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7 Social Safety Advantages You Could Be Overlooking

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It is common to think of Social Security as money that you receive in retirement, but the program is actually much broader. The government makes payments to spouses, children and people with disabilities through the Social Security Agency.

Here are some Social Security benefits that you may have missed.

1. Spousal benefits through a husband or wife

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Of all the additional social security benefits, the spouse benefits are perhaps the best known. Spouses can receive up to half of their husband’s or wife’s monthly benefit. Even spouses who stay at home and have no work experience of their own can claim benefits this way.

You can claim spouse benefits from the age of 62. However, the benefits will be reduced if payments start before you reach full retirement age.

People can also receive spousal benefits at any age if they are caring for a disabled or younger child who receives benefits from the spouse’s file.

If you are entitled to your own benefits as well as to spouse benefits, you will receive an amount that corresponds to the higher benefit level.

2. Spousal benefits through an ex-spouse

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Even if you are divorced, you may still be entitled to spousal benefits. To receive these benefits, the following must apply to your situation:

  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to social security benefits.
  • You have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years.
  • You are now unmarried.
  • You are at least 62 years old.
  • The benefit you are entitled to based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

Eligibility for spousal benefits as a divorced person does not affect the amount of benefits your ex-husband or wife receives. It also does not affect the benefits the current spouse can receive if they remarry.

3. Survivor benefits for widows and widowers

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If your husband or wife dies, you may still be able to receive up to 100% of Social Security benefits. Divorced spouses may also be able to receive survivor benefits if they have been married for at least 10 years and are now unmarried.

Most widows and widowers can claim survivor benefits by the age of 60. Anyone who has a disability and was disabled before or within seven years after the death of their spouse can claim benefits from the age of 50. Widows and widowers or other old age can receive survivor benefits if they are caring for a child of a deceased employee who is younger than 16 years or is disabled.

Note that you cannot receive these survivor benefits if you remarry before the age of 60 – or before the age of 50 if you are disabled. As with spouse benefits, if you receive survivor benefits and start your own old-age pension, you will receive the higher amount.

4. Child survivors’ benefits

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Spouses are not the only ones entitled to survivor benefits. Children can also receive payments from a deceased parent’s records.

Survivor benefits are available to children up to the age of 18 or 19 for those who are still in elementary or secondary school full-time. The benefits can exceed this if a child is disabled and remains disabled before the age of 22.

Grandchildren and stepchildren may also be entitled to these benefits depending on the circumstances.

5. Parental benefits

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Parents who depend on their children for financial support may be eligible for social security benefits if that child dies.

To be eligible for parental social security benefits, you must meet several criteria, including the following:

  • The deceased employee must have sufficient work credit to be eligible for social security benefits.
  • You must be at least 62 years old and in most cases cannot have married after the employee’s death.
  • You must have received at least half of your support from the deceased employee at certain points in time.
  • You are the birth parent or become the legal adoptive parent or stepparent before the employee turns 16.
  • You are not entitled to an old-age pension from social security that exceeds the parents’ benefits.

6. Disability benefits

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More than 9 million people receive monthly benefits under the Social Security Program for the Disabled. To receive benefits, people must have work experience that would compromise them for social security and they may no longer be able to work due to an illness that is likely to last for at least a year or that will result in death.

The process for applying for Disability Social Security benefits may require applicants to submit a significant amount of documentation. There is an appeal process for those who are initially denied benefits.

7. Additional Security Income

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While the Social Security Agency oversees the supplementary security income program, these benefits do not come from social security taxes. Instead, the program uses generic tax dollars to provide benefits to adults and children with disabilities, blindness, or limited incomes and resources.

This program, commonly known as SSI, is designed to provide money for basic needs such as food, clothing and housing. As the program is funded from general tax revenue, there is no work experience requirement to receive these benefits.

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