Young people get Social Security

Regular readers know that Social Security benefits people of all ages. Highlighting information for children under the age of 18, at the end of 2013 about 3.2 million children under the age of 18 were receiving an average monthly benefit of $534 because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired or deceased.

When a parent becomes disabled or dies, Social Security benefits help to stabilize the family’s financial future. In fact:

About 325,690 minor children of retired workers were receiving an average monthly benefit of $615.

About 1.2 million minor children of deceased workers were receiving an average monthly survivor benefit of $806.

About 1.7 million minor children of disabled workers were receiving an average monthly benefit of $328.

 More about Social Security protection for young people is at



Are SSI amounts the same all across the country?

Q: Are SSI amounts the same all across the country?

A: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is very different from Social Security even though both programs are administered by the Social Security Administration.

Signed into law by President Nixon in 1972 (Public Law 92-603), SSI is need based and can provide payments to people with limited income or financial resources. SSI payments can be for people age 65 or older, plus disabled or blind children and adults.

As a Federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues, not Social Security taxes, the basic maximum amounts are the same all across the country. Effective January 2014, the maximum monthly Federal benefit rates are $721 for an individual and $1,082 for a couple. Other income can reduce these amounts.

Individual States can choose to supplement the national amounts by adding to the Federal amount. If done, any additional amounts are based on State rules related the person’s income, living arrangements or other factors. There is wide variance across the country for this. Some States do not pay any supplemental amount, some do with funds included in the Federal payment, and some administer their own supplement arrangement.

Basic Supplemental Security Income information is at

Not all income or resources count towards the SSI limits. To learn more or apply, contact Social Security by calling the national number, 1-800-772-1213 / TTY 1-800-325-0778, or your local office. 

Who receives benefits for a child? The representative payee.

Q: To receive benefits, must children be living in the same household when a parent receives Social Security disability?

A: No. For Social Security retirement, disability and survivors benefits, the parent-to-child relationship is important in determining if a child is eligible for payment.

This means that otherwise eligible children born in an existing marriage, without marriage, or in an ended marriage can receive Social Security if a parent receives retirement or disability, or survivors benefits if the parent is deceased. Child benefits are payable to eligible adopted or stepchildren. For stepchildren, the parent-to-parent relationship is important because it defines the parent-to-child relationship.

For a minor, or perhaps a disabled child, a separate question is what person receives those Social Security benefits on behalf of the child. Actual custody or other legal responsibility helps determine the person or agency to receive SSA payments on behalf of a child. Usually the custodial parent will be the person selected to receive these if the parents do not live together.

For a commonplace example, assume Parent A is receiving Social Security benefits and has a biological minor child living in another town with Parent B. If all other requirements are met, the child can receive Social Security benefits through the record of Parent A. Since Parent B has custody, those SSA benefits for the child would be paid to Parent B.

Representative payee is the term Social Security uses for a person receiving benefits on behalf of another person. In the above example, Parent B is representative payee for the child. 

Not just for children, representative payees are appointed to provide financial management for the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments of people who are incapable of managing their own payments.

To become a representative payee, a person or agency must file an application and then provide ongoing accounting of how funds are used. Payees are appointed only for Social Security and SSI purposes and are completely different from guardianship or power of attorney. FAQ’s for representative payees are here.

Note that the Treasury Department does not recognize power of attorney for the purposes of negotiating federal payments, including Social Security or SSI checks.


February 2014 statistical snapshot

The monthly statistical snapshot for February 2014 for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available. Monthly snapshots provide a quick view about benefits paid during the month.

Here you can learn national totals, by beneficiary count and percentage, of the different benefits paid and average amounts of each type of benefit.

For example, during February 2014, retirement related benefits accounted for 70.6 percent of all Social Security benefits paid, including benefits to retired workers, spouses of retired workers and children of retired workers. Each of these categories is shown separately with its own percentage of the total and other information.

