Social security refers to a government operated program. This program provides financial support for the elderly, disabled, and retired. Over the course of a person’s working life, they pay a portion or percentage of their regular income to the government. Both employees and employers are required to make such payments. 

These payments are known as social security taxes, and are intended to provide some degree of economic security. Another reason for social security payments is to ensure that everyone who is no longer earning an income still has some sort of funds to put into the economy, in order to keep the economy flowing.

Once a person reaches retirement, or becomes disabled, the government issues monthly payment checks based on the amount that the person paid during the course of their life. This is referred to as work credits, and you need a certain amount of credits to receive social security benefits. As such, not everyone may be eligible to receive social security benefits.

All United States citizens over the age of eighteen, and receive some type of income, must have a Social Security Number (“SSN”). Employers are required to use this number to report all employee’s income to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). Additionally, paying social security from your income is mandatory, and you cannot refuse to make payments. 

Although children are not required to have an SSN before the age of eighteen, most people get an SSN for their child because an SSN is required to open a savings account in their name, obtain medical coverage, or receive any other government provided service. Generally speaking, parents get an SSN for their child at the time of their birth.

What Are Some Examples of Social Security Benefits?

Social security benefits are a specific type of monetary benefits provided by the Social Security Association (“SSA”). Some examples of common social security benefits include:

  • Retirement Benefits: Those who retire after reaching the age of 62 are entitled to retirement benefits. The amount of money that a person receives is directly related to the amount of income made over the course of their working life. As such, the later you file for retirement benefits, the larger those benefits will be, up until the age of seventy;
  • Disability Benefits: If a person becomes disabled before reaching retirement age, they may be eligible for disability benefits. These benefits are roughly equal to what a person’s retirement benefits would have been;
  • Supplemental Security Income: SSI benefits are available to those who did not earn much income over the course of their working lives, but are still in need of financial assistance. Supplemental security income is only available to those who are over the age of sixty-five, or are disabled or blind;
  • Survivor’s Benefits: If your spouse is deceased, and they would otherwise be entitled to retirement or disability benefits, it is possible for you to receive the social security benefits on behalf of the decedent; and
  • Surviving Child Benefits: Similar to survivor’s benefits, surviving child benefits are also available for a biological child, adopted child, or step-child when their parent dies.

What Are Some Common Legal Issues Associated with Social Security Benefits?

There can be many different legal issues associated with social security benefits, which vary according to the type of benefits in question. Generally speaking, disputes arise from the distribution of benefits, as well as the denial of benefits. Some examples of the most common legal issues associated with social security benefits include:

  • Eligibility for Social Security: In order to be eligible to receive any sort of social security benefits, you must meet certain criteria, such as being a certain age. Disputes regarding eligibility for social security benefits are common. Additionally, you may only receive one type of benefits; meaning, you could not receive both disability and retirement benefits, although you may qualify for both; 
  • Social Security Survivor Benefits: As previously mentioned, upon the death of an insured and working person, certain family members are eligible for Social Security survivor benefits. Disputes related to survivor benefits generally involve collecting benefits, or limits placed on who can collect what amount; and
  • Social Security Fraud: Social security fraud can come in many forms, and are generally considered to be criminal actions. Making false statements or claims, standard of conduct violations, and failing to disclose facts that affect eligibility are some examples of social security fraud. Another common legal issue associated with social security fraud is identity theft.

What Could Cause My Social Security Claim to be Denied? What Happens if My Claim is Denied?

One of the biggest issues related to social security benefits is the denial of benefits. Denial is not at all uncommon, and a claim for benefits can be denied for several reasons. Reasons for denial vary based on the type of social security benefits you may have been attempting to obtain. Examples include:

  • Retirement Benefits: You will likely be denied retirement benefits if you do not meet the minimum age requirement; or, you indicated that you have never worked in a job in which you paid U.S. Social Security taxes;
  • Surviving Spouse: Denial of surviving spouse benefits includes if you do not meet the minimum age requirement, or you were never married. Another example of cause for denial would be if you remarried before reaching the age of 60;
  • Child: Children may sometimes receive their parent’s social security benefits. You would be denied if your parent is not deceased, nor are they receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits. Another reason for denial would be if you are over the age of 18 and you are not in high school, nor are you disabled;
  • Disability: Denial of disability benefits could occur if you are over full retirement age, or if you indicated that you are not disabled. Another reason would be if you indicated that you have never worked in a job in which you paid U.S. Social Security taxes, similar to denial of retirement benefits;
  • Supplemental Security Income: You will be denied SSI benefits if you are not 65 years of age; you are not disabled or blind; or, your income or assets are above the SSI limits. Other reasons would include that you are not a U.S. citizen (or lawfully admitted non-citizen), you do not live in the U.S. or the Northern Mariana Islands, or that you live in a jail or other correctional facility; and
  • Medicare: Medicare benefit denial will occur if you are not 65 years of age, or if you are already receiving Social Security disability benefits.

If your claim is denied, you may be entitled to pursue the appeals process. This process is generally as follows:

  • Reconsideration: Local social security officers will review your claim. If they choose to still deny benefits, you may have an administrative law hearing;
  • Administrative Law Hearing: An administrative judge independently reviews your claim to determine if your denial should be overturned. Should the administrative judge deny your claim, you may wish to appeal to the National Social Security Appeals Council;
  • National Social Security Appeals Council: This council will review your claim, and their ruling is final. If the appeals council upholds the denial, and you believe you are entitled to benefits, you will need to take legal action; and
  • Sue the Social Security Administration: You can sue the social security administration in federal court. However, you must first complete the aforementioned steps.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Social Security Issues?

You should absolutely consult with a local and experienced  government lawyer if you are facing any issues with your own social security benefits. Whether you are retiring, or if you or a loved one has become incapacitated, a local attorney will be best suited for understanding your state’s social security laws. An experienced attorney will offer you legal advice and guidance, and can also represent you during an appeal, and in court as needed.