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Am I Getting All the Social Security Benefits I Can?

Money Talks News’ recent article entitled “7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking” says that the Social Security Administration provides payments to spouses, children and those with disabilities, among others. Let’s look at this in detail.

  1. Spousal benefits via a husband or wife. Spouses can get up to half of their husband’s or wife’s monthly benefit. Even stay-at-home spouses without their own work history can claim benefits with this method. You can start claiming spousal benefits as early as age 62. However, benefits are reduced if payments begin before your full retirement age. If you are entitled to your own benefits, as well as spousal benefits, you will get an amount equal to whichever benefit level is greater.
  2. Spousal benefits via an ex-spouse. Even if you are divorced, you may be entitled to get spousal benefits. However, all of the following must apply to your situation:
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to receive Social Security benefits;
  • You were married at least 10 years to your ex-spouse;
  • You are currently unmarried; and
  • You are at least 62 years old.

The benefit that you are entitled to get based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work. Claiming spousal benefits as a divorced person does not impact your ex’s benefit amount. It also does not affect any benefits their current spouse can receive, if they have remarried.

  1. Survivor’s benefits for widows and widowers. If your spouse dies, you may still be able to receive up to 100% of their Social Security retirement benefits. Divorced spouses may also be able to get survivor’s benefits, if they were married for at least 10 years and are now unmarried. Most widows and widowers can begin claiming survivor’s benefits as early as age 60. Those who have a disability and became disabled prior to or within seven years of their spouse’s death can start benefits as early as age 50. In addition, widows and widowers of any age can get survivor’s benefits, if they are caring for a deceased worker’s child who’s younger than age 16 or disabled.
  2. Survivor’s benefits for children. Children can get payments from a deceased parent’s record as well. Survivor’s benefits are available to children up to age 18 (or 19 for if attending elementary or secondary school full-time) These benefits may extend beyond that, if a child becomes disabled and remains disabled before age 22. Depending on the circumstances, grandchildren and stepchildren may also be eligible for these benefits.
  3. Parent’s benefits. Parents who depended on their children for financial support may be eligible to get benefits from Social Security if that child dies. To be eligible , you have to meet a number of criteria, including the following:
  • The deceased worker must have sufficient work credits to qualify for Social Security benefits;
  • You must be at least age 62 and, in most cases, cannot be married after the worker’s death;
  • You must have received at least half of your support from the deceased worker at certain points in time;
  • You were the natural parent or became the legal adoptive parent or stepparent prior to the worker turning 16 years old; and
  • You are not eligible for a retirement benefit from Social Security that exceeds the parent’s benefit.
  1. Disability benefits. To get monthly benefits through the Social Security Disability Insurance program you must have a work history that makes you eligible for Social Security and be unable to work now because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or end in death.
  2. Supplemental Security Income. These benefits do not come from Social Security taxes, but rather the program uses general tax dollars to provide benefits to adults and children with disabilities, blindness, or limited income and resources. The SSI program is designed to provide cash assistance for basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing. Because it is funded by general tax revenue, there is no work history requirement to receive these benefits.

Reference: Money Talks News (Feb. 8, 2022) “7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking”

Will Social Security Get a Raise in 2022?

The COLA increase in Social Security is welcomed by seniors depending upon their benefits but the timing varies, says the article “Social Security Benefits Get a 5.9% Raise This Year–Here’s When You Should See That Extra Money” from the Lincoln Journal Star. Here’s what you can expect.

The first benefit check or automatic deposit should arrive with the 5.9% COLA. However, the timing depends upon your date of birth. If your birthday falls between the first and the 10th of the month, those benefits should arrive on the second Wednesday of the month, so by January 12, you’ve should have received your first Social Security benefit with the COLA.

What if your birthday is between the 11th and 20th of the month? Benefits should arrive by the third Wednesday of the month. That’s a raise on January 19.

And if your birthday is late in the month, between the 21st and 31st, expect your benefits on the fourth Wednesday of the month—that would be January 26.

A caveat—if you’re collecting Social Security but have not yet enrolled in Medicare, then you’ll see a monthly increase of 5.9%. However, if you’ve enrolled in Medicare Part B and pay premiums directly from your benefits, your increase will be less. This is the push me—pull you of Social Security COLAs.

Medicare Part B premiums have increased, from $148.50 in 2021 to $171.10 in 2022, a total increase of $21.60. So, while you may have hoped for a true 5.9% increase, subtract the COLA from your premium hike to see what monthly benefit you’ll really get.

The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries is $233 in 2022. That’s a $30 increase from the $203 annual deductible in 2021.

Yes, this is the biggest COLA increase in a long time, as we have been in a low inflation environment for a very long time. If possible, it would be wise to take your COLA increase and set it aside to create or enhance a financial cushion. However, when living costs for everything from food to gas keep going up, it’s simply not possible for most people to save.

The reason this year’s COLA was so large is because of the high inflation rates from the third quarter of 2021. If inflation had been less, so would have been the increase. We don’t know what the future of Social Security will be, or what future COLAs will be. However, if at all possible, building in a little security of your own is the best recommendation.

Reference: Lincoln Journal Star (Jan. 7, 2022) “Social Security Benefits Get a 5.9% Raise This Year–Here’s When You Should See That Extra Money”

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