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Social Security Benefits Eligibility
Social Security
Social Security Benefits Eligibility
Social Security Benefits and Applying

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About Social Security

Many Americans think of Social Security only as the card number we must remember, to collect the monthly checks we'll get after we retire. But the Social Security Administration offers much more than just retirement benefits, and you don't have to wait until you retire to collect them if you qualify. Additional benefits include

  • Disability Pay
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Medicare Health Insurance
  • Supplemental Security Income

And more, including family and survivors benefits. More information about benefits is in Part 2. But to understand eligibility, it's a good idea to first know how it all works.

Social Security Number

Except for Supplemental Security Income (discussed later), the benefits to which you're entitled are credited to you, based on the earnings tracked for your Social Security number. For this reason, it's important to always use the exact number and name on your Social Security card when filling out work-related paperwork. If you ever change your name or lose your card, you should immediately apply for a replacement card. You may do so for free at the Social Security Administration. Click Apply for a Card in the sidebar.

Social Security Taxes

You've likely noticed that your employer regularly withholds Social Security (FICA) and Medicare taxes from your paychecks. But what you may not know is, your employer matches that amount, sends it all to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and reports your earnings to the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you're self-employed, you pay all the taxes yourself in quarterly installments and any remaining amount when you file your Federal tax return. The IRS then reports your earnings to the SSA.

Social Security Credits

As you earn wages and pay the taxes, you also earn Social Security "credits." These credits apply toward your future eligibility and are the key to qualifying for benefits in many cases. The maximum you can earn per year is 4 credits. Typically, you must have at least 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify for retirement benefits. Adults and younger people might qualify for disability or survivor benefits with fewer credits.

Social Security Law

Provisions of the Social Security Act of 1935 and subsequent amendments entitle eligible individuals to Social Security benefits by law.

Did you know? You may request your Social Security Statement. It includes a record of your past earnings, estimates your current and future benefits, and tells you how to qualify to collect your benefits.

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