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Social Security payments are accessible not just for retirement, but also for a broad range of other circumstances. Find out whether you qualify and how to apply.

Social Security Benefits

Most people associate Social Security payments with retirement benefits. In truth, several different forms of Social Security benefits are available to a broad range of individuals.

Benefits of Retirement

Approximately 71% of those receiving Social Security payments are retirees. Retirement benefits are accessible to persons who are at least 62 years old and have worked long enough in their lives to qualify. You must have at least 40 work credits to be eligible. Each year you work, you are eligible for four credits (in 2015, one credit is available for every $1220 in earnings). Although you may begin receiving partial benefits at the age of 62, maximum benefits are not accessible until the age of 70, so it is important to understand the benefit levels and make an informed choice. The amount of your benefit is based on an average of your wages over the last 35 years, but there is a limit to how much you may collect.

If the spouse of a live retired worker is at least 62 years old, has a child under the age of 16, or is handicapped, the spouse is eligible for Social Security payments. If the marriage lasted at least ten years, they were divorced for at least two years, and they have not remarried, divorced spouses are eligible for retirement benefits via their previous wives. The spouse may get up to half of the worker’s benefit or their own SSI payment, whichever is greater. It should be noted that the spouse’s benefit is separate from the worker’s benefit. It is a distinct sum.

Benefits for Survivors

The Social Security death benefit is a one-time payout of $255 that may be awarded to a dead worker’s spouse and children. In the following circumstances, the family of a dead worker is entitled to ongoing survivor benefits. The spouse is eligible for SSI if he or she is at least 60 years old, handicapped and at least 50 years old, or the parent of a kid under the age of 16 or a disabled child. Spouses get either their widow/er payment (which may be 100% of the spouse’s amount if the survivor waits until full retirement age to claim it) or their own SSI payout, whichever is greater. A parent of a dead worker is also eligible for Social Security benefits if the parent is at least 62 years old and is financially dependent on the worker for at least half of his or her maintenance.

There are also Social Security payments available for a dead worker’s children (including adopted children or dependent stepchildren). Children are eligible for benefits if they are under the age of 18, under the age of 19 and still in high school, or an adult who becomes handicapped before the age of 22.

Benefits for Disability

Social Security isn’t simply for the elderly. People who have been working but have become disabled and unable to work are eligible for Social Security disability payments. If you are under the age of 24 when you become handicapped, you must have worked for one and a half years in the three years before your impairment. People above the age of 24 must have a serious medical condition. The handicap must be on the Social Security impairment list, and the individual must be unable to do any of their former employment or any other work for which they qualify. The handicap must persist at least one year or be expected to last at least one year.

Benefits are also available for the spouse and child of a handicapped worker. A spouse is eligible if he or she is at least 62 years old, has a kid under the age of 16 or a handicapped child, or is divorced but was married to the worker for at least ten years. Children (including adopted children or dependent stepchildren) of handicapped employees are also eligible if they are under the age of 18, under the age of 19 and still in high school, or adults who become disabled before the age of 22.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Payments

Another type of assistance is available for persons who are elderly (65 and older), blind, or crippled and have limited income and resources. Use the online screening tool to see whether you or a family member are qualified.