Social Security

Claiming Social Security Benefits

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. A retiree is required to show initial eligibility in order to claim benefits, and also to show continuing eligibility in order to receive ongoing 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.

Retroactive Benefits

While it is a good idea to apply early, a person may apply for benefits for up to the previous six months from the time of application.

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.

Early Retirement Reduction

The Social Security Act provides an option for retirement prior to age 65, the age at which full retirement benefits are generally payable. A retiree may elect to retire as early as age 62. However, the amount of his benefits would be reduced as a penalty early retirement. It's important to remember that this penalty is permanent and is not removed once the retiree turns 65. This is also true for the auxiliary husband's and wife's benefit's (except those with a child in care). The retirement benefit is reduced by 5/9 of 1% (or 1/180 ) for each month of entitlement before age 65.

Pension Income other Than Social Security

While a retiree's financial condition is not a factor in claiming benefits, the retiree's eligibility for pension plans other than Social Security is considered. Lower-income workers receive a higher percentage of benefits based on their eligible income, and in order to prevent people with pension income based on earnings not subject to Social Security withholdings, from also receiving a larger percentage of their income when claiming benefits, a lower percentage is used to calculate benefits for retirees with income based on earnings not subject to Social Security withholdings.

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. One 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.

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This article was verified by:
L. Carter Massengill | April 14, 2015
777 Anderson Street
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