Your link with Social Security is your Social Security number (SSN). You will need it to get a job and to pay taxes. Your Social Security number is used to track your earnings while you are working and to track your benefits after you are getting Social Security. Contact Social Security if you need a Social Security number, if you lose your card and need another one or if you need to change your name on your current card. They will ask you to fill out a simple one-page form and ask to see certain documents. They will need to see originals or copies certified by the issuing office. They will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. To get a Social Security number or a replacement card, you must prove your U.S. citizenship or immigration status, age and identity. For a replacement card, proof of U.S. citizenship and age are not required if they are already in the records. Only certain documents can be accepted as proof of U.S. citizenship. These include your U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, U.S. consular report of birth, Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, different rules apply for proving your immigration status. Acceptable proofs of identity would include current documents showing your name, identifying information and, preferably, a recent photograph, such as a driver's license, a state-issued non-driver identification card or a U.S. passport. To apply for a change of name on your Social Security card, you must show a recently issued document that proves your name has been legally changed. Be sure to safeguard your Social Security card. You are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Do not carry your Social Security card unless you need to show it to your employer. You should be careful about giving someone your Social Security number. Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes today. Most of the time identity thieves use your Social Security number and your good credit to apply for more credit in your name. Your Social Security number and Social Security records are confidential.
Eligibility for Social Security
As you work and pay taxes, you earn Social Security "credits." In 2009, you earn one credit for each $1,090 in earnings?up to a maximum of four credits per year. (The amount of money needed to earn one credit goes up every year.) Most people need 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify for benefits. Younger people need fewer credits to be eligible for disability benefits or for family members to be eligible for survivors benefits when the worker dies.
Social Security benefits replace a percentage of your earnings when you retire, become disabled or die. Each year, a Social Security Statement showing your earnings history and an estimate of the retirement, disability and survivors benefits you and your family may receive based on those earnings will be sent to you. When you receive your Statement, check your earnings history carefully. Make sure all of your earnings are accurate. Be sure to report any errors to Social Security. That is important because your benefits will be based on your lifetime earnings. Your Statement also is useful in helping you plan your financial future
Choosing when to retire is one of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime. If you choose to retire when you reach full retirement age, you will receive your full retirement benefits. But if you retire before reaching full retirement age, you will receive reduced benefits for the rest of your life. If you choose to delay receiving benefits beyond your full retirement age, your benefit will be increased by a certain percentage, depending on the year you were born. The increase will be added in automatically from the time you reach full retirement age until you start taking benefits or reach age 70, whichever comes first. You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62. However, if you start your benefits early, your benefits are reduced. Your benefit is reduced about one-half of 1 percent for each month you start your Social Security before your full retirement age.
If you cannot work because of a physical or mental condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. Social Security disability rules are different from those of private plans or other government agencies. The fact that you qualify for disability from another agency or program does not mean you will be eligible for disability benefits from Social Security. And having a statement from your doctor indicating you are disabled does not mean you will automatically be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. People with disabilities, including children, who have little income and few resources, also may be eligible for disability payments through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.
3. Benefits for Your Family
When you start receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, other family members also may be eligible for payments. For example, benefits can be paid to your husband or wife:
1) If he or she is age 62 or older; or
2) At any age if he or she is caring for your child (the child must be younger than 16 or disabled and entitled to Social Security benefits on your record).
3) Benefits also can be paid to your unmarried children if they are:
4) Younger than 18;
5) Between 18 and 19 years old, but in elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or
6) Age 18 or older and severely disabled (the disability must have started before age 22).
7) If you become the parent of a child (including an adopted child) after you begin receiving benefits, let Social Security know about the child, so they can decide if the child is eligible for benefits.
4. Survivors Benefits
When you die, your family may be eligible for benefits based on your work. Family members who can collect benefits include a widow or widower who is:
1) 60 or older; or
2) 50 or older and disabled; or
3) Any age if he or she is caring for your child who is younger than 16 or disabled and entitled to Social Security benefits on your record.
Your children can receive benefits, too, if they are unmarried and:
1) Younger than 18 years old; or
2) Between 18 and 19 years old, but in an elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or
3) Age 18 or older and severely disabled (the disability must have started before age 22).
Additionally, your parents can receive benefits on your earnings if they were dependent on you for at least half of their support. If you have enough credits, a one-time payment of $255 also will be made after your death. This benefit may be paid to your spouse or minor children if they meet certain requirements. Your survivors receive a percentage of your basic Social Security benefit?usually in a range from 75 to 100 percent each. However, there is a limit to the amount of money that can be paid each month to a family. The limit varies, but is generally equal to about 150 to 180 percent of your benefit rate.
5. Applying For Benefits
You should apply for benefits about three months before the date you want your benefits to start. If you are not quite ready to retire, but are thinking about doing so in the near future, you may want to visit Social Security's website to use their convenient and informative retirement planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2. To file for disability or survivors benefits, you should apply as soon as you are eligible. You can apply for benefits on the Social Security website at [ Link ]
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Program
If you get Social Security benefits, but have limited income and resources (things you own), SSI may be able to help. SSI is financed from general revenues, not Social Security taxes. SSI makes monthly payments to people who are age 65 or older or who are blind or disabled. Call Social Security for more information or to apply for SSI.
For more information, visit the website of the United States Social Security Administration
1-800-772-1213 [ Link ]