In the United States, Social Security (SS) is a federal program that provides people who meet specific requirements with social insurance and other benefits. In this country today, one out of every six residents collects benefits from the federal program. That means that close to 62 million people receive a check from the Social Security Administration (SSA) every month of the year.

Today in the United States, the bulk of SS benefit recipients (four out of five) are retirees over the age of 65. The remaining one-fifth are either getting disability insurance benefits (SSDI) or are the dependent survivors of a deceased relative.

Information and statistics gathered by the SSA reveal that 61 percent of retirees depend on their SS benefit check for 50 percent of their total monthly income. Also, people who are collecting disability benefits depend on their check to live on, or to supplement to their income. For these reasons it is important to have the facts about when benefits expire.

Different Types of Social Benefits

1. Retirement Benefits

To be eligible for retirement benefits you must have at least 40 credits of Social Security. You earn these credits when you work and pay FICA taxes. The credit limit per year is four, but you can earn them any time during your life. Once you have earned credits they never expire.

You may begin collecting retirement benefits at the age of 62 but you will not receive the full benefit amount, it may be up to 30 percent lower. Waiting until your full retirement age means you will receive your full benefit amount.

Retirement benefits do not expire but they end upon your death.

If you are the spouse of an eligible retired worker, you may also receive benefits. To be eligible you must meet one of the following requirements:

• You take care of a child who is younger than 16 years old.
• You care for a qualified disabled child or adult whose disability began
before 22 years of age.
• You are at least 62 years old.

Spousal benefits expire upon the death of you or your spouse.

If you, as a retired worker receiving SS benefits, have a child who is either under 18 years old, a high school student under the age of 19, or an adult who became disabled before turning 22, this child may also receive benefits. These benefits expire when the child turns 18, or 19 if still in high school, or when you or the child dies.

2. Survivor Benefits

A surviving spouse is eligible to receive SS benefits upon the death of the working spouse.
If the spouse is younger than 60 but meets the eligibility requirements, the spouse receives benefits until they expire when the spouse turns 60.
If the surviving spouse is over 60, they receive benefits until they die.

3. Disabled Worker Benefits

If you have to stop working because you are injured or have an illness, you may be eligible to receive SS benefits that are provided by the Disability Insurance Trust Fund.

To be eligible for disability benefits you must have worked long enough to have insurance coverage (40 credits) at the time you become disabled. Also, you must still be actively employed when you become disabled.

You can begin receiving disabled worker benefits after a six-month period elapses following your disability, and you must be certified as incapable of working for at least 12 months following the disability.

Disabled worker benefits expire either upon your death or if the SSA determines that you do not qualify for them any longer.

If you are one of the millions of Americans who depend on your monthly social benefits check to live on, it is important to know the facts about whether your benefits expire. If you still are not sure about your benefits, you can discuss the details with an agent at your local SSA office.

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