By: Vonda VanTil, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist
Question: Is it true that ten thousand people are retiring each day? What is the best way for me to apply and avoid long lines in my Social Security office?
Answer: Yes. The best way is to use our online retirement application at www.socialsecurity.gov. You can complete it in as little as 15 minutes. It’s so easy. You can apply from the comfort of your home or office at a time most convenient for you. Once you’ve electronically submitted your application, you’re done. In most cases, there’s no need to submit any documents. There’s also no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative.
Question: Can I delay my retirement benefits and receive benefits as a spouse only? How does that work?
Answer: It depends on your date of birth. If you were born on or before 01/01/1954 and your spouse is receiving Social Security benefits, you can apply for retirement benefits on your spouse’s record as long as you are at your full retirement age. You then will earn delayed retirement credits up to age 70, as long as you do not collect benefits on your own work record. Later, when you do begin receiving benefits on your own record, those payments could very well be higher than they would have been otherwise. If your spouse is also full retirement age and does not receive benefits, your spouse will have to apply for benefits and request the payments be suspended. Then you can receive benefits on your spouse’s Social Security record.
If you were born on or after 01/02/1954, and you wish to receive benefits, you must file for all benefits for which you are eligible. The Social Security Administration will determine the benefits you are eligible for and pay you accordingly. For individuals born on or after 01/02/1954, there is no longer an option to select which benefit you would like to receive, even beyond your full retirement age. Widows are an exception, as they can choose to take their deceased spouse’s benefit without filing for their own. For more information, please visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
Question: Will my Social Security disability benefit increase if my condition gets worse or I develop additional health problems?
Answer: No. We do not base your Social Security benefit amount on the severity of your disability. The amount you are paid is based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. If you go back to work after getting disability benefits, you may be able to get a higher benefit based on those earnings. In addition, we have incentives that allow you to work temporarily without losing your disability benefits. For more information about disability benefits, read our publications Disability Benefits and Working While Disabled — How We Can Help. Both are available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org