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About Social Security

by rlcoch01 last modified Apr 13, 2011 04:56 PM

Some Facts About Social Security

About Social Security and Medicare

Social Security pays retirement, disability, family and survivors benefits.  Medicare, a separate program run be the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, helps pay for inpatient hospital care, nursing care, doctors' fees, drugs and other medical services and supplies to people age 65 and older, as well as to people who have been receiving Social Security disability benefits for two years or more.  Mediare does not pay for long-term care, so you may want to consider options for private insurance.  Your Social Security covered earnings qualify you for both programs.  For more information about Medicare visit their website or call 1-800-633-4227 (TTY 1-877-486-2048 if you are deaf or hard of hearing).


If you were born before 1938, your full retirement age is 65.  Because of a 1983 change in the law, the full retirement age will increase gradually to 67 for people born in 1960 and later.

Some people retire before their full retirement age.  You can retire as early as 62 and take benefits at a reduced rate.  If you work after your full retirement age, you can receive higher benefits because of additional earnings and credits for delayed retirement.


If you become disabled before full retirement age, you can receive disability benefits after six months if you have:

  • enough credits from earnings (depending on your age, you must have earned six to 20 of your credits in the three to 10 years before you become disabled); and
  • a physical or mental impairment that's expected to prevent you from doing "substantial" work for a year or more or result in death.

If you are filing for disability benefits, please let Social Security know if you are on active military duty or are a recently discharged veteran, so that Social Security can handle your claim more quickly.


If you're eligible for disability or retirement benefits, your current or divorced spouse, minor children or adult children disabled before age 22 also may receive benefits.  Each may qualify for up to about 50 percent of your benefit amount.


When you die, certain members of your family may be eligible for benefits:

  • your spouse age 60 or older (50 or older if disabled, or any age if caring for your children younger than age 16); and
  • your children if unmarried and younger than age 18, still in school and younger than 19 years old, or adult children disabled before age 22.


If you are divorced, your ex-spouse could be eligible for a widow's or widower's benefit on your record when you die.

 Extra Help with Medicare

If you know someone who is on Medicare and has limited income and resources, extra help is available for prescription drug costs.  The extra help can help pay the monthly premiums, annual deductibles and prescription co-payments.  To learn more or to apply, visit the Social Security website or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).

 Receive Benefits and Still Work

You can work and still get retirement or survivors benefits.  If you're younger than your full retirement age, there are limits on how much you can earn without affecting your benefit amount.  When you apply for benefits, Social Security will tell you what the limits are and whether work would affect your monthly benefits.  When you reach full retirement age, the earnings limits no longer apply.

Before You Decide to Retire

Carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of early retirement.  If you choose to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, your monthly benefits will be permanently reduced.

To help you decide the best time to retire, Social Security offers a free booklet, Social Security--Retirement Benefits (Publication No. 05-10035), that provides specific information about retirement.  You can calculate future retirement benefits on the Social Security website  by using the Social Security Benefit Calculators.

Other helpful free publications include:


Social Security also has other leaflets and fact sheets with information about specific topics such as military service, self-employment or foreign employment.  You can request Social Security publiations at the Social Security websiteor by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.  The Social Security website has a list of frequently asked questions that may answer questions you have.  Social Security has easy-to-use online applications for benefits that can save you a telephone call or a trip to a field office.

You may also qualify for government benefits outside of Social Security.  Visit the Government Benefits website for more information on these benefits.

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