What You Need To
Know When You’re Eligible For Retirement Benefits
How Do You
Sign Up For Social Security?
You can call our
toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, to apply for benefits or to
make an appointment to visit any Social Security office to apply in
Depending on your
circumstances, you will need some or all of the documents listed below.
But don’t delay applying for benefits because you don’t have all the
information. If you don’t have a document you need, we can help you get
- your Social
- your birth
- your W–2 forms
or self–employment tax return for last year;
- your military
discharge papers if you had military service;
- your spouse’s
birth certificate and Social Security number if he or she is applying
birth certificates and Social Security numbers, if applying for
- proof of U.S.
citizenship or lawful alien status if you (or a spouse or child is
applying for benefits) were not born in the U.S.; and
- the name of
your bank and your account number so your benefits can be directly
deposited into your account.
You will need to
submit original documents or copies certified by the issuing office. You
can mail or bring them to Social Security. We will make photocopies and
return your documents.
If you disagree
with a decision made on your claim, you can appeal it. The steps you can
take are explained in the factsheet, The Appeals Process
(Publication No. 05-10041), which is available from Social Security.
You have the right
to be represented by an attorney or other qualified person of your
choice. More information is in the factsheet, Your Right to
Representation (Publication No. 05-10075), which also is available
from Social Security.
If You Work
And Get Social Security At The Same Time
You can continue
to work and still receive retirement benefits. Your earnings in (or
after) the month you reach your full retirement age will not affect your
Social Security benefits. However, your benefits will be reduced if your
earnings exceed certain limits for the months before you reach your full
retirement age—65 for persons before 1938 and gradually increasing to 67
for persons born in 1960 or later.
Here’s how it
- If you’re under
full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $2 in
earnings you have above the annual limit.
- In the year you
reach your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced $1 for
every $3 you earn over a different annual limit until the month you
reach full retirement age. Then your earnings will no longer affect
the amount of your monthly benefits, no matter how much you earn.
increase each year as average wages increase. For the current amounts,
contact Social Security to ask for the factsheet, Update
(Publication No. 05-10003).
If other family
members receive benefits on your Social Security record, the total
family benefits will be affected by your earnings. This means we
will offset not only your benefits, but those payable to your family as
well. If a family member works, however, the family member’s earnings
affect only his or her benefits.
If, during the
year, your earnings are higher or lower than you estimated, let us know
as soon as possible so we can adjust your benefits.
A special rule
applies to your earnings for one year, usually your first year of
retirement. Under this rule, you can receive a full Social Security
check for any month you are "retired," regardless of your yearly
earnings. Your earnings must be under a monthly limit. If you’re
self-employed, the services you perform in your business are taken into
consideration as well.
If you want more
information on how earnings affect your retirement benefit, call us to
ask for a copy of the leaflet, How Work Affects Your Benefits
(Publication No. 05-10069). This leaflet has the figures for the current
annual and monthly earnings limits.
May Be Taxable
About 20 percent
of people who get Social Security have to pay taxes on their benefits.
This provision affects only people who have substantial income in
addition to their Social Security.
At the end of each
year, you will receive a Social Security Benefit Statement (Form
SSA-1099) in the mail showing the amount of benefits you received. You
can use this statement when you are completing your federal income tax
return to find out if any of your benefits are subject to tax.
not required to have federal taxes withheld, you may find it easier than
paying quarterly estimated tax payments.
To have federal
taxes withheld, you’ll need a form W-4V from the Internal Revenue
Service (IRS). You can get this form by calling the IRS toll-free
number, 1-800-829-3676, or by visiting SSA’s website at
www.ssa.gov on the Internet. After
completing and signing the form, return it to your local Social Security
office by mail or in person.
To get the address
of your local Social Security office, call 1-800-772-1213.
Each time you want
to make a change (or stop the withholding), complete the W-4V and send
it to Social Security.
information, call the IRS toll-free telephone number, 1-800-829-3676, to
ask for Publication 554, Tax Information for Older Americans, and
Publication 915, Social Security Benefits and Equivalent Railroad
Work Not Covered By Social Security
If you get a
pension from work where you paid Social Security taxes, it will not
affect your Social Security benefits. However, if you get a pension from
work that was not covered by Social Security—for example, the federal
civil service, some state or local government employment or work in a
foreign country—your Social Security benefit may be lowered or offset.
information, call Social Security to ask for the factsheets,
Government Pension Offset—for government workers who may be eligible
for Social Security benefits on the record of a husband or wife
(Publication No. 05-10007); and The Windfall Elimination Provision—for
people who worked in another country or government workers who also are
eligible for their own Social Security benefits (Publication No.
If you are a
United States citizen, you can travel or live in most foreign countries
without affecting your eligibility for Social Security benefits.
However, there are a few countries—Cambodia, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam
and many of the former U.S.S.R. republics (except Estonia, Latvia,
Lithuania and Russia)—where we cannot send Social Security checks.
If you work
outside the United States, different rules apply in determining if you
can get your benefit checks.
Most people who
are neither U.S. residents nor U.S. citizens will have 25.5 percent of
their benefits withheld for federal income tax.
information, call us to ask for a copy of the booklet, Your Social
Security Payments While You Are Outside The United States
(Publication No. 05-10137).
A Word About
Medicare is a
health insurance plan for people who are 65 or older. People who are
disabled or have permanent kidney failure can get Medicare at any age.
Medicare has two
parts—hospital insurance and medical insurance. Most people have both
insurance, sometimes called Part A, covers inpatient hospital care and
certain follow-up care. You already have paid for it as part of your
Social Security taxes while you were working.
sometimes called Part B, pays for physicians’ services and some other
services not covered by hospital insurance. Medical insurance is
optional, and you must pay monthly premiums.
If you’re already
getting Social Security benefits when you turn 65, your Medicare (Part
A) starts automatically. If you’re not getting Social Security, you
should sign up for Medicare close to your 65th birthday, even if you
aren’t ready to retire. For more information, call us to ask for the
booklet, Medicare (Publication No. 05-10043).
Low-Income Medicare Beneficiaries
If you have a low
income and few resources, your state may pay your Medicare premiums and,
in some cases, other "out-of-pocket" Medicare expenses, such as
deductibles and coinsurance.
Only your state
can decide whether you qualify for help under this program. If you think
you may qualify, contact your state or local medical assistance
(Medicaid) agency, social services or welfare office. For more
information, contact Social Security to request a copy of the leaflet,
Medicare Savings For Qualified Beneficiaries (HCFA Publication
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