5 Facts You Might Not Know About Social Security

little girl getting a piggy back ride on older womanMost people know at least something about Social Security. For decades, Social Security has been providing valuable information and tools to help you build financial security. Here’s your opportunity to find out a little more, with some lesser-known facts about Social Security.

1. Social Security pays benefits to children.

Social Security pays benefits to unmarried children whose parents are deceased, disabled, or retired. See Benefits for Children for the specific requirements.

2. Social Security can pay benefits to parents.

Most people know that when a worker dies, we can pay benefits to surviving spouses and children. What you may not know is that under certain circumstances, we can pay benefits to a surviving parent. Read our Fact Sheet Parent’s Benefits, for the details.

3. Widows’ and widowers’ payments can continue if remarriage occurs after age 60.

Remarriage ends survivor’s benefits when it occurs before age 60, but benefits can continue for marriages after age 60.

4. If a spouse draws reduced retirement benefits before starting spouse’s benefits (his or her spouse is younger), the spouse will not receive 50 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.

Your full spouse’s benefit could be up to 50 percent of your spouse’s full retirement age amount if you are full retirement age when you take it. If you qualify for your own retirement benefit and a spouse’s benefit, we always pay your own benefit first. (For example, you are eligible for $400 from your own retirement and $150 as a spouse for a total of $550.) The reduction rates for retirement and spouses benefits are different. If your spouse is younger, you cannot receive benefits unless he or she is receiving benefits (except for divorced spouses). If you took your reduced retirement first while waiting for your spouse to reach retirement age, when you add spouse’s benefits later, your own retirement portion remains reduced which causes the total retirement and spouses benefit together to total less than 50 percent of the worker’s amount. You can find out more on our website.

5. If your spouse’s retirement benefit is higher than your retirement benefit, and he or she chooses to take reduced benefits and dies first, your survivor benefit will be reduced, but may be higher than what your spouse received.

If the deceased worker started receiving reduced retirement benefits before their full retirement age, a special rule called the retirement insurance benefit limit may apply to the surviving spouse. The retirement insurance benefit limit is the maximum survivor benefit you may receive. Generally, the limit is the higher of:

  • The reduced monthly retirement benefit to which the deceased spouse would have been entitled if they had lived, or
  • 82.5 percent of the unreduced deceased spouse’s monthly benefit if they had started receiving benefits at their full retirement age (rather than choosing to receive a reduced retirement benefit early).

Social Security helps secure your financial future by providing the facts you need to make life’s important decisions.

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135 thoughts on “5 Facts You Might Not Know About Social Security

    • Hello Mary. You can only receive one payment at the time. If you are the widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can start receiving reduced widow’s benefits at age 60 (age 50 if disabled). In many cases, a widow can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then, at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate. The rules are complicated and vary depending on the situation. You will need to speak with a Social Security representative.
      You cannot apply for survivor’s benefits online. If you decide to apply, you will need to contact your local office, or call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213, for assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
      We hope this information helps!

  1. I tried to get my ex wife who is retire social security because I only get 275 a month my Springfield Illinois social security office said no why is that

    • Hello William. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot answer your question at this time. One of our representatives should be able to provide you with an explanation.
      Please continue working with your local office. You can request to speak with the office manager if necessary.
      If you are unable to visit the local office, you can call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week. Thanks.

  2. SS rules for Survivor benefits for the spouse.
    My husband died on 8/18/2011. I filed for survivor benefits but was turned down. My DOB is 06/30/1950,
    and working when the application was filed.
    The reason they gave me is : I don’t qualified.
    I am bit confused of what the above reason.
    Could you please explain it further why I was disqualified to received the benefits then?

    • Perhaps your earnings were too high or you were not married long enough. Your denial letter explains it. Denials don’t just say, “You are disqualified”.

    • We are sorry for your loss, Mercedes. If you were working when you filed your application for widow’s benefits, your earnings may have exceeded the allowable amount. You should know that there are limits on how much survivors may earn while they receive benefits. However, those restrictions change when you attain your full retirement age. See “Getting Benefits While Working” for more information.
      Unfortunately, and because of security reasons we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot answer your question at this time. One of our representatives should be able to provide you with an explanation. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week.
      Thanks!

  3. My wife died in 2011 after receiving only 2-3 monthly payments. Is the spouse entitled to all the payments she made to social security over all the previous years that she did not collect?
    Also, I worked for an additional 8 years past 65 paying into social security. Should I receive an additional monthly payment for these additional payments?
    Thank you,

    • First question, the answer is, no. Second question, what do you want SS to do, add additional months to the 12 month calendar? Work activity after you retire can increase your monthly payments, no extra months though.

    • Hello James. Each year, we review the records for all working Social Security recipients to see if additional earnings may increase their monthly benefits.
      When you apply for retirement benefits, we base your benefit payment on your highest 35 years of earnings and your age when you start receiving benefits. If your earnings for the prior year are higher than one of the years we used to compute your retirement benefit, we will recalculate your benefit amount.
      If an increase is due, a new monthly benefit amount is established on your record automatically. See “Getting Benefits While Working” for more information. Thanks!

  4. Does this mean that because my last heart event in 2015 caused the VA to rate me 100% T&P plus SMC-s for greater than 60% more in disabilities and SSA Disability at 58, that my wife who is 4 years younger will not receive my SSA benefit rather than hers which will be lower? I don’t expect to live to see her reach full retirement age!

    • What is a divisability benefit? If you receive a SS disability payments it is because SS considers you to be disabled. Getting more disabled does not get you more money.

  5. If two people are married and one of them
    dies, does the surviving spouse continue to
    receive the spouse’s social security, along with her’s?

  6. On several occasions, I have requested information about getting French Social Security. I was born and raised in France and worked at two different companies. Yet, all my requests have been ignored. When I retired from the US Postal Service in 2003, I completed paperwork and gave it to the SS Office in Sacramento, CA. They claimed it was lost and I never tried again. However, I badly need that money. I am 80 years old, have a lot of ailments; my husband is almost 85 and is also in poor health as are my two children. My son, Ron, 56, was born in Nancy, France. My daughter, Sonia, 52, was born in Colorado Springs, CO. Please help me.

    • Did you ever file for SS? If so, you received a denial letter. The USA has a totalization agreement with France which would combine your French and American wages might give you insured status and could be used to figure your benefit amount subject to the GPO or Government offset.
      After you were told “the papers were lost” what did you do? When you filed, if you filed, that application protects your rights to get a decision for any and all payment that could be paid to you. You may have to start all over and ask for copies of any previous claims filed. When you get a decision that is not favorable, hire a lawyer on a contingency basis. Good luck!!

  7. How can I sit face to face with an SS person and initially apply for my SS benefits I will be 67 11/19/2018.

    I am not computer competent and would do better with a trained person who has dealt with applicants like me in the past.

    • Hello Jim. If you do not want to apply for benefits online, or you need to speak to us for any other reason, you can schedule, an appointment by:
      •Calling us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; or
      •Contacting your local Social Security office. Thanks!

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