What SSA widow / widower benefits are not age based?

My preceding post was about Social Security survivors benefits to a widow or widower based on age, payable once the eligible person is at least age 60.

This leads to the question of what widow or widower Social Security survivors benefits are not based on age. There are two, each with its own requirements.

At any age, Social Security survivor benefits might be payable to a widow or widower if a child of the deceased also receives suvivors benefits on that record. The surviving parent must be taking care of the child and the child must be younger than age 16 or disabled.

Since taking care of the eligible child is the reason for payment of benefits, age of the surviving parent does not change the amount payable to the widow or widower. However, their individual benefits for a year can be reduced by employment earnings due to the annual earnings test, just as for a person receiving Social Security retirement. Amounts paid to the widow(er) can potentially lower amounts payable to eligible children. For these reasons, people otherwise eligible for this type of benefit sometimes choose not to receive it, especially if working full-time.

The other is based on disability, with an age requirement. Called disabled widow(er) benefits, these can be paid if the person is at least age 50, but not age 60, and determined to be disabled within a certain period of time. Exceptions exist but usually the disability must have started within seven years of the spouses death.

Not being discussed today, divorced spouses of a worker who dies can receive the same types of survivors benefits as a widow or widower, provided that the marriage lasted 10 years or more and other requirements are met.

Read the booklet “Survivors Benefits” (SSA publication 05-10084) for general information about Social Security survivors benefits.

 

For Congressional staff and now You: learn about SSA disability

On May 27, 2014, Congressional staff learned about the Social Security disability program when Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, keynoted a Capitol Hill presentation by SSA executives.  

Now you can watch this presentation.

This was a teaching session, not a committee hearing.

Included were details about the growth, solvency and sustainability of the disability program by Stephen C. Goss, Chief Actuary, Social Security Administration.

Other sections were about who receives disability, basic eligibility requirements and the disability process including the initial claim and different levels of appeal.

You can watch the video of this teaching session or just see the slides used.

I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity. Information is easily understandable, without technical jargon. 

After introductions, Stephen Goss’s presentation begins at about 6:45 in the video. Other Social Security executives discussed program information after his portion until about 1:00:00 when audience questions began. The full video is about 1:17:34 in length with several guest introductions and comments included during the session.

Update: Social Security and same-sex marriages

Following is a Social Security press release dated June 20, 2014.

 Social Security Defines Policy for Same-Sex Married Couples

Agency Extends Benefits Broadly, Subject to Legal Constraints

Social Security has published new instructions that allow the agency to process more claims in which entitlement or eligibility is affected by a same-sex relationship. These instructions come in response to last year’s Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Windsor, which found Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. 

This latest policy development lets the agency recognize some non-marital legal relationships as marriages for determining entitlement to benefits. These instructions also allow Social Security to begin processing many claims in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages or non-marital legal relationships.  We have consulted with the Department of Justice and determined that the Social Security Act requires the agency to follow state law in Social Security cases. The new policy also addresses Supplemental Security Income claims based on same-sex relationships.

As with previous same-sex marriage policies, we worked closely with the Department of Justice,” said Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. “We are bound by the law within the Social Security Act, and we have to respect state laws.  We remain committed to treating all Americans fairly, with dignity, and respect.”

If a person believes he or she may be entitled to or eligible for benefits, they are encouraged to apply now.

To learn more, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov/same-sexcouples.

 

Family benefits and SSA disability

Q: If a mother is receiving Social Security disability benefits, should her twelve year old son receive benefits too?

A: If a parent with eligible family members, including children, receives Social Security disability, then family benefits are usually payable but this is not always the case.

The total dollar amount payable to family members is based on the earnings record of the person receiving the Social Security benefits. If the person’s earnings history is very low, there is a possibility that family benefits cannot be paid even if there are otherwise eligible family members. This is not the usual situation but it does exist.

Assuming benefits can be paid on behalf of a child, the Social Security Administration would select a person or organization, called a representative payee, to receive the funds. Generally a family member, preferably a parent with custody, is selected as payee.

Note that disability benefits from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program do not have family benefits. SSI is only for the person having the disability. SSI is an income based program for people over age 65 and disabled adults or children. SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration but very different from SSA benefits.

 

 

Does receiving SSA disability reduce future survivors benefits?

Q: If a person receiving Social Security disability since his 50’s dies at age 68, does the fact that he started receiving Social Security long before retirement age reduce the survivors benefits to his widow?

In other words, are survivor benefits less because the deceased received Social Security disability rather than retirement?

A: No. The monthly amount received by the deceased based on his or her work record, not the type of Social Security benefit involved, is the important factor in computing the amount of a survivors benefit.

People eligible for Social Security disability based on their own work record do not have their monthly payment amounts reduced for age.

Anyway, even if the Social Security benefits were originally established based on disability, once a beneficiary attains their retirement full retirement age, his or her disability benefits are transferred to retirement. This is for administrative simplicity, without any change in benefits to the person. At age 68, this man would have been older than his full retirement age.

Always contact Social Security to ask about possible benefits when there is a death in the family.  

More about Social Security survivors benefits is online at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/survivors.htm.

More about creating your my Social Security account

Q: My daughter tried to create a my Social Security account to see her work record and get family estimates but could not because her address did not match a credit report address shown for her. She moved frequently over the last several years and does not know what address was needed. Can this be fixed?

A: Yes. The Social Security Administration puts lots of effort into protecting the identity and electronic records of our public. Usually these efforts do not create inconvenience but, unfortunately, this time they did. An overview of methods used to verify and protect a person’s identity are in the my Social Security section at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount/.

In summary, creating a my Social Security account involves use of routine ID questions from SSA records and several others provided by the Experian credit firm. The credit firm questions are a security feature since the answers are less likely to be known except by the actual person.

