Ever since 1935, the Social Security Administration has provided monthly benefits to people who qualify due to retirement, disability, the death of a spouse, for dependent children and also for survivors of beneficiaries. These monthly payments provide partial replacement income for 68 million Americans today.

If you are wondering whether you qualify for Social Security benefits and what they provide, here is a quick look at the facts.

What do your Social Security benefits provide?

Retirement Benefits

If you have worked and paid Social Security taxes and have at least 40 credits (10 years), you are eligible to apply for S.S. benefits beginning at the age of 62. Depending on the year you were born, you reach your full retirement age at either 66 or 67 years old. Only at your full retirement age do you receive your full benefit entitlement. If you apply at an age younger than your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced analogously.

If you are trying to decide whether applying for reduced benefits at a younger age or waiting until full retirement age is a better option for you, you should take the following factors into consideration:

• The amount of money you would get at your age.

• Your health.

• How long you estimate you will collect benefits.

• If there is another person, such as your spouse, who would get benefits because of your work record.

How much your monthly retirement benefits are depends on your total working career earnings. The higher your lifetime earnings are, the higher your monthly benefits are. You can get personalized retirement benefit estimates by visiting the S.S.A.’s website.

If you decide to delay your retirement beyond your full retirement age of either 66 or 67, Social Security provides delayed retirement credits. These credits raise your monthly benefit amount to more than what you would receive at full retirement age.

Disability Benefits
Social Security also provides disability benefits if you are unable to continue working due to a medical condition that your health care provider expects to last longer than one your or may result in death. To be eligible, you must also have been working and paying Social Security taxes and have the number of credits needed according to your age at the time.

Medicare Benefits
At the age of 65, you are eligible for the United States federal health insurance program known as Medicare. Although Medicare is managed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Social Security Administration works together with CMS by enrolling people in Medicare. You may also be eligible for Medicare if you are under the age of 65 if you have been disabled and received disability benefits from Social Security or the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months, or if you have been diagnosed with ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease).

If you have paid Medicare taxes for 40 quarters, the Social Security Administration automatically enrolls you in premium-free Medicare Part A. If you choose to enroll in Part B, you will be responsible for a premium and annual deductible. If you do not enroll in Part B when you are initially eligible, you may pay a late enrollment fee when you enroll later. Medicare benefits also include Part C (Medicare Advantage) and Part D prescription drug coverage.

Survivor Benefits
Social Security provides survivor benefits to widows, widowers, and dependents of beneficiaries receiving S.S. benefits, or who were eligible to receive S.S. benefits.

Widows or widowers may receive survivor benefits from 60 years old, or 50 if they have a qualifying disability. The percentage of the deceased person’s benefits they get depends on the survivor’s age.

Survivor benefits are also paid to children, ex-spouses, or parents if they meet the qualifications.

Supplemental Security
For people who are unable to support themselves or their families due to disabilities or limited income and resources, the Social Security Administration provides supplemental security income through monthly benefits.

You may be eligible for supplemental security income if you meet the following requirements:

• You are at least 65 years old, unless you are blind or disabled.

• You have a limited income and limited resources (personal property).

• You are a citizen or national of the U.S.A., or an alien who meets specific requirements.

• You live in one of the 50 states of the U.S., the District of Columbia, Northern Mariana Islands, are a child of a parent in the military and living abroad, or are a student living abroad (in certain circumstances).

Your marital status, monthly income, and bank balance are also taken into consideration before you are deemed eligible for supplemental security income.

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