Social Security

Do you qualify?

Social Security provides an on-line screening tool to determine if you qualify for:

  • Medicare
  • Social Security Disability
  • Social Security Retirement
  • Social Security Survivors
  • Special Veterans
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

(Click here to access the screening tool)

Benefit Amounts

Your benefit amount is based on your earnings averaged over most of your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If you have some years of no earnings or low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily.

Your benefit amount also is affected by your age at the time you start receiving benefits.

If you start your retirement benefits at age 62 (the earliest possible retirement age) your benefit will be lower than if you wait until your full retirement age.

Your benefit amount is based on your earnings averaged over most of your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If you have some years of no earnings or low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had worked steadily.

Maximize your benefits

There are a number of ways to maximize your social security income. For example, spouses can increase each other’s earnings, and other family members may receive benefits if they are caring for a young, or disabled, child.

If you are self-employed

Self-employed people must report their earnings and pay the taxes directly to the IRS. You are self-employed if you operate a trade, business or profession, either by yourself or as a partner.

You report your earnings for Social Security when you file your federal income tax return. If your net earnings are $400 or more in a year, you must report your earnings on IRS Schedule SE for Social Security purposes, in addition to the other tax forms you must file.

If you work for a federal, state or local government

If you work for a federal, state or local government where you do not pay Social Security taxes, the pension you receive from that agency may reduce any Social Security benefits for which you are qualified. There are two factors that may reduce your benefits.

The first factor affects the way your Social Security retirement or disability benefits are figured.

A Windfall Elimination Provision fact sheet provides answers to questions you may have about this provision.

The second factor affects Social Security benefits you receive as a spouse or widow/widower. Social Security provides a Government Pension Offset fact sheet that contains  answers to questions you may have about this provision.

You can get more information on the Government Pension Offset at the Social Security website for Federal, State & Local Government Employees.

How to apply for Social Security Benefits

Reminders:

  • You must be at least 61 years and 9 months old to apply for retirement benefits.
  • You should apply for benefits no more than four months before the date you want your benefits to start.
  • If you are not getting Social Security and you are not ready to retire, you should still sign up for Medicare four months before your 65th birthday.

There are numerous ways to apply:

If you do not live in the U.S. or one of its territories – contact the nearest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate, or the Veterans Affairs Regional Office (VARO) in the Philippines.

(photo: wallyg)