You Don’t Need A Magic 8 Ball To Find The Answers To Your Questions

February 16, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 1 Minute

Last Updated: August 19, 2021

picture of an 8 ballSometimes, finding answers to your questions on government websites can feel a lot like asking questions of a Magic 8 Ball™. That’s not the case with Social Security’s frequently asked questions.

In 2015, Social Security won the “ClearMark Award of Distinction” for best plain language websites and documents from the Center for Plain Language for our redesigned Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) website. We continue to improve our communications to provide you with clear, helpful information and easy access to our services.

We recently narrowed down our FAQs from more than 500 to less than 200. The newly revised FAQs are more clear and concise. You come to our website for immediate answers, not a long drawn out experience. We’re all busy, right?

Social Security wants our online content and our communications with you to be accurate and easily accessible. We want you to locate the information you’re looking for faster than a magician could wave his wand. We are constantly searching for ways to improve navigation throughout our online presence and use feedback from your comments and suggestions when making changes to our website.

Visit our new FAQ home page to find the answer to your question. We promise that with our award-winning site, you won’t get the result reply hazy, try again later. When it comes to getting an answer, you’ll find out that your outlook is good.

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About the Author

Doug Walker, Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Deputy Commissioner, Office of Communications


  1. Tina

    How do I obtain a tax id # for the estate of my father?

  2. Barbara W.

    If I started taking my social security at age 62 1/2 can I apply for half of my husband social security when he turns 66?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Barbara. Thanks for your question. To qualify for spouse’s benefits, your husband must be receiving retirement or disability benefits. Also, if you qualify for Social Security benefits on your own record, we pay that amount first. But if you qualify for a higher amount later as a spouse, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. Keep in mind, if you begin to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to your full retirement age, benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits for which you may qualify. For more information, visit here. We hope this helps.

  3. Patrick

    I have two questions that I can’t seem to find a clear answer on. They both have to do with working while collecting SS. I completely understand the concept of having SS payments reduced when going above earnings limit ie 1 dollar for every 2 earned and 1 for every 3 the year you reach full retirement etc. But my two questions are; “If for example 10,000 is held back because of earnings limits, is that very same money put in some account somewhere and that “very same amount” returned later ? ie is it appropriate to consider it a kind of savings account that is still mine ? I know it may be possible to have an increase in monthly payments if the earning amount is high enough to REPLACE a previous year that was lower but that is not what I’m asking. My question is ONLY about the money held back because of the earnings limit. If I actually get it all back then it doesn’t really bother me since it seems like a bit of a savings account. I spoke with a SS person on the phone and she said I don’t get tat back but the question and answer info. on the SS website sounds like I do and several online SS experts seem to say that as well but it somehow seems unclear that the full amount is returned. My second question regards the timing when I can earn the much higher amount before having 1 dollar of every 3 held back. My birthday is September 15th which seems to put me 2 weeks off being able to earn that higher amount without being penalized. I was born in 1956 so that means my full retirement age is 66 and 4 months. If I was born TWO WEEKS sooner I could earn a whole lot more for the entire year and not be penalized at all ! Is it really the case that I lose all that extra payment for the sake of not being born on September 1st instead of the 15th ? I haven’t seen or heard this addressed by anyone. Is there perhaps a sliding scale for earnings limits based on the month of birth ? Thanks for your consideration. Perhaps others are wondering the same things.

    • Patrick K.

      Well, I’ve waited for a response and apparently this site doesn’t work anymore or my questions are too hard ??? OK I guess I’ll log off after waiting 5 days ! Good grief……

    • Luis A.

      Hi Patrick. To answer your first question, here is the example we offer on our publication titled “How Work Affects Your Benefits:” Let’s say that you file for Social Security benefits at age 62 in January 2020 and your payment will be $600 per month ($7,200 for the year). During 2020, you plan to work and earn $23,200 ($4,960 above the $18,240 limit). We would withhold $2,480 of your Social Security benefits ($1 for every $2 you earn over the limit). To do this, we would withhold all benefit payments from January 2020 through May 2020. Beginning in June 2020, you would receive your $600 benefit and this amount would be paid to you each month for the remainder of the year. In 2021, we would pay you the additional $520 we withheld in May 2020.
      For your second question: The earnings test (withholding of benefits because of exceeding of the earnings limit) ends the last day of month before your birth month. In your example, you stated that your birthday is September 15th. If you reach full retirement age in September (your birthday month), then the earnings test is enforced until the end of August (month before your birthday). We hope this helps.

