement age, track any earnings you have and make sure that they don’t exceed the allowed limit, which changes each year. If they do, you may end up having a portion of future benefits withheld until you do reach full retirement.

6. Monitor Your Non-Social Security Earnings to Avoid a Tax-Bracket Bump
Another area to watch is the effect of your non–Social Security earnings on income taxes. Additional earnings could put you in the next highest tax bracket.

7. Apply for Survivor Benefits to Maximize Earnings
You can receive a deceased spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s) social security benefits if you’re age 60 or older and your survivor benefits are higher than your own benefits would be (you have to wait until your own full retirement age to get 100% of their benefit). Even if your deceased spouse dies before filing, you can get up to 100% of their benefit. If you’re at least 60 and you remarry, you won’t lose these benefits. Once you reach age 70, check to see if your own delayed benefit is higher, and, if so, switch.

8. Check Social Security statement for Mistakes
You will receive a Social Security statement every year. Do not assume it is accurate. Check it and report any errors by following the directions provided by the Social Security Administration. Remember, your benefits are based on the average of your 35 highest-earning years. A miscalculation for even one or two of those years could impact your benefit for the rest of your life.

9. If You Become “Re-employed”, Ask for a “Do-Over” and File Request for Withdrawal of Application. You may have the right to halt your benefit, pay it back and start collecting benefits again later. This could apply if you become re-employed after you retire – or inherit money and decide you can afford to delay your filing in order to have a higher benefit check. You do this by filing Social Security Administration Form 521, Request for Withdrawal of Application – but note that you only have 12 months after starting benefits to change your mind. When you file again later, your benefit will likely be substantially more than it was originally. Finally, you can claim an itemized deduction or a tax credit for any taxes you paid on benefits in previous years.

Final Note: How a Seniors Advocate can support and help you in this area.
Senior Advocates, like myself, will be able to assist you in understanding your options and how best to maximize your benefits. If I cannot help you, I have other professionals who can assist you. If you have questions or wish to start the process regarding Social Security, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss your particular situation.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security disability insurance (SSDI, sometimes also abbreviated as SSD) is a Social Security program that pays monthly benefits to you if you become disabled before you reach retirement age and aren’t able to work. Some people know it as “workers’ disability.”

Eligibility for Social Security Disability
To qualify for the SSDI program, you must have worked a certain number of years in a job where you paid Social Security taxes (FICA) taxes. (If you haven’t worked long enough when you become disabled, and have low income and assets, you can apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) instead. I can help you with that. Specifically, you need to have earned a certain number of work credits; you can earn up to four work credits per year.

Work Credits
How many work credits you need to qualify for SSDI benefits depends on how old you were when you became disabled. For example, if you are 50 years old when you become disabled, you need 28 work credits, or to have worked for seven years (and at least five of those years must have been within the last 10 years).

Medical Eligibility
You also must have a medical condition that meets the SSA’s definition of disability. SSDI benefits are eligible only to those with a severe, long-term, total disability.

Severe means that your condition must interfere with basic work-related activities. Long-term means that your condition has lasted is expected to last at least one year. Total disability, to the SSA, means that you aren’t able to perform “substantial gainful activity” (SGA) for at least one year. If you are currently working and make over a certain amount ($1,220 per month in 2019 for disabled applicants, $2,040 for blind applicants), the SSA will find that you’re performing SGA and that you are not disabled enough to qualify for SSDI benefits.

Approval for Disability Benefits
After you are approved for disability benefits, you won’t receive SSDI benefits until you have been disabled for five complete months, because SSDI has a five-month waiting period. If you are approved right away (for instance, because you just had a kidney transplant), you would still have to wait five months for your checks to start.

However, it’s more likely you wouldn’t be approved for about six months to a year (and after at least one level of appeal). In that case, when you finally get approved, you would be paid disability backpay starting with the sixth month after your disability began (your disability onset date).

After you are paid any backpay owing, you would get a disability benefit check each month. If your household income is over a certain amount, you will have to pay taxes on your disability benefits.

Your family members may also be eligible for a partial monthly benefit. Let me know if you think that is a possibility and I can help you sort that out.

You can keep receiving SSDI as long as your medical condition prevents you from working. The SSA will perform a continuing disability review (CDR) on your file every one-to-three years to determine if your condition has improved.

Denial of Disability Benefits
If your application for SSDI is denied (most initial applications are), you can appeal the decision. You have to request a review of the denial within 60 days of when you receive the denial letter. The first step of the appeal process is the Request for Reconsideration, a review of your file by a different disability claims examiner. If you are denied again, you can appeal to the next stage, by requesting a hearing with an administrative law judge who works for the SSA.

Some Additional Information
The Social Security and Supplemental Security Income disability programs are the largest of several Federal programs that provide assistance to people with disabilities. While these two programs are different in many ways, both are administered by the Social Security Administration and only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.

Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured,” meaning that you worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.

Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need.

When you apply for either program, you will need to provide medical and other information and that will form the foundation of the decision about whether or not you meet Social Security’s definition of disability.

Use the Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool to find out which programs may be able to pay you benefits.

Supplemental Social Security Income

It’s known as (SSI) and the Social Security Administers are the one who manage this program

They will pay monthly benefits to individuals with limited income and resources who are disabled, blind, or 65 or older. Along with Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) you may also be entitled to just social Security benefits as well.

In order to get Social Security, you must be “insured” which means that you have worked long enough and paid into social security benefits. Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) benefits are not based on your prior work hours like above.

Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) is financed by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes).

To be eligible for most benefits, you must have earned an average of one work credit for each calendar year between the age of 21-62 or the at the time you became disabled or blind. The Social Security Administration measures work in “work credits”. You will earn up to four work credits per year based on annual earnings.

To be eligible based on disability other than blindness, you must have worked long enough and recently enough under the Social Security’s rules.

The number of work credit you need depends on your age when you became disabled. Generally, Social Security will need a minimum of 20 work credits earned in the last 10 years. However younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. See chart below

Before Age 24 – You may qualify if you have six work credits earned in the three-year period ending when your disability starts.

Age 24-31 – You may qualify if you have credit for having worked half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled

EXAMPLE: If at age 27 you become disabled, you would need 12 work credits in the past six years (between age 21 and age 27).

Age 31 and Older – In general, you will need to have the numbers of work credits shown in the chart below. You must have earned at least 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you become disabled.

Born After 1929
Become Disable at Age:
Work Credits Needed:
31 through 42 20
44 22
46 24
48 26
50 28
52 30
54 32
56 34
58 36
60 38
62 or older 40

Final Note: How a Seniors Advocate can support and help you in this area.
I know this information can be overwhelming, but a Senior Advocate, like myself, can simplify it for you and assist you in understanding your options and how best to maximize your benefits. If you have questions or wish to start the process regarding Social Security, I would be happy to meet with you for a complimentary consultation regarding your particular situation. Call me at 303 -888-4575.