The United States government provides Social Security benefits to retired and disabled Americans, and dependents that survive a deceased family member. The amount of benefits available through the program hinges on the amount of Social Security tax paid into the program by the benefits recipient during his or her working life. The time period during which you are eligible to collect Social Security benefits depends on the type of benefits.
For any American born in 1937 or earlier, the age for full, or nominal, retirement is 65. Any American born in 1959 or after reaches full retirement age at 67. For those born between these years, a graduate scale exists for full retirement age. Those born in 1938 receive full retirement benefits at the age of 65 years and two months. Those born between 1943 and 1953 receive full retirement benefits at age 66. Once you reach the proper age for you year of birth, you may begin collecting Social Security retirement benefits in full.
Those eligible for Social Security hold the option of retiring early and receiving slightly diminished Social Security benefits. The amount by which benefits diminish in the event of early retirement depends on the age at which you retire early retirement and your year of birth. For instance, if someone is eligible to retire at age 66 but they choose to receive benefits at age 62, the amount of each benefit payment amounts to 75 percent of the full retirement age benefits payment. The amount available for a spouse of the retiree in this case is 35 percent. The Social Security Administration uses a complex matrix when determining such things.
You can receive Social Security disability benefits by meeting three requirements. First, you must be 18 or older. Secondly, the disability must render you incapable of working for at least 12 months or eventually result in death. Lastly, you must have earned 40 Social Security credits through taxes paid into the program. In 2011, you earn one Social Security credit for every $1120 made through a job. Thus in order to be eligible to receive disability benefits from the SSA, you must have earned about $44,800, before taxes, as an adult. However, the limit on credits earned per year is four; you need at least 10 years employment to earn sufficient credits. Disabled Americans younger than 22 years old can receive Social Security benefits through a retired family member.
Survivor benefits provide financial assistance to dependents of a deceased individual who paid Social Security taxes during his or her working life. The Social Security Administration pays full survivor benefits to the family of anyone with 40 or more accrued Social Security credits. The accrual of six credits in the three years preceding the death of the benefactor qualifies individuals to receive partial survivor benefits. You can receive survivor benefits if you are a widow, widower, divorced spouse or child of the deceased.