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Social Security Benefits - An Overview

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"Social Security" refers to the federal programs that replace a portion of a person's income. Social Security programs are managed by the Social Security Administration which has local offices all around the country.

Social Security includes the following programs:

  • Income for people who are age 62 and over who have sufficient work credits. This is known as Social Security Retirement Income (SSR or SSRI).
  • Income for people who are unable to work because of a medical condition, treatment for the condition, aftereffects of the condition or treatment or due to a mental health condition such as depression. There are two basic programs:
    • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is like a private disability insurance policy. It is for people who have paid premiums in the form of Social Security taxes. The amount of your income and assets does not matter.
    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (also known as Title 16) is for people with low income and limited assets (which can include a house and a car.) Your work history does not matter. People who qualify for SSI, usually also receive Medicaid.
    • It is possible to receive both SSDI and SSI.

The Social Security Disability Insurance and Social Security Retirement programs also provide benefits to:

  • A spouse and ex-spouse of a worker who receives either benefit may be eligible for benefits because of your relationship to the worker even if the worker is deceased. This is in addition to any Social Security benefits to which you may be entitled in your own right.
  • Children, step children and, in certain circumstances, grandchildren. In addition to their right to benefit as children of a covered parent, children with a disability have a right to benefits of their own.
  • Survivors.
  • A parent in limited circumstances.

The right to an income from Social Security is generally in addition to any other rights you may have.

Before applying for a Social Security benefit, check to see whether you are eliglble for more than one Social Security benefit. In addition to benefits earned on your own record, you may also be eligible for benefits from your spouse, from an ex-spouse, from a deceased spouse, and/or from a deceased ex-spouse.  While you are not eligible to collect multiple benefits, you do have the right to to accept the highest benefit available to you. In addition, should another benefit become available to you at a later date, you have the right to switch if it would give you more money.

If you apply for one of the programs and are turned down, or apply for a benefit within a program and are turned down, you have a right to appeal. The appeal system is the same for each of these programs.

For additional information, see:

NOTE: To obtain a statement showing your annual earnings and benefits:

  • If you are younger than age 60: You must sign up online. Social Security no longer mails these statements. To get a statement, go to www.socialsecurity.gov offsite link. Click on "get your Social Security statement online."  (In some instances, for example if your credit reports were frozen, you will have to go to a Social Security office to set up an account.)
  • If you are age 60 or older: You will still receive statements in the mail. You can also sign up for online access to your information at www.socialsecurity.gov offsite link. Click on "get your Social Security statement online."
  • Social Security payments can either be made by direct deposit to a bank account or paid through the Direct Express card, a debit card for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries.

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