What is Social Security?

Social Security is a federal insurance program that provides benefits to retired people, people who are disabled, survivors of workers who have died, and other intended beneficiaries. The Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program (OASDI), the official name for Social Security, was created by the Social Security Act of 1935.

 About 165 million people work and pay Social Security taxes, and about 58 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits. This section offers articles and resources on the different types of Social Security benefits, the eligibility requirements involved, and more.

How Does Social Security Work?

When you work, you pay Social Security, or OASDI, taxes. The tax money is used to pay benefits to people who've retired, people who're disabled, survivors of workers who've died, and dependents of beneficiaries. The money you pay in taxes isn't held in a personal account for you to draw from when you retire. Instead, your taxes are used to pay people who are currently receiving benefits. Any unused money goes to the Social Security trust funds.

How Do I Become Eligible?

Credits are used to determine whether you have the minimum amount of covered work to qualify for Social Security benefits. You generally need 40 credits, or 10 years of work, to become "fully insured" for retirement benefits. The number of credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age at the time you become disabled. You need 40 credits, 20 of which were earned in the last 10 years ending with the year you become disabled. However, if you become disabled at a younger age, fewer credits are required.

What Are The Benefits?

There are various types of Social Security benefits. The main categories of benefits are discussed below.

Retirement: If you retire when you reach your full retirement age, you'll receive your full benefit amount. If you retire early, on the other hand, you'll receive reduced benefits. For individuals born between 1943 and 1960, full retirement age increases gradually to age 67. If you delay retirement past your full retirement age, your benefit amount increases by a certain percentage depending on when you were born.

Disability: If you can't work because of a physical or mental condition that's expected to last at least one year or result in death, you may be eligible for disability benefits. People with disabilities, including children, can also qualify for disability payments through the Supplemental Security Income program.

Family: When you begin receiving retirement or disability benefits, other members of your family can also be eligible for benefits. If certain requirements are met, benefits can be paid to your spouse or ex-spouse. Benefits can be paid to your unmarried children if they are younger than 18, between 18 and 19 but are full-time students, or 18 or older and disabled from a disability that began before age 22.

Survivors : When you die, your family can receive benefits based on your work history. Family members who may collect benefits include a widow or widower who is 60 or older, or younger if disabled, children that are in primary or secondary school, or over 18 and disabled, and parents who were dependent on you for half their support.

Death Payment: If you've earned enough credits, after your death, a one-time lump-sum payment of $255 can be made to your spouse or children if they meet certain requirements.

Learn More about Social Security

This section provides helpful information and resources on a number of common issues related to Social Security law and the processes involved. You'll find more detailed information regarding the types and amounts of Social Security benefits, when you can start claiming your benefits, and how to get a greater benefit amount through delayed retirement. Select from the list of titles below to learn more.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • The initial Social Security process doesn’t require an attorney
  • An attorney primarily handles claims that are denied
  • It can be helpful to have an attorney during Social Security benefit disputes or appeals

A Social Security lawyer can help protect your rights to your benefits.

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Don’t Forget About Estate Planning

Now is a great time to consider creating or revising your estate plan. Protect your assets through a will, decide who can make financial decisions for you through a power of attorney, and ensure you make important health care decisions through a health care directive. You can create these critical documents online using DIY estate planning forms.

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