Social Security Programs

What programs does the Social Security Administration administer?
The Social Security Administration pays retirement and disability benefits to eligible individuals and family members. Widows and widowers and their children also might be entitled to a survivor’s benefit. In some instances, former spouses not currently remarried also might be eligible to receive benefits based on their former spouses’ eligibility.

The Social Security Administration also administers the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, a benefit paid for eligible people age 65 and older, blind people, or disabled people who receive limited income and possess limited assets regardless of work history.

It is possible to collect both Social Security benefits and SSI. This is referred to as “concurrent benefits.”

It is also possible to collect VA benefits, Social Security benefits, active duty military pay, and Social Security Disability benefits.

Age, work history, ability to work, and income might be factors for determining eligibility for these two programs. Apply in person at a Social Security office, call (800) 772-1213, or visit www.ssa.gov.

Once the Social Security Administration determines an applicant’s eligibility, it will determine the monthly benefit amount.

What is SSI?
SSI might be available for those who do not have a work history that qualifies for Social Security benefits or for those with small Social Security benefits. SSI is available for people age 65 or older, blind people, disabled people, and those individuals (or couples) who are able to pass a means test and receive limited income and possess limited assets.

Many states supplement federal SSI benefits. Arizona, North Dakota, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Northern Mariana Island do not supplement the SSI benefit. All other states offer some level of supplemental SSI. This amount is adjusted up or down annually by participating states.

To determine the state supplemental benefit amount, contact the administrator for the state SSI program. The Social Security Administration administers some state SSI programs, while other states administer their programs.

Keep in mind SSI is a benefit for the aged or disabled, with very low income. Income from either Social Security or VA benefits might reduce the SSI benefit or make the applicant ineligible for SSI.

Small income exclusions might apply, but SSI typically is reduced by subtracting countable income. Countable income includes wages, interest and investment income, pensions and retirement benefits, Social Security benefits, VA benefits, disability payments, unemployment benefits, and in-kind income. In-kind income is food and shelter received.

Also, most assets over $2,000 ($3,000 for couples) exclude people from SSI eligibility. In general, assets that might be excluded when determining SSI eligibility are primary residences and one car, if used for transportation purposes.

What is Social Security Disability Insurance?
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are paid to eligible individuals who are unable to work for pay or profit because of a disability that is expected to continue for more than 12 months or end in death. The benefit amount is based on the average lifetime earnings of the individual. Family members may also be able eligible to receive benefits based on the disabled person’s eligibility and average earnings.

The number of credits required to collect disability benefits depends on the age when the disability occurred. In addition, those age 31 or older must have earned 20 of the required credits in the 10-year period immediately before becoming disabled, unless the applicant is blind.

Do not delay applying for disability benefits, even if you’re still on active duty. SSDI is determined by being unable to work for pay or profit — not whether or not a pay check is being received.

Age to Receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Became Disabled at Age

Number of Credits Needed to be Eligible

Before age 24

6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts

24 through 30

Credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time you become disabled. For example, if you become disabled at age 27, you would need credit for 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).

31 through 42

20

Unless you are blind, you must have earned 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled.

44

22

46

24

48

26

50

28

52

30

54

32

56

34

58

36

60

38

62 or older

40

http://www.ssa.gov/retire2/credits3.htm

What are Social Security retirement benefits?
For retirement benefits, the minimum number of credits required for eligibility is 40. The minimum time required to earn 40 credits is 10 years.

You and the veteran for whom you care might have more than 40 credits at retirement, depending on your work histories. Extra credits at retirement do not count toward the amount of the retirement benefit. The Social Security retirement benefit is calculated from the highest 35 years of your earned income that were subject to Social Security taxes. Years in which no income was earned will be assessed a zero.
More paid Social Security taxes mean a bigger Social Security retirement benefit at full retirement age (FRA). FRA is determined by year of birth.

No matter the full retirement age, you and the veteran for whom you care have the option to collect Social Security retirement benefits before age 62. But electing to receive retirement benefits before FRA (in the adjacent table) will result in permanent and costly penalties in terms of a reduction of the retirement benefit by up to 30 percent.

Age to Receive Full Social Security Benefits
(Called “full retirement age” or” normal retirement age.”)

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age (FRA)

1943-1954

66

1955

66 and 2 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1959

66 and 10 months

1960 and later

67

Social Security Administration

If early Social Security retirement benefits are elected while receiving income from work, prior to FRA, the early Social Security retirement benefits will be reduced further.

If Social Security retirement benefits are delayed until after FRA, the retirement benefit will increase 8 percent each year of delay, up to age 70. There is no additional benefit to delaying past age 70. The decision to delay receiving Social Security retirement benefits until after FRA should be guided by health history and your immediate family’s health history and financial needs. Specifically, if an individual who is experiencing good health as they approach FRA does not have an urgent need for benefits and the immediate family’s medical history is free of chronic disease concerns, delaying Social Security withdrawal until or near age 70 significantly can increase the lifetime Social Security benefits.

How many Social Security credits are needed for a person to be eligible for Social Security?
To qualify for Social Security benefits, an individual must have earned a minimum amount of credits. A credit is earned in 2014 by earning $1,200 in covered earnings. Covered earnings are subject to Social Security taxation. Military base bay is a covered earning because Social Security tax is paid on this income. A maximum of four credits may be earned a year. All four credits are earned by earning $4,800 in covered earnings at any time in a year. VA caregiver stipends are not considered earned income.

I am a caregiver, and my responsibilities prevent me from gainful employment outside the home. What happens when I reach retirement age?
Retirement benefits are figured by averaging the work history of the highest 35 years of earning income on which Social Security tax was paid. If there are not 35 years of qualified work history, a zero will be entered for any year in which there were no earnings on which Social Security tax was paid. A lower average will result in a lower retirement benefit.

Analysts, policymakers, and nonprofits have suggested allowing caregivers to earn Social Security credits, but under current rules, only spouse caregivers are covered and only indirectly, through Social Security spousal and survivor benefits (see above family Social Security benefits).

Surviving spouse caregivers also might be eligible for the VA Dependency and Indemnity Compensation if they are caring for a veteran rated by VA as totally disabled for a qualifying period or the veteran died because of a service-connected injury or disability.
Caregivers with the means to hire third-party caregivers but who would prefer to provide caregiving themselves carefully should evaluate the impact of not working on their future Social Security benefits. This emotional decision weighs even harder for non-spouse caregivers, as non-spouse caregivers are not indirectly covered through Social Security or the VA.

What types of family Social Security benefits are available for people who are disabled or retired?
Each family member of the person receiving Social Security benefits might be eligible to collect Social Security benefits — up to 50 percent of the person’s benefit rate — up to a total family maximum of 150 percent to 180 percent of the person’s benefit.

- Person

  • If eligible 100%

- Spouse

  • caring for children under age 16, or 50%
  • FRA or greater, or 50% (see table for FRA)
  • age 62 (early penalty may be permanent) 32%

- Child

  • under 18, (or under 19 & high school), or 50%
  • any age, if disabled before age 22 50%

If the sum of the benefit exceeds the family maximum, the participant will receive the full benefit (100%) and the family members’ benefits are proportionately reduced.