The Social Security Administration runs the social insurance programs that pay benefits to people of retirement age, disabled persons and their families. It also assigns Social Security numbers and provides other services.
SSA’s headquarters (also known as Central Office) is in Woodlawn, Maryland. The agency has a network of 1,200 community-based field offices.
Many people do not realize that their Social Security benefits are only a portion of the total income they will receive in retirement. In addition to their Social Security payments, they will also be receiving pensions from other sources, investments and other assets. They may also be paying taxes on their income. A CPA financial planner can help clients coordinate all these sources of income, so that their overall retirement plan will work.
The Social Security program is designed to provide a reasonable rate of return for the middle-aged and older workforce as it nears retirement age. The system uses a formula called the Personal Earnings Index, or PIA, to compute monthly benefits. The PIA is then indexed for price inflation so that the average monthly benefit will retain its purchasing power as years pass. This provides a decent replacement rate for those who worked less or have low career earnings.
Social Security also offers benefits to spouses and children. These benefits are based on the PIA of the spouse or surviving divorced spouse, or up to 50 percent of the deceased spouse’s PIA. The system rules limit the amount of benefits paid to a single individual, so that a person cannot receive both a full retirement benefit and a partial spouse benefit. This rule disproportionately affects women, who are likely to earn less than their current or former husbands and therefore do not qualify for a full spouse benefit.
If a beneficiary has legal custody of an individual or entity (e.g. a parent, spouse, child or relative), you must obtain our approval to use their ongoing monthly Social Security or SSI payments to pay for items or services that are not related to the beneficiary’s impairment(s). You must also notify us of any such purchase.
Social Security beneficiaries are among the most vulnerable Americans, especially the poorest. The program has largely succeeded in helping them escape poverty by establishing a system of pensions based on the work they did, and paying them a rate of return that is higher than the rates of return earned by workers who do not participate in Social Security.
Social Security also administers Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides monthly payments to people who have limited income and resources. The vast majority of SSI recipients are disabled, blind or age 65 or older. Some may also be entitled to a Social Security primary or secondary benefit, and in these cases, we count both types of benefits. If you are the payee for an SSI beneficiary who dies, you must return any SSI checks issued in the month after his or her death. You can find more information about SSI payment rules in the Social Security Administration manual, Chapter 3: Payment of SSI Benefits.
For SSI recipients, SSA will check in with them from time to time. They might receive a letter with a date and time for a telephone or in-person appointment or a Redetermination form for them to complete, sign, and return. Beneficiaries should always respond to these letters and appointments – failure to do so can lead to benefits being stopped or to overpayments.
SSI is a needs-based program that provides cash assistance to people who are blind or elderly with low income and limited resources. It is not tied to your work history, though you must have a record of paid FICA Social Security taxes or self-employment tax (SECA).
There are some overlapping rules for who qualifies for SSI and SSDI, but there are key differences. One is that you will not qualify for SSI if your countable assets are greater than $2,000. This does not include your home or car, but it includes things like cash, checks, money in checking or savings accounts, credit cards, personal loans, and even life insurance policies. SSI beneficiaries are also usually eligible for Medicaid, which pays for more health services than Medicare.
My Social Security
Sign up for a free my Social Security account and use personalized tools that let you manage your benefits and services from the convenience of your home. You can request a replacement card, check the status of your application, change direct deposit, or estimate future benefits based on different dates of birth or age groups. You can also opt out of receiving mailed notices and receive them in the Message Center instead. If you are an applicant, you can also get a receipt for your security freeze or fraud alert, and reinstate it if needed. ביטוח לאומי אזור אישי