Social Security does not keep an address database except for people currently receiving benefits so the address question seen by your daughter would be from the credit firm. As in your daughter’s attempt, online registration cannot be completed if all information provided fails to completely match available records. She can still complete her my Social Security registration by visiting a Social Security office and presenting current photo ID. An appointment is not required.

Having a security freeze or credit alert on your Experian credit report also prevents you from creating a my Social Security account online. In this case you can either temporarily unblock your credit report to create your my Social Security account online, or you can retain the block and visit a Social Security office with photo  ID to have a representative help you.

People not yet receiving Social Security benefits can use their my Social Security account to get their SSA Statement with retirement, survivors and disability estimates and view their earnings record as it is on SSA records. They can also receive information about previously received benefits. Through my Social Security, people receiving a Social Security benefit can request a letter to verify the amount as well as update their address and direct deposit bank information for those benefits.

SSA online services update

As regular readers know, many Social Security activities can be completed online. 

Social Security has available online services whether you do not expect to be receiving Social Security anytime soon, are completing an application to begin SSA benefits, or are already receiving monthly benefits. Online services are available for specific groups, including employers for W-2 wage reporting and verification of employee Social Security numbers.

From the start of Fiscal Year 2014 in October 2013 through April 2014, here are examples of public online use for Social Security activities:

Through my Social Security, with services for people both receiving or not yet receiving benefits:

14,898,898 views of personal Social Security Statements for estimates and to see earnings records

664,649 changes to a current beneficiary mailing address or of direct deposit bank information (electronic fund transfer)

Applications:

Just over 50 percent of retirement and disability applications are now received online.

760,095 Retirement applications

760,825 Disability applications

391,534 Medicare only applications, for people age 65 but not starting SSA retirement

Other online actions:

145,990 requests to replace a Medicare card

128,589 requests to replace Form 1099 for filing taxes (largely during February – March)

Online services are available for you through the Social Security website, www.socialsecurity.gov, anytime at your convenience without calling or visiting an SSA office but those options are available if preferred.

The national SSA toll-free number is 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Both numbers have representatives Monday – Friday, excluding holidays, between 7:00am – 7:00pm, local time. Automated services are available 24 hours a day at 1-800-772-1213. Appointments can be made for your local office by calling the national numbers.

Local office public hours are usually Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00am – 3:00pm with Wednesday hours of 9:00am – noon. Small offices can have different public hours. Learn local office addresses and public hours here.

Did you know? The original Social Security website was launched in May 1994, just over 20 years ago. That first site received about 17,000 visits in its first month.  Now, in 2014, the SSA website averages more than 17 million visits monthly, contains roughly 45,000 pages of information including retirement planning tools and provides online services. Visit it at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Faces and Facts of Disability

Social Security benefits are for much more than just retirement. In mid-May, I wrote about the start and growth of the Social Security disability program.

To add to SSA website information about disability benefits and how to apply for them, recently the Social Security Administration created The Faces & Facts of Disability, a website section to help increase public awareness of the SSA disability program by providing program facts and personal stories about people receiving disability benefits.

 What do you know about disability? Test your knowledge at the disability quiz section. Here is one quiz question:

 Q: Only 31 percent of people have private sector long-term disability insurance. What percent of workers does Social Security Disability Insurance cover?

If you became disabled right now, how much in Social Security disability benefits could you potentially receive? What about potential benefit amounts to your family?

Obtain a current estimate based on your own work record by creating your personal my Social Security account and then reviewing your own Social Security Statement online.

 

How many people work while receiving Social Security?

Q: How many people receiving Social Security benefits are also working?

A: The publication Earnings and Employment Data for Workers Covered Under Social Security and Medicare, by State and County, 2011 mentioned earlier this week does not provide information based on whether the worker received Social Security or not, so a specific answer is not readily available. 

Through SSA retirement, survivors and disability programs, plus family benefits in each of those, payments go to people of all ages, many of whom might be working.

 As reported in the Income of the Aged Chartbook, 2012, based on Census Bureau household survey data, in 2012 approximately 28 percent of those aged 65 or older had employment earnings. Not all of those surveyed were receiving Social Security benefits but nearly 90 percent were. 

In the households surveyed, employment greatly varied based on age. Of those in the age 65-69 range, 49.7 percent had earnings. By age 70-74 this dropped to 30.6 percent , then to 19.8 percent for people aged 75-79 and ending at 8.5 percent for those age 80 or older. 

Social Security provides the largest share of aggregate income for units aged 65 or older. Aggregate income for the aged population comes largely from four sources. Social Security accounts for 35.3%, earnings for 33.9%, pensions for 17.1%, and asset income for 10.5%. Only 3.0% comes from other sources.

The Income of the Aged Chartbook, 2012, is on the SSA website at www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/chartbooks/income_aged/2012/index.html

If you work and receive Social Security benefits, other than because of your own disability, the annual retirement test applies if you are younger than full retirement age (FRA). FRA is different for retirement compared to survivors benefits.

 If receiving SSA benefits due to your own disability, report the work to Social Security and ask how it might affect your benefits. Disability work incentives exist to help you return to work.

SSA benefits & child support orders

Q: I now have child support withheld from my wages. If I start receiving Social Security, will the child support be withheld from my retirement?

A: Social Security benefits can be garnished for child support. For this to take place, the child support agency sends Social Security an income withholding order, just as orders are sent to employers. You would have to ask the child support agency if they intend to do this in your case.

Children can potentially receive Social Security benefits through your record when you do. If so, benefits to them would not reduce what you receive. See www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/yourchildren.htm.

 

On a different topic, the original Social Security Administration Internet site was launched on May 17, 1994. For accurate Social Security information, or to complete an application for benefits, visit it at www.socialsecurity.gov.