Social Security questions, answers


Published: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 5, 2012 at 1:48 p.m.

Q: Can I get an estimate of my retirement benefit at several different possible ages?

A: Yes. We suggest you use our Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator to test different retirement scenarios. This online tool will give you retirement benefit estimates based on current law and real-time access to your earnings record.

Q: If both my spouse and I are entitled to Social Security benefits, is there any reduction in our payments because we are married?

A: No. We calculate lifetime earnings independently to determine each spouse's Social Security benefit amount. When each member of a married couple meets all other eligibility requirements to receive Social Security retirement benefits, each spouse receives a monthly benefit amount based on his or her own earnings.

Couples are not penalized simply because they are married. If one member of the couple earned low wages or failed to earn enough Social Security credits (40) to be insured for retirement benefits, he or she may be eligible to receive benefits as a spouse.

Q: When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, are benefits payable on that person's record?

A: Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:

* A widow or widower — unreduced benefits at full retirement age or reduced benefits as early as age 60.

* A disabled widow or widower as early as age 50.

* A widow or widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased's child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits.

* Unmarried children under 18 or up to age 19 if they are attending high school full time. Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren or adopted children.

* Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled.

* Dependent parents age 62 or older.

Even if you are divorced, you still may qualify for survivors benefits.

Q: Is there a time limit on Social Security disability benefits?

A: Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you cannot work. We will review your case at regular intervals to make sure you are still disabled. Learn more by reading our publication, Disability Benefits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.

Kay Louder is the district manager of the Social Security office in Gainesville.

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