Monthly retirement benefits are paid to workers who are at least age 62 and are insured. Your client becomes insured by paying Social Security taxes. Taxes paid earn credits toward benefits. Generally, a person needs 40 work credits to be insured. The most that a person can earn is four credits per year. For more information about the amount of earnings it takes to earn a Social Security credit, please visit http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/QC.html#qcseries.
The amount SSA pays is based on how much people earned when they worked, so higher earnings result in higher benefits. We average together their highest 35 years.
Your client can work and may be able to receive retirement benefits. For a full explanation see related questions on SSA Publication No. 05-10069 at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10069.html.
Your client can use the Retirement Estimator, at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator, for a retirement estimate based on current law and real time access to their earnings record. Please keep in mind that these are just estimates. We can’t provide actual benefit amounts until they apply for benefits.
Pensions from work that was not covered by Social Security (federal civil service, some state or local government employment) may reduce your client’s Social Security benefit. This is called the Windfall Elimination Provision. They can learn more online at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/wep.htm or by calling Social Security.
If your client receives Social Security retirement benefits, some of the client’s family members may be able to receive benefits.
Those members include:
Spouse’s benefits can be paid at age 62 or older. Spouses under age 62 can receive benefits if they are taking care of a child that is entitled on the client’s record (the child must be under age 16 or disabled). A divorced spouse age 62 or older can receive spouses benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and they are presently unmarried. If a divorced spouse wants information about benefits, have them contact us.
SAME-SEX COUPLES: On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. Therefore, Social Security no longer is prevented from recognizing same-sex marriages for purposes of determining entitlement to or eligibility for benefits. Social Security is now processing some retirement, surviving spouse and lump-sum death payment claims for same-sex couples and paying benefits where they are due. If you are in, or are a surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage or other legal same-sex relationship, we encourage you to apply right away for benefits. As we have additional information, we will update our website at http://www.ssa.gov/same-sexcouples/ .
Unmarried children can receive benefits up to age 18, or age 19 if they are full-time students in secondary school.
More and more parents are finding themselves raising grandchildren. Social Security will pay benefits to grandchildren if benefits are not payable on the work record of a parent. Refer to www.socialsecurity.gov/kids for additional information.
Also severely disabled children age 18 or older as long as they became disabled before age 22 can receive children’s benefits.
There is a limit to the total amount of benefits that can be paid to your client and the family members. The client’s checks are not affected by family members drawing benefits.
The family’s benefits can be affected by factors including their own work and receipt of a government pension. Social Security will provide them a complete list of reporting responsibilities when they file for benefits.
Filing for Benefits: www.socialsecurity.gov
There are two ways for your client to file an application for benefits. The first is to file online and the second is to file by speaking with a Social Security employee via phone, video service delivery (VSD is available in some areas), or by visiting the local Social Security office.
Applications for Social Security retirement, spouse’s, or disability benefits can be filed online. To help your client prepare to apply for benefits, he or she may want to first check our online benefit planners at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/. If your client is filing for disability benefits, they can also complete the disability report form online, which collects names, addresses, and phone numbers of all doctors, hospitals, and clinics, along with other important medical data. The client will also need to sign and return the medical release form (SSA 827).
If neither of you have access to the internet, your client can contact us at 1-800-772-1213 or at the local Social Security office to set up an appointment. The questions in the process are the same as filing online, but your client will have a Social Security employee asking the questions and completing the application.
When your client applies for retirement benefits, or a family member (auxiliary) files for benefits on the client’s record, there are some documents that they may need to submit. With most applications, we verify age and citizenship. Sometimes we do not need proof because we may have seen the birth certificate in the past; we may not need to see it again. However, if it is needed, we usually use a certified birth certificate. If he or she was in the military service, we may need to see records indicating the dates of active duty. Usually, the DD-214 will tell us what we need to know. And of course, if a family member applies for benefits, we will need to prove the relationship between the applicant and the worker. We will generally use a birth certificate or some other evidence to show the relationship to the worker. If the client wants the check to go directly to the bank, we will need their account and bank routing information.
