Income Support: Social Security




Social Security, the nation's best known form of insurance, provides a retirement and insurance program for older and disabled Americans. There are three basic categories of cash benefits under Social Security: retirement, disability and survivor benefits. Rules, payment schedules and eligibility for each program are distinct. Although a person may qualify for more than one type of benefit under Social Security, he/she can collect only one of these three benefits at a time. The following are brief highlights of each program. For specific information or assistance with either of these programs, please contact your closest Social Security Administration Office.

Retirement Benefits

Individuals and their dependents are eligible for retirement benefits if the worker has earned enough quarters of coverage on a job that has paid into Social Security. A worker who has enough quarters of coverage and who retires at the age of 62 will receive partial benefits. A worker who has enough quarters of coverage and who retires at the age of 65 or later, will receive full retirement benefits.

You may request that Social Security estimate your future benefits for you. This will be done at no charge to you. You can find out the status of your quarters of coverage to be sure that you have enough quarters to receive retirement benefits.

Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration considers you disabled if you have a severe physical or mental condition that prevents you from working and that condition has lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or the condition will result in death. Once eligible, a person's benefits will continue until that person is determined to be able to work again on a regular basis. Social Security does not pay for partial disability or for short-term disability that lasts less than 12 months. Social Security Disability benefits are paid only to an individual and his/her family members if the worker has enough quarters of coverage to qualify. The required quarters of coverage depend upon the age of the person when he or she becomes disabled. Eligibility requires medical documentation of the disability.

Survivor's Benefits

Social Security provides benefits to the worker, but also to his/her family when the worker retires, becomes disabled or dies. However, not every surviving family member can collect these benefits. Among those dependents eligible for Survivor=s Benefits on the record of the insured are:

  • The spouse of a retired or disabled worker entitled to benefits who: 1) Is age 62 or over; or 2) Is caring for a child under the age of 16 or a disabled child over the age of 16 if that child is entitled to benefits on the worker's Social Security record.
  • The divorced spouse of a retired or disabled worker entitled to benefits, if age 62 or over and was married to the worker for at least 10 years.
  • The divorced spouse of a fully insured worker who has not yet filed a claim for benefits if both are age 62 or over, were married for at least 10 years, and have been finally divorced for at least 2 continuous years.
  • Certain dependent, unmarried children of a retired or disabled worker entitled to benefits, or of a deceased insured worker.
  • The surviving spouse (including the surviving divorced spouse) of a deceased insured worker, if the widow(er) is age 60 or over.
  • The disabled surviving spouse (including a surviving divorced spouse in some cases) of deceased insured worker if the widow(er) is age 50-59 and becomes disabled within a specific period of time.
  • The surviving spouse (including surviving divorced spouse) of a deceased insured worker, regardless of age, if caring for an entitled child of the deceased who is either under age 16 or disabled before age 22.
  • The dependent parents of a deceased insured worker at age 62 or over.

Applying for Social Security Benefits

You can apply for benefits under Social Security by going in person to the local Social Security Office, by calling the local office, or by calling the nationwide toll free number 1-800-772-1213. Depending upon the kind of Social Security for which you are applying, some of the documents that you will need to take with you when applying in person include:

  • Your Social Security card (or at least have the number);
  • Proof of birth date;
  • W-2 forms for the last two years;
  • Your marriage license;
  • Copies of divorce decrees; (if divorced and applying on your spouse's record);
  • Birth certificates of any dependents who may also be eligible for benefits; and
  • In the case of disability benefits, the medical records about your condition, which can be obtained from your doctors, hospitals, or clinics.

Social Security will request the medical records that you do not bring with you and may send you to a doctor for an independent evaluation. FOR SPECIFIC INFORMATION, PLEASE CALL THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION.

From Access: Benefits and Resources for Older Georgians
Last Updated October 2002

Natalie Thomas
Georgia Department of Human Resources
Division of Aging Services
Two Peachtree Street, NW
36th Floor
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3142
(404) 657-5258


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Last Review and Update: May 06, 2008