There are three basic requirements for Social Security benefits. First, a person must file a written application with their district office or local representative. Second, the applicant must be fully insured, which simply means that the person has worked for the required number of quarters. If you were born after January 2, 1929, your requirement for full insurance is 40 quarters, or 10 years. The third requirement is to be of a certain age, 62 years of age or older. The Social Security Administration has regulations stating what is preferred proof of age.
Determining Your Benefit
Every wage earner who meets the eligibility requirements for benefits is entitled to monthly benefits at age 65 based on their primary insurance amount. The best way to find out what your primary insurance amount would be is to ask at the Social Security Administration local District Office.
Individual Situations, Life Events and Benefit Changes
Sometimes, benefits change due to changes or life events. The most important thing to remember is to notify the Social Security Administration of any life events that may affect your benefits.
Such life events include:
- Changing your name (remember, marriage may include a name change)
Remarriage or Retirement and Survivor or Disability Benefits
If you have been receiving benefits as a disabled adult since childhood, marriage usually affects your benefits. However, in some circumstances, for example, if you marry another adult disabled child, your benefits may continue after you get married.
Reopening a Decision
Once Social Security decides a particular question, you may still be capable of changing the decision. A change of benefits can be started by either by Social Security itself, or at the request of an individual concerned with the decision. Social Security may consent to reopen a prior decision or benefit determination, and then proceed to revise that decision or determination.
Most Social Security decisions can be challenged through the usual system of administrative appeals if either the Social Security Administration or the individual files an appeal or action within 60 days of receiving notice of a decision. The granting of a request to reopen and revise is completely discretionary on the part of the Social Security Administration. The regulations do not require Social Security to revise a prior decision in any circumstances. In addition, a claimant has no protection against an arbitrary or irrational refusal to revise a prior decision by Social Security because a refusal to reopen and revise is itself not subject to the administrative review process or to judicial review in a federal court.
How a Lawyer Can Help
Social Security law is a complex maze, with subtle twists and turns that may require a lawyer's skill. At this time in your life there is a lot at stake. Investment advisors describe elder income as "irreplaceable money." This means that you can't go out and earn more money, so you need to maximize what you already have. One other thing to remember is that until 1996, the Social Security Administration was within the Department of Health and Human Services. Some phone books may still list the Social Security Administration under that department, and some may list it under its own heading.