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Social Security Q&A Part 13

Question: How do I know if I’ve worked long enough to get Social Security disability benefits?

Answer: To get Social Security disability benefits, you must meet the definition of disability under the Social Security Act. And you must have worked long enough — and recently enough — under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits.

The amount of work you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 10 years of work, and that must include working 5 out of the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with as little as one and one half years of work earned in the three-year period ending when the disability starts. See our Disability Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dqualify3.htm for credit requirements at different ages.

Question: What is the purpose of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI?

Answer: The purpose of SSI is to help aged, blind, and disabled people who have little income and few resources to support themselves. It provides financial assistance to meet basic needs for food, clothing, and shelter. You can receive SSI even if you have not worked and paid into Social Security. SSI is a federal income supplement program funded by general tax revenues (not Social Security taxes). Find out more at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssi.

Question: I am receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. I just got married, and I am wondering if my benefits, and my new spouse’s benefits, will stay the same.

Answer: If you marry, your spouse’s income and resources may change your SSI benefit. It is your responsibility to report your status change to Social Security as soon as possible. If you and your spouse both get SSI, your benefit amount will change from an individual rate to a couple’s rate.

If you are receiving Social Security benefits as a widow, divorced widow, widower, or divorced widower, other factors to keep in mind are:

  • You cannot get benefits if you remarry before age 60; and
  • You cannot get benefits if you’re disabled and remarry before age 50.

Generally, your benefits end if you were receiving divorced spouse’s benefits and you remarry. You can read more about SSI and Social Security benefits at our publications library, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Question: How can I protect myself against identity theft?

Answer: First, don’t carry your Social Security card with you. Keep it secure at home with your other important papers. Second, don’t readily give out your Social Security number. While many banks, schools, doctors, landlords, and others will request your number, it is your decision whether to provide it. Ask if there is some other way to identify you in their records.

If you are the victim of identity theft, you should report it right away. To report identity theft, fraud, or misuse of your Social Security number, the Federal Trade Commission (the nation’s consumer protection agency) recommends you:

Place a fraud alert on your credit file by contacting one of the following companies (the company you contact is required to contact the other two, which will then place alerts on your reports):

  • Equifax, 1-800-525-6285; or
  • Trans Union, 1-800-680-7289; or
  • Experian, 1-888-397-3742.
  • Review your credit report for inquiries from companies you have not contacted, accounts you did not open, and debts on your accounts you cannot explain;
  • Close any accounts you know, or believe, have been tampered with or opened fraudulently;
  • File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place; and
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 (TTY 1-866-653-4261).

Vonda VanTil is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at vonda.vantil@ssa.gov