  4. Dominic D.

    It has been like this since I applied for Medicare in April 2019. I am not taking SS until age 70. From your website:
    “We cannot provide you estimates because you recently applied for Social Security benefits or Medicare. Your local Social Security office can provide you with the information you requested.” Why am I no longer able to v0iew my estimated benefits? When will I be able to view them

    • Luis A.

      Hi Dominic. Please note that, once you apply for Social Security retirement benefits or Medicare coverage, we no longer provide you with estimates online because you now have the actual benefit amount. We hope this helps.

  5. tom t.

    dont need a magic 8 ball ? …im sure you meant that to be funny …somehow i dont feel like joking ….let me just give you a quick example …i was in the hospital (mental) ..of course ..for about eight days …when i was released i recieved a letter from local SSA office saying my benefits were turned off …or what ever term you use today …saying i was in hospital 30 days or more …not true …i went to local office …they had used another patients medical records as mine …sure they corrected it right when i showed them my records for my hospitalization …yet thats just a small part of the problems im dealing with ..nobody is taking responsibility and as much as i hate to even think this from SSA who we trust without a second thought …cause its america ..etc …but the problems that have and continue to grow sounds like some micheal moore conspiracy theory documentary …which its not direct deposit and mailed paperwork shows that …even thou now im not getting ANY mail …im just wasting my time here too …the only thing that really matters …time ..and im being forced to waste mine …cant ever get that back ………

    • tom t.

      after rereading that post ..i truely wish i could take it back …but i cant ..and i shouldnt feel like i should …my case is maybe unique …maybe not …maybe its time to find out …i was told today …not joking ..that i needed to (after i asked for a supervisor numerous times ) was told they could stop my benefits …thats way above his authority and reckless to say ..when i said i was recording our voices in a public government place ..he told me i couldnt …as far as i understand ..i have that right to back up what my version of what happened …i swear im not out to cause problems ….but the problems im dealing with …and are directly because of this …which again ..are not my mistakes …im not going to let it go this time same circumstances …im a couple of weeks away from living under a bush ….which i have before …..if im at fault ..i just want answers where im wrong …i feel like my local office has secrets im not privaledged to know ….like why cant i have MY records on ther then an encripted disk ..what does that even mean ..? im 57 years old ..using a borrowed laptop that takes awhile to see emails ..i have no clue why its so hard to find someone to hear me out … going on and on ..probably sounding crazy ….HELLO ……

  6. Eloisa O.

    When I retired I kept my health insurance with my company, I am now 77 years old and want to know I will be penalized if I sign up for Medicare now?

  7. David C.

    I am 57 and currently on SS Disability. I cannot work due to my condition. Selling my home to move to an Apt. I will make a profit on selling the home. How will that affect my benefits?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, David. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits are based on earnings and are not subject to income and resource limits. If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), it may affect your SSI benefit. For more information, visit here. We hope this helps.

  8. Diana C.

    Hello, I work for United Airlines in the payroll department. I process payroll for international based flight attendants. Our Hong Kong and Narita based flight attendant contribute to FICA and we would like to provide some general information as to what they need to do when they are ready to retire. Who to contact? Where? What items are needed? This would be helpful.
    Thank you.

    • Luis A.

      Hi Diana. You can find general information on Social Security retirement benefits here. For payment of benefits outside the United States, click here. For services provided by the Social Security Administration around world, click here. For companies and other entities doing business with Social Security, click here. We hope this helps.

  9. Eileen

    How do you get a copy of social security card for my special needs child?

  10. David J.

    what happens to the funds paid into SS when a deceased person has never been married or have surviving children?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, David. Thanks for your question. If no spouse or child meeting the eligibility requirements exists, survivor benefits are not payable. If you are interested in learning more about survivor’s benefits, please visit here. We hope this helps!

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