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Social Security Basics

Disability Benefits

This article explains some basics about social security.

This article explains some of the basics of social security—specifically, where your tax dollars are going, how to become eligible, and when to apply. 

What is social security?

Social security is a federally run benefit program that provides people with a source of income when they retire or if they are unable to work due to a disability. It can also be used to support your legal dependents (spouse, children, or parents) in the event of your death. 

How is the social security program funded?

The program is funded by payroll taxes. Workers pay into the program through payroll withholdings where they work.

Who is social security income for?

  • People who have retired, 

  • People who can’t work due to a disability, 

  • Survivors of workers who have died, 

  • Dependents of beneficiaries. 

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • As a worker you must be 62 or older, or disabled, or blind; and, 

  • “insured” by having enough social security credits. 

To check your eligibility, visit the Social Security Administration website and use their eligibility questionnaire. 

How do I get social security credits?

Each year you work you can earn up to four credits to help you become eligible for benefits when it’s time for you to retire. Most people need 40 credits (10 years of work) to qualify for benefits. A minimum of six social security credits is required, regardless of age. 

How can I apply for Social Security benefits?

There are several ways to apply for social security benefits. You can apply online by visiting the Social Security Administration website and getting your application started. You can also apply by calling 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, to set up an appointment. You can also apply at your local social security office. To find your local social security office, use their office locator

How much social security income will I receive?

There isn’t an exact number. How much social security income you receive depends on your earnings over your lifetime, your age at the time you begin receiving the benefits, and whether you'll be eligible to receive a spouse’s benefit instead of your own. 

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