August 21, 2019

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Social Security

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a federal agency that provides four types of benefits for people who are unable or no longer working:

  • Retirement
  • Disability
  • Survivors
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income)

You must ask for benefits by applying through the SSA. You may do so in person, by phone or through the Social Security Administration website at The process of obtaining your benefits can be complicated, and the assistance of a Social Security Attorney may be invaluable. View qualified Social Security Law Firms in your area to find Social Security Lawyers to get help with this process.


To be eligible for retirement benefits, you must:

  • Be at least 62 years old
  • Have already been transferred from disability benefits or applied for retirement benefits
  • Be fully insured under Social Security

To be fully insured, you must have been paying a certain amount into the Social Security System each year since you were 21 years old. For most people, this money been taken out of your paycheck automatically and recorded under FICA. The amount you will receive in Social Security Benefits (social security checks) is determined by several factors including:

  • Your current earned income
  • The amount you contributed through payroll taxes
  • Your age at the time you begin claiming benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are generally available only to those who meet the following conditions:

  • Under the age of 65
  • Have worked and paid sufficient FICA taxes for 5 of the last 10 years
  • Have a medical condition that has or is expected to prevent you from working and supporting yourself (substantial gainful employment) for 12 months

The disability determination process is long and requires extensive presentation of medical and financial evidence. First-time applicants who are not represented by an attorney often omit important information and are rejected.


A worker’s dependents may receive benefits earned by the worker who died if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Surviving spouse aged at least 60
  • Surviving spouse who cares for the deceased’s child who is less than 16 years or disabled and receiving benefits
  • Disabled surviving spouse aged at least 50
  • Dependent parent aged at least 62
  • Child under age 18 (19 if still attending full-time school)
  • Disabled child who was determined to be disabled before age 22

Even divorced spouses may qualify. Surviving spouses who remarry before age 60 usually cannot receive benefits.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available if you meet certain requirements:

  • Disabled, blind or minimum age of 65
  • U.S. resident (including some territories and U.S. military bases)
  • Limited income and resources (although your home and automobile are not factored in)

SSI is available despite not having paid social security taxes. Disability is determined similarly to the Social Security Disability criteria, although the programs differ.

Related areas:

Administrative Law, Disability, Workman’s Comp, Worker’s Compensation