The Social Security Administration (SSA) determines a person’s eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits. A person’s eligibility depends on several factors, including:

  • The age of the person when applying for benefits;
  • Whether the person has received Social Security benefits before;
  • The number of marriages the person has had;
  • The person’s marriage status at the time of filing;
  • The person’s record of payment of U.S. Social Security taxes;
  • Whether the person is a current or former government employee;
  • The person’s citizenship status, i.e., U.S. citizen, non-citizen lawfully admitted to the U.S., or other;
  • The state in which the person resides and the location of their residence, e.g., private residence, nursing home, jail or other correctional facility;
  • The person’s current disabilities or illnesses.

All of these factors are weighed in the SSA’s calculation of a person’s Social Security retirement benefit.

How Much Social Security Benefits Am I Entitled To?

The amount of Social Security retirement benefits that a person is entitled to does not depend on the person’s financial needs. Instead, it is mostly based on the amount of income that they have earned and the number of years that they have worked. The amount of a person’s Social Security retirement benefit is based on a person’s average income over their working years, the number of years they have worked, their spouse’s average income, and the age at which a person claims their benefit.  

The SSA keeps records of all of a person’s years of employment and the amount the person earned in each year. A person can access this information at the SSA website. It is a good idea to check the SSA’s record for the person’s years of employment and pay and ensure that it is correct. If it is not, a person can submit information to correct the record. It is important because it can affect the amount of a person’s retirement benefit. The more years a person has worked and the more money they have earned while working, the higher the amount of their retirement benefit will be.

When Can I Start Collecting Social Security Benefits?

In the past the standard retirement age was 65. A person could start collecting social security benefits at the age of 62, however the amount of their benefit would be less than it would be if they waited until the age of 65. The age of 65 was the so-called “full retirement age”. A person’s full retirement age is the age at which they can claim their full Social Security retirement benefit.

Gradually, however, the SSA has been raising the age of full retirement to 67. This means that a person can still claim their benefit when they are 62, but they will receive significantly less than if they wait until their full retirement age. If a person was born between 1943 and 1954, their full retirement age is 66. If a person was born between 1955 and 1960, the full retirement age is 67. For anyone born after 1960, the full retirement age is 67.

However, even if a person reaches their full retirement age at 66 or 67, if a person waits, their benefit amount rises every month until they reach the age of 70. Then it stops increasing. So some people think it is advantageous to wait as long as possible, even until the age of 70, to start collecting Social Security benefits.

Keep in mind that the age at which everyone must apply for Medicare is still 65. A person wants to apply at the age of 65 unless they have insurance through their employment, because if a person waits beyond the age of 65, they will pay a penalty. So, if a person does not have insurance through an employer, the person wants to apply for Medicare at the age of 65.

What Are Possible Reasons Why I Was Denied Social Security Benefits?

The reasons for a denial of benefits depend on which type of benefits a person is trying to get, such as:

  • Retirement benefits: If a person does not meet the minimum age requirement, which is 62, OR indicates that they have never worked in a job where they paid U.S. Social Security taxes, the SSA will deny the person a retirement benefit;
  • Spouse or divorced spouse: If a person does not meet the minimum age requirement OR if the person was never married, the SSA would deny the person a spousal benefit;
  • Surviving spouse: If a person does not meet the minimum age requirement OR was never married OR remarried before reaching age 60, the SSA might deny the person a retirement benefit;
  • Child: If a person’s parent is not deceased or is not receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits OR if the person is over age 18, not attending high school and not disabled, the person would be denied a Social Security benefit;
  • Disability: If a person is over full retirement age OR has indicated that they are not disabled OR if they have indicated that they have never worked in a job where they paid U.S. Social Security taxes, the SSA would deny the person a Social Security disability benefit;
  • Supplemental Security Income: If a person is not 65 years of age OR not disabled or blind OR their income or assets are above the SSI limits OR the person is not a U.S. citizen or lawfully admitted non-citizen OR does not live in the U.S. or the Northern Mariana Islands OR the person is incarcerated in a jail or correctional facility, the SSA would deny the person a Social Security Disability benefit;
  • Medicare – If a person is not 65 years of age or is not currently receiving a Social Security disability benefit, the person is not entitled to Medicare.

Can I Keep Working and Collect Social Security Benefits?

There is no requirement that a person stop working and start collecting Social Security benefits at any age. Many people who are past the full retirement age and are eligible to collect Social Security benefits continue to work. They can continue to earn any amount of money they can command in the labor market; in fact, they continue to collect credits for their future Social Security benefit and may increase the amount of their future benefit by continuing to work.. 

However, if a person starts collecting their Social Security benefit before reaching their full retirement age, a person is limited in how much they can earn. If they earn more than a certain amount specified by the SSA, the SSA subtracts money from their Social Security benefit

Once a person reaches their full retirement age, they can claim their Social Security benefit and continue to work and earn as much as they want without threatening the amount of their Social Security benefit..

Can I Collect More Than One Type of Social Security Benefit?

A person may not collect more than one type of social security benefit at a time, e.g. Social Security Disability and Social Security retirement benefits. There are several types of social security benefits and a person might qualify for more than one type. However, a person is allowed to collect only one type of benefit at a time. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me Get Social Security?

The laws that regulate Social Security can be complex and confusing. An experienced Social Security attorney can help you understand which Social Security benefits you are entitled to receive and if you are getting the amount you should. A Social Security attorney also can help you if you need to appeal a denial of Social Security benefits.

If you have an issue with any kind of Social Security benefit, you are most likely to get a successful outcome if you have an experienced Social Security attorney working for you.