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What Every Parent Should Know About Social Security
Parents play a critical role in the success of the Social Security program. The program is designed to ensure continuing income to families when a worker retires, dies or becomes disabled.
To get the most of Social Security's family protection features, it's important that you as a parent are aware of such things as who can get benefits on your Social Security record, how to build Social Security credits over your working life, and how to obtain and use Social Security information in planning family financial security.
Getting your child a Social Security number should be near the top of the list of things you need to do as a new parent. Your child's Social Security number is just the beginning of the valuable protection and benefits he or she may be eligible for in the future. Applying for a Social Security card and number for your newborn is voluntary, but your child needs a Social Security number if you plan to:
- Claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return;
- Open a bank account;
- Buy savings bonds;
- Obtain medical coverage; or
- Apply for some kind of government services for your child.
You can apply when the baby is born or you can wait until later. It's easy to apply at birth. When you give the information for your baby's birth certificate, you'll be asked if you want to apply for a Social Security number for your baby. If you say "yes," you'll need to provide both parents' Social Security numbers. We'll assign your baby a number and mail the Social Security card directly to you.
If you want to wait to apply for your baby's number, please read Get Or Replace A Social Security Card.
As a working parent, you are a source of Social Security protection for your family. If either parent retires, dies or becomes disabled and unable to work, his or her earnings would be partially replaced by monthly Social Security payments.
When you start receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits, other family members also may be eligible for payments. For example, benefits can be paid to your spouse:
- If he or she is age 62 or older; or
- At any age if he or she is caring for your child (the child must be younger than 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits on your record).
Benefits also can be paid to your unmarried children if they are:
- Younger than 18;
- Between 18 and 19 years old, but in elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or
- Age 18 or older and severely disabled (the disability must have started before age 22).
If you should die, your family may be eligible for benefits based on your work. Family members who can collect benefits include a widow or widower who is:
- 60 or older; or
- 50 or older and disabled; or
- Any age if he or she is caring for your child who is younger than 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits.
Your children can receive benefits, too, if they are unmarried and:
- Younger than 18 years old; or
- Between 18 and 19 years old, but in an elementary or secondary school as full-time students; or
- Age 18 or older and severely disabled (the disability must have started before age 22).
In addition, your parents can receive benefits on your earnings if they were dependent on you for at least half of their support.
If you had enough credits, a one-time payment of $255 also will be made after your death. This benefit may be paid to your spouse or minor children if they meet certain requirements.
There is a limit to the amount of monthly benefits that can be paid to a family. The limit is generally equal to about 150 to 180 percent of the worker's benefit rate. If the sum of the benefits payable to family members exceeds this limit, the benefits will be reduced proportionately for each family member.
The amount of work you need to qualify for Social Security benefits depends on how old you are when you retire, become disabled or die. The younger you are, the less work you need.
Parents under age 24 need as little as one and one-half years of work under Social Security for their children to receive Social Security benefits. The amount of work needed increases with age, but you would not need more than 10 years of work to be covered for all benefits.
Career And Homemaking
If you alternate between a career and homemaking, you need to be aware that you can maintain your full Social Security protection with a little attