In 1935, a federal law known as the Social Security Act (SSA) was passed.. This law created a program called the The Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance program (OASDI). OASDI is the technical name for the Social Security program. This program, run by the federal government, provides social security benefits to eligible individuals. The program is funded by withholding of social security taxes from current employees’ paychecks.

Social security is referred to as a “pay as you go” system. This means that the program pays benefits from funds collected from working people. When these working people retire, their benefits will be paid out of funds collected from individuals who are working at that time.

Social security benefits are available for four types of individuals, which include retirees, disabled individuals, individuals who are eligible for supplemental security income, and individuals whose spouses passed away while receiving social security benefits.

Does Everyone Have a Social Security Number?

Having a social security number is necessary to claim tax benefits and to perform a number of other activities. For example, if you want to claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return, you need a social security number. The child must have a social security number if you plan on:

  • Buying savings bonds for the child;
  • Opening a bank account for the child;
  • Obtaining health insurance for the child; or
  • Applying for government benefits for the child.

In terms of what age requirements, there is no official age by which one must obtain a social security number. However, individuals who work and who are 18 over must have one. This is because their employer is required to report their income to the IRS, using the number.

Individuals may receive a social security card before they turn 18. Many parents obtain the card for their children when the child is born. When parents provide information to the hospital for completion of the birth certificate, the hospital asks if the parent wishes to apply for a social security number for the baby. A parent who wants to apply must usually provide both that parent’s social security number.

Alternatively, a parent may apply for a children’s number at the local Social Security Office. This requires completing a social security card application and presenting sufficient proof. Proof must be in the form of documentation that shows the child is a citizen, and that verifies the child’s age and identity.

Individuals who are twelve years of age and older may request a social security number. SSA will schedule an in-person interview for these individuals. These individuals must complete the interview and provide any required documentation.

What are Social Security Benefits?

Social security benefits are monthly payments received by eligible individuals. The most common form of social security benefits are retirement benefits. Individuals may apply for social security benefits as early as age 62. The amount of benefits to be awarded is based on how many work credits an individual has.

Generally, to be entitled to benefits, an individual must have earned 40 credits. 40 credits translate to roughly 10 years of full-time work. Individuals will receive the maximum benefit amount when they turn 67 (if they were born in 1960 or later). Individuals who were born before1937 will receive the maximum benefit amount at age 65, if they were born before 1937.

Individuals between the age of 62 and the age when they are eligible for the full amount of benefits, may continue to work and still receive benefits. However, if their earnings exceed a certain dollar limit, the amount of benefit payments they receive will be reduced. Once someone reaches full retirement age, that person generally can work and still receive the entire benefit amount.

Additional types of Social Security Benefits include:

  • Social Security Disability Benefits: If you have worked for a sufficient length of time, and have paid Social Security taxes on your income, you and certain family members are eligible for benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. To qualify for these benefits, a person must have a “disability,” as that term is defined by the Social Security Administration. Generally, eligible individuals are those who are unable to work for one year or more due to that disability.
  • Supplemental Security Income: A federal income program known as the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program pays benefits to individuals who are aged, blind, and disabled, and who have no income (or insufficient income to qualify for retirement or SSDI benefits). The SSI program, unlike the retirement benefit and SSDI program, is not funded by social security taxes. Instead, it is funded through general tax revenue received by the government. Eligible individuals must present evidence of disability and income, if any.
  • Survivors Benefits: Survivors benefits are benefits that a family member may receive if you die. Individuals who work and pay social security taxes have a portion of the taxes set aside for payment of survivors benefits. Spouses, children, and parents of a deceased individual who was eligible for benefits, may receive benefits upon your death. The amount of benefits depends upon what your earnings were. If your spouse dies, and at the time of death, is receiving retirement or disability benefits, you may be entitled to receive the benefits to which your spouse was entitled.

What Should I Do if I Have Been Denied Social Security Benefits?

Individuals who apply for social security benefits may have their application denied by the Social Security Administration. Individuals have the right to appeal that denial. The appeal process has four tiers. The four tiers include:

  • Reconsideration: Reconsideration is the first level of review. An individual may request reconsideration if they have been denied benefits. When the request for reconsideration is received, Social Security will initiate a complete review. The review will be conducted by someone who played no part in the initial decision. During reconsideration, Social Security examines the original application, as well as any new evidence.
  • Hearing by an Administrative Law Judge: If you disagree with the reconsideration decision, you can request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), The judge will then schedule the hearing.

    • Before the hearing takes place, Social Security may request that you submit additional evidence, or clarify certain claim information. At the hearing, the judge will ask questions of you and any witnesses, including medical witnesses such as doctors. The hearing is typically conducted in person. Claimants who are unable or unwilling to attend an in-person hearing must notify Social Security. The judge will permit a video hearing if the judge believes your presence is not needed to decide the case. Once the hearing is over, the judge will render a decision.
  • Lawsuit Against the Social Security Administration: If you do not agree with the judge’s decision, you can file a lawsuit in federal court against the Social Security Administration.

Do I Need an Attorney for Help with a Social Security Matter?

If you have concerns about what social security benefits you may be entitled to, or questions as to how to receive them, you should contact a government lawyer. An experienced government lawyer near you can review the facts of your situation, and advise you as to how to obtain benefits for which you are eligible.