In February 2014, across the nation 58,201 thousand people of all ages received a Social Security payment. Noted above, most of this was retirement related. Survivor benefits accounted for 10.6 percent and disability benefits, including family members, accounted for 18.9 percent.

A detailed February benefit picture for the separate Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is linked at the bottom of the snapshot page.

 You can subscribe to receive an email alert when these monthly updates are released. To do so, follow the “Subscribe to Updates” link

Disabled Adult Child benefits

Earlier this week I wrote about Social Security survivors benefits for a disabled widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse. Although having a disability is key to these, they are survivors benefits because they are based on the work record of the deceased, rather than the work record of the person receiving the benefit.

Another type of Social Security family benefit involving disability is for disabled adult children, age 18 and older. This variation of child benefits is available through your work record whether you are receiving Social Security retirement, disability or you are deceased and your family is eligible for survivors benefits.

When younger than age 18, eligible children can receive Social Security family benefits through a parent’s record whether the child is disabled or not. One factor for paying family benefits to a child past age 18 is whether they have a disabling impairment that started before the age of 22.

The issue is not how old your adult child is at time of application but their age at start of their disability. For example, if your child has a severe disability since birth, he or she could be in their 40’s when you file for Social Security retirement. However, since the impairment began before age 22, benefits as a disabled child through your record are possible at that time.

If he or she had worked and paid into the Social Security system, a disabled adult child might also be eligible for SSA disability through their own record. This does not prevent them from possibly receiving SSA benefits as a child through a parent.

Social Security benefits for children are the same whether through the retirement, survivors or disability programs. Benefits paid to family members through your work record do not lower the amount of your own benefit.


Baby names & getting a SSN for your newborn

Every year near Mother’s Day, the Social Security Administration posts popular baby names for the prior year based on Social Security number (SSN) card applications.

If you are expecting a New Year’s baby in the family and still need a name, for ideas go to the SSA list of top baby names for 2012. The Items of Interest section at bottom left of the SSA homepage,, has a direct link to the baby name page. Along with Social Security information about children, the baby names section links to other items of interest to parents. 

When compiling the annual list, different spellings of similar names are not combined. For example, the names Caitlin, Caitlyn, Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelyn, and Katelynn are considered separate names and each has its own rank.

You can look up the popularity of a name nationally, by individual state or by year of birth and can even see how the popularity of a name has changed over time.

The easiest, recommended and very popular way to get your new baby a Social Security number is through the hospital when you apply for his or her birth certificate. This free and voluntary option, called Enumeration at Birth, lets the state agency that issues birth certificates share your child’s information with the Social Security Administration. Then, without additional paperwork or action from you, a Social Security number card is issued for your child and mailed to you based on the birth certificate information. This convenient method is faster and easier than waiting to apply directly with Social Security. See Social Security Numbers for Children, publication 05-10023, for more information.

Applying for your newborn’s Social Security number (SSN) at the hospital as part of his or her birth registration is definitely the recommended method. However, if you decide not to use Enumeration at Birth, a paper SSN application will need to be submitted to Social Security, in-person or by mail, with a certified, official copy of his or her birth certificate plus proof of your identity. Also free, the application and evidence details are at

Warning: if not using Enumeration at Birth through the hospital, make sure you are at the genuine Social Security website and not at a private, for profit site. There is no charge for any Social Security number action. To protect your newborn’s personal ID information, at the genuine website you do not enter information online. Instead, you print the application for offline completion. 

When to start Social Security – a new short video

A new, short video by the Denver Region of the Social Security Administration is now at

The third video in a series, When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, focuses on filing for retirement benefits at various ages. It also highlights how to create a my Social Security account to get your Statement and how, if you are receiving benefits, you will be able to make changes to your account and get a benefit verification letter instantly.

As noted in this approximately seven-minute video, Social Security representatives are often asked what the best age to start receiving retirement benefits is. The answer is there really is no one best age for everyone. You can start your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Your monthly benefit amount will be different depending on the age you start receiving it.

