Using The Social Security Website To Get Answers

By Tim Parker AAA

Like any government website, ssa.gov, the official website of the Social Security Administration, is full of helpful information. Finding what you need in the long list of publications, forms and other web resources, however, isn’t always easy. We’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the site based on some of the most common questions you might have. The links included in each answer will take you to the applicable pages and forms on the Social Security website.

How do I apply for a new or replacement card?

You can’t apply for a card online because the Social Security office has to verify certain documents. You can, however, complete and print the application to bring to your local office. For complete instructions visit this page.

Where is my nearest Social Security office?

Before you visit an office, check the website to see if you can complete all or some of the paperwork online. You’ll likely also need supporting documents when you arrive. Once you compile all of your documents, visit this page to find the nearest office.

Retirement Benefits

How do I apply for retirement benefits?

First, determine if you’re eligible. If you are, you can apply for Social Security and Medicare benefits here. Read more on what's offered in Types Of Social Security Benefits.

Can I work and receive benefits at the same time?

Yes, but your Social Security benefits may be reduced. You can read the overview of how it works or read about the calculations in more detail. Click here to read about changes that might take place once you reach full retirement age.

How can I calculate my monthly benefits?

The average benefit as of January of 2014 was $1,294, but the benefit you will receive is based on a variety of factors. You can use the retirement estimator to calculate your benefits, but read the information about it before you begin. For example, in order to use the calculator, you need to have earned 40 credits.

What is a credit?

You receive one credit for each $1,200 you earn in a year. You need 40 credits to qualify for full retirement benefits. You can receive a maximum of 4 credit per year.

If I get a pension, will that affect my benefits?

Probably. Learn more about that here. Also, read about the windfall elimination provision. This may apply to you as well.

Are my spouse and kids eligible to receive my benefits?

Probably, but the rules are complicated. Read about spousal benefits and check out the survivor planner for more information. Your children can receive benefits, too. Read about the eligibility requirements. Social Security has numerous FAQs about benefits for spouses, children and others who might be eligible to receive payments.

Disability Benefits

Where can I learn more about disability benefits?

Social Security provides disability benefits for people of all ages. Read the 16-page document about disability benefits here. You can apply for disability benefits online, but before completing the application read this 6-page publication that includes instructions and frequently asked questions.

Can I go back to work and still collect benefits?

Yes, you can. Social Security may allow you a nine-month trial period to see if you’re able to work. Learn more here.

If I reach retirement age, will I receive disability and retirement benefits?

No. Once you reach full retirement age, you will lose disability benefits and gain retirement benefits. Read more here. Finally, go to this page to find many more resources about how Social Security provides assistance for children, including children whose parents are receiving disability benefits and children who are themselves disabled.

What is a compassionate allowance?

Some people’s disabilities clearly meet Social Security’s definition of disabled. Those people may be eligible to receive benefits more rapidly. The website has an extensive section on compassionate allowance.

General Questions

What is SSI?

These initials stand for Supplemental Security Income, which provides cash assistance to the aged, the blind and the disabled to meet basic living needs. It is not paid for by Social Security taxes. First, figure out if you’re eligible. Then learn about the application procedure.

How do I change my direct deposit information?

You can probably do that online. Log in to your online account or contact your bank. You can also complete a direct deposit form, print it and take it to your local Social Security office.

Can Social Security garnish my wages?

If you owe child support, alimony, taxes or restitution, Social Security may garnish your wages to meet those obligations. Learn more here.

Do I have to pay taxes on my Social Security wages?

Some people have to pay taxes on their wages but never on more than 85% of their benefits. You can find basic information here along with information about voluntarily withholding.

The Bottom Line

Because of the Plain Writing Act of 2010, the Social Security website has undergone a revamp to make it easier to read and navigate. The links above answer the most common questions, but you can find more answers by first going to the frequently asked questions page.If you fail to find the answer there, search the publications section to find the answer. If all else fails, call your local Social Security office.

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