Using the Social Security Website To Get Answers

Shortcuts to answer the most common questions

Similar to any government website,, the official site 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, is not always easy. Here is a guide to help you navigate the site based on some of the most common questions people have.

The links included in each answer will take you to the applicable pages and forms on the Social Security website.

Key Takeaways

  • If you’ve never had a Social Security card, you must apply for one in person at your Social Security office.
  • You may apply online for a replacement card under certain circumstances.
  • You need 40 credits to be eligible for full retirement benefits, and you can earn no more than four credits per year, with one credit earned for each $1,510 ($1,640 in 2023) you make in a year in 2022.

How Do I Apply?

Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number that the U.S. government issues to all U.S. citizens and eligible U.S. residents who apply for one. The number allows the government to keep track of your lifetime earnings and the number of years worked. You must apply for a number and a card in person because the Social Security office has to verify certain documents. You can, however, go online to complete and print the application to take to your local office.

If you need a replacement card, you may be able to apply online if you are 18 or older, have a driver’s license or state-issued identification card, are not requesting any change in your Social Security card, have a U.S. mailing address, and have created an online “my Social Security account.”

The following five states do not yet participate in the online renewal program:

  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Oklahoma
  • West Virginia

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 are also likely to need supporting documents when you arrive, such as a birth certificate or passport for identification.

Retirement Benefits

How Do I Apply for Retirement Benefits?

First, determine if you’re eligible for Social Security (not everyone is). If you are, you can apply for Social Security and Medicare.

Can I Work and Receive Benefits at the Same Time?

Yes, but your Social Security benefits may be reduced. This page provides an overview of working and receiving benefits, including benefit calculations and changes that might take place once you reach full retirement age.

How Can I Calculate My Monthly Benefits?

The average monthly benefit for retired workers as of October 2022 was $1,676.53, but the benefit you will receive is based on various factors. You can use the retirement estimator to calculate your benefits, but read the information before you begin. For example, to use the calculator, you need to have earned 40 credits.

What Is a Credit?

As of 2022, you receive one credit for each $1,510 ($1,640 in 2023) you earn in a year. You need 40 credits to qualify for full retirement benefits. You can receive a maximum of four credits per year.

If I Get a Pension, Will That Affect My Benefits?

Whether your benefits are affected by a pension depends on where the pension is from. Pensions from government jobs in which you did not pay Social Security taxes can be affected. Also, read about the windfall elimination provision. This provision 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 planning 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.

Spouses who do not qualify for Social Security benefits may nevertheless receive spousal benefits of their own if their husbands or wives qualify for Social Security.

Disability Benefits

Where Can I Learn More About Disability Benefits?

Social Security provides disability benefits for people of all ages, with rules enumerated in a 15-page document. You can apply for disability benefits online. Before completing the application, you should read this five-page publication that includes instructions and frequently asked questions.

Can I Go Back to Work and Still Collect Disability Benefits?

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

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. Assistance for children includes 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, verify that you are eligible. Then, learn about the application procedure.

How Do I Change My Direct Deposit Information?

You can do this 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.

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 along with information about voluntarily withholding.

What Is the Average Social Security Benefit?

For October 2022, the average Social Security benefit amount for a retired worker was $1,676.53. When including the benefits of spouses and children of retired workers, the average benefit was $1,630.93.

What Will the Social Security Raise Be in 2023?

To account for inflation, the increase in Social Security benefits for 2023 will be 8.7%, known as the cost-of-living adjustment. This is one of the largest increases due to the soaring inflation that occurred in 2022.

What Is the Maximum Social Security Benefit?

The maximum Social Security benefit you can receive will depend on the age that you retire. For example, in 2023, if you retire at 62, your maximum benefit would be $2,572. If you retire at 70, the maximum benefit would be $4,555.

The Bottom Line

This article attempts to answer the most common questions, but you can find more answers by going to the frequently asked questions page. If you do not find the answer there, search the publications section. If you still have questions, call your local Social Security office.

Article Sources
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  1. Social Security Administration. "Social Security Number Randomization."

  2. Social Security Administration. "Learn What Documents You Will Need To Get a Social Security Card."

  3. Social Security Administration. "Program Operations Manual System: (POMS) RM 10205.630 Internet SSN Replacement Cards (iSSNRC) Policy."

  4. Social Security Administration. "Replacement or Corrected Social Security Cards during the COVID-19 Pandemic."

  5. Social Security Administration. "Getting Benefits While Working."

  6. Social Security Administration. "Monthly Statistical Snapshot, October 2022."

  7. Social Security Administration. "Social Security Credits."

  8. Social Security Administration. "Quarter of Coverage."

  9. Social Security Administration. "Windfall Elimination Provision."

  10. Social Security Administration. "If You Are The Survivor," Select "Widow Or Widower."

  11. Social Security Administration. "Trial Work Period."

  12. Social Security Administration. "What You Need to Know When You Get Social Security Disability Benefits," Page 6.

  13. Social Security Administration. "If You Are The Survivor," Select "Minor or child with a disability."

  14. Social Security Administration. "Disability Benefits | How You Qualify," Select "Benefits for children with disabilities."

  15. Social Security Administration. "Compassionate Allowances."

  16. Social Security Administration. "Understanding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Overview."

  17. Social Security Administration. "Social Security Direct Deposit."

  18. Social Security Administration. "Can My Social Security Benefits Be Garnished for Alimony, Child Support or Restitution?"

  19. Social Security Administration. "Benefits Planner | Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefit."

  20. Social Security Administration. "Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2023."

  21. Social Security Administration. "Workers With Maximum-Table Earnings."

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