Timeframe for Benefits:
The timeframe for processing retirement and family benefits ranges from same-day processing to a few weeks, depending upon the complexity of the issues and whether we have to wait for evidence.
|Year of Birth||Full Retirement Age|
|1937 or earlier||65|
|1938||65 and 2 months|
|1939||65 and 4 months|
|1940||65 and 6 months|
|1941||65 and 8 months|
|1942||65 and 10 months|
|1943 - 1954||66|
|1955||66 and 2 months|
|1956||66 and 4 months|
|1957||66 and 6 months|
|1958||66 and 8 months|
|1959||66 and 10 months|
|1960 and later||67|
* If you were born on January 1st of any year you should refer to the previous year. (If you were born on the 1st of the month, we figure your benefit (and your full retirement age) as if your birthday was in the previous month.)
Q and A
Q. What month do retirement benefits begin?
A. A person can receive reduced retirement benefits beginning the first full month that he or she is age 62. That means that benefits are not paid for the month a person turns age 62 unless their birthday is on the first or second day of the month. Social Security benefits are paid in the month after the month for which they are due. For example, if a person’s 62nd birthday is July 15, the first month they are due a check is August and they will receive their first check in the month of September.
Q. Can my client apply for Social Security retirement benefits on the Internet?
A. Yes. Anyone can apply for Social Security retirement, spouse’s or disability benefits online; just click on the tab at the top of the page for retirement or disability benefits. They can also call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
Q. What happens if a client wants to work while receiving retirement benefits?
A.The amount you can earn while receiving Social Security depends on your age. Your earnings in (and after) the month you reach full retirement age will not affect your Social Security benefits. However, your benefit is reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits for the months before you reach your full retirement age. To determine how much your benefit may be reduced, visit our Retirement Planner at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/whileworking.htm .
At full retirement age, earnings will not reduce Social Security benefits. An individual born April 17, 1947 could begin receiving unreduced benefits at their full retirement age with the effective date of April 2013. Any earnings after March 31, 2013 would not affect receipt of benefits payable, and earnings for subsequent years do not have to be reported to SSA.
Q. Will my children be eligible for monthly Social Security checks after I retire?
A. Monthly Social Security payments may be payable to your children if:
- They are under age 18 and unmarried
- Unmarried between the ages of 18 and 19 and still in high school,
- Over 18 and became disabled before they reached age 22 and continue to be disabled.
Children who meet the requirements above and have been legally adopted, or are dependent stepchildren or are grandchildren are included as children.
Q. Can a child receive benefits on the record of a grandparent?
A. A dependent grandchild or step-grandchild who is under age 18 and unmarried may receive benefits on the record of a grandparent if the child’s natural or adoptive parents are deceased or disabled when the grandparent becomes entitled to retirement benefits. The child must have been living with the grandparent for the previous year and been receiving half of their support from the grandparent.
Q. My spouse doesn’t have enough work to qualify. Can she or he qualify on my work record?
A. The answer applies to both husbands and wives. Even if a spouse has never worked under Social Security, when your spouse is full retirement age they can receive a benefit that is equal to one-half of your full retirement amount. Your spouse can begin receiving benefits as early as age 62 if you are also entitled to benefits, but the amount they receive will be reduced for each month that they file early. Your spouse may also qualify for benefits before age 62 if they have your child in their care who is under the age of 16.
Q. How does a divorced spouse qualify for benefits?
A. A person can receive benefits as a divorced spouse if he or she was married to the former spouse for at least ten years, is at least age 62, is unmarried, and is not entitled to a higher benefit on their own work record. The former spouse must also be at least age 62.
Q. Will I automatically get Medicare benefits if I get SSA retirement benefits?
A. Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Medicare Part B ( Supplemental Insurance) will automatically begin at age 65 as long as a person is being paid a retirement benefit.
A person can simply file for Medicare even if they do not wish to file for a monthly benefit or are not insured for a monthly benefit. If they are not receiving a retirement benefit, they should file for Medicare one to three months in advance of age 65 in order for Medicare to begin effective at age 65. They can enroll in this Initial Enrollment Period until three months after age 65, but Medicare coverage will be delayed according to when they file.
If your client is Medicare-eligible, working, and covered by a group health plan, they can wait to sign up for Part B. They can sign up for Part B any time while they have group health plan coverage based on current employment or during the eight-month period that begins the month the employment ends or the group health plan coverage ends based on current work, whichever occurs first. This is called a Special Enrollment Period.
If your client does not qualify for the Special Enrollment Period above, then they may enroll in the General Enrollment Period January 1st through March 31st each year. Coverage will begin on July 1st. The cost of the Part B will go up 10% for each full 12-month period a person could have had Part B but didn’t sign up for it, unless they qualify for the Special Enrollment Period.