Watching this video will give you some ideas. The Social Security Retirement Planner has much more information and calculators to help in your planning. From the SSA homepage,, go to the “Benefits” tab and then go to the Retirement section.

Creating a my Social Security account can help your overall financial planning, not just for retirement. Available there, your personal Social Security Statement contains several estimates and a record of your earnings history as shown on Social Security records. Social Security is more than retirement and these estimates are for more than just retirement planning. They provide current disability estimates for you and your family as well as suvivors estimates for your children and other family members.

Watch the When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits video directly from the Social Security website at

Another short video available there, Medicare Enrollment Periods at Age 65, covers the four parts of Medicare, when to enroll in Medicare, when coverage begins, and how to apply. More Medicare information and an online application are at From the homepage, go to the “Benefits” tab and then go to the Medicare section.

Watch When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits, available on your schedule, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

SSA mothers & fathers survivors benefits

Q: What are Social Security mothers and fathers benefits?  

A: These are Social Security survivors benefits paid to a surviving spouse or surviving divorced spouse based on having a child of the deceased in their care.   

Mothers and fathers benefits may be paid to a surviving spouse or surviving divorced spouse regardless of age, if she or he is currently unmarried and has a young child under age 16, or a disabled adult child, of the deceased in their care, and the child is entitled to survivors benefits on that deceased parent’s record.   

For a simple example, use the family of a man dying in his thirties leaving behind a widow of the same age and a young child. Assuming the child is eligible for Social Security survivors benefits from the deceased parents record, then the widow would likely be eligible for SSA mothers benefits, up until the child reaches age 16 if a disability is not involved. 

Since they are based on having an eligible child in care, mothers and fathers survivors benefits are usually paid to young widows and widowers. Amounts are not reduced for age but can be reduced by earnings of the person receiving them in the same way as working while receiving retirement benefits.

Similar benefits are payable to the spouse of a person receiving SSA retirement or disability benefits if children are involved, but not to a former spouse. 

Create your personal my Social Security account to look at your SSA Statement and see estimated family benefit amounts based on your work record. 

Learn more at the Benefits and my Social Security sections of the SSA website,

SSN changes for an adopted child

Q: Our newly adopted baby son already has a Social Security number (SSN). Can we change his SSN to correct his name and show us as his parents?

A: Yes, at no charge. Learn the documents needed and print the downloadable application at  An easy to follow decision path will show you what documents are needed. Usually you can bring or mail the application with all needed documents to your local office for processing. Once processed, the updated SSN card is mailed to your address.

As a general guideline for any SSN name change, child or adult, documents seen must clearly show the person going from the previous to new name. For example, adoption decrees or marriage certificates often show both the previous and new name. In your case, you must also show the change in parent names. Documents Social Security may accept to prove your child’s legal name and parent changes include the final adoption decree, court order for a name change or amended birth certificate. Separate ID for your son might be needed. Proof of your relationship to your son and ID for you is needed. This might be your driver’s license or U.S. passport. 

Sometimes one document multiple purposes. All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency, not photocopies you made or notarized copies of documents. All documents are returned to you. Once corrected, your child will have the same SSN as before.

 All SSN actions are provided free by Social Security. Protect yourself.  Be sure to access information through the Social Security website at From the homepage, SSN information is in the Numbers & Cards tab.

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2013

Fast Facts & Figures About Social Security, 2013 just became available and I suggest you look at it. This annual booklet is one of my favorites.

Using easy to understand tables and charts, Fast Facts & Figures answers frequently asked questions about the programs the Social Security Administration administers. It highlights basic program data for the Social Security (OASDI = Old-Age (Retirement), Survivors, and Disability Insurance) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs.

Available in html or pdf format, basic topic areas are show here. Each topic is further divided. You will find information of interest to you.

Did You Know That… / General Information / Income of the Aged Population / OASDI Program / SSI Program / Cross-Program Beneficiaries / Social Security Financing