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.
Entitlement refers to a person's ongoing eligibility for claiming benefits or for changing benefits. A retiree is required to show initial eligibility in order to claim benefits, to show continuing eligibility in order to receive ongoing benefits, and a substantial reason in order to change benefits. The motivation behind the Social Security Act is to replace a person's income once they retire. In order to retain the entitlement to benefits, a person must remain retired, at least to some extent. The measure of a person's retirement status is his or her overall earnings. While Social Security allows a person to work to some extent, in order to show continuing entitlement to benefits, the person must have an income low enough to be able to claim benefits.
Government Program Changes
In the coming years there will likely be changes to Social Security. In 1950 there were 16 workers for each Social Security recipient. Today there are 3.3 and that number is expected to drop to 2. In addition, baby boomers will begin retiring in 2008. Possible changes include increased payroll taxes, higher retirement ages, lower benefits, and means testing. In addition, President Bush has advocated privatization of some of Social Security by allowing individuals to manage their own funds.
New Rules for Getting a Social Security Number and Card
There are new rules for getting a number and card. You must prove either your citizenship or your immigration status. To prove citizenship, you will need a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. Passport, a Certificate of Naturalization or a Certificate of Citizenship. To prove your immigration status, you will need a form I-551 (including machine-readable immigrant visa with your unexpired foreign passport), an I-94 with your unexpired foreign passport or a work permit card (I-766 or I-688B).
Sometimes, benefits change due to life events. The most important thing to remember is to notify the Social Security Administration of any life events that may affect your benefits. In other situations, the changes are the result of changes in government programs. Such life events include: changing your name (remember, marriage may include a name change), divorce, remarriage and retirement.
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." They mean 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.