Q: I stumbled onto your YouTube channel while looking at funny cat videos. Why does Social Security produce cat videos?
A: It’s just one of many ways for us to connect to people where they already spend time. It’s important for us to let everyone know about all we do for Americans, and we’re especially interested in getting the word out about our easy, convenient, and secure online services. That’s why we look for creative ways to reach people, young and old. Our popular YouTube videos are not only a hit with viewers, but they let people know the best way to apply for benefits—online. See the videos for yourself at www.socialsecurity.gov. Just select the YouTube link at the bottom right side of the page. By the way, the cat videos have already received more than one million views.
Q: When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, who is eligible for survivors benefits?
A: Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to: Widows or widowers—unreduced benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60; Disabled widows or widowers—as early as age 50; Widows or widowers at any age if they take care of the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits; Unmarried children under age 18, or up to age 19 if they are attending secondary school full time. Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren and grandchildren;
Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled; and Dependent parents age 62 or older. Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivors benefits. For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov.
Q: What is a Social Security “credit?”
A: During your working years, earnings covered by Social Security are posted to
your record. You earn Social Security credits based on those earnings. The amount of earnings needed for one credit rises as average earnings levels rise. In 2014, you receive one credit for each $1,200 of earnings. You can earn up to a maximum of four credits a year. Most people will need 40 credits (or 10 years of work) to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by reading the online publication How You Earn Credits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.
Q: I’ve heard you can apply online for retirement benefits. But isn’t it easier just to go into an office?
A: Retiring online is the easier way to go. There’s no need to fight traffic to travel to a local Social Security office and wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. You can apply in as little as 15 minutes. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov. Once you submit your electronic application, you’re done. In most cases there are no forms to sign or documents to mail. Join the millions of people who already retired online. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
Q: What is the earliest age that I can begin receiving retirement benefits?
A: You can get a reduced benefit as early as age 62. The 1983 Social Security
Amendments raised the full retirement age for people born in 1938 and later. But it did not change the minimum age for retirement. Keep in mind that your monthly benefit amount could be about 33 percent higher if you wait until your full retirement age and about 76 percent higher if you defer payments until age 70. Visit our Retirement Estimator to find out how much you can expect to receive depending on the age at which you want to retire. You can find it at:
Q: How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?
A: For an adult to be considered disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to do the work you did before and that, based on your age, education, and work experience, you are unable to adjust to any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Also, your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Social Security pays for total disability only. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability (less than a year). For more information, we recommend you read our publication, Disability Benefits, available online at:
Q: What is the earliest age that I can receive Social Security disability benefits?
A: There is no minimum age as long as you meet the Social Security definition of disabled and you have sufficient work to qualify for benefits. To qualify for disability benefits, you must have worked under Social Security long enough under to earn the required number of work credits and some of the work must be recent. You can earn up to a maximum of four work credits each year. The amount of earnings required for a credit increases each year as general wage levels go up, and, currently, the amount is $1,200. The number of work credits you need for disability benefits depends on the age you become disabled. For example, if you are under age 24, you may qualify with as little as six credits of coverage. But people disabled at age 31 or older generally need between 20 and 40 credits to qualify, and some of the work must have been recent. For example, you may need to have worked 5 out of the past 10 years. Learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.
Q: What is the purpose of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI?
A: The purpose of SSI is to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little income and few resources to support themselves. It provides financial assistance to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. You can receive SSI even if you have not worked and paid into Social Security. SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). Find out more at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.
Q: My brother recently left me some money. Will this inheritance affect my SSI benefits?
A: We consider the money inherited from your brother as income for the month
you receive it. That could make you ineligible for SSI that month, depending on the amount of the inheritance. If you keep the money into the next month, it becomes a part of your resources. You cannot have more than $2,000 in resources and remain eligible for SSI. You should call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY number, 1-800-325-0778) and report the inheritance. Representatives can tell you how the inheritance might affect your SSI eligibility. You can call between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Find out more about how income and resources affect SSI benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.
Q: I pay my monthly premium directly to my Medicare prescription drug plan provider. Why can’t I also pay my income-related monthly adjustment amount directly to my Medicare prescription drug plan provider?
A: By law, we must deduct your income-related monthly adjustment amount from your Social Security payments. If the amount you owe is more than the amount of your payment, or you don’t get monthly payments, you will get a separate bill from another federal agency, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services or the Railroad Retirement Board. Read our publication, Medicare Premiums: Rules for Higher-Income Beneficiaries, for an idea of what you can expect to pay. You’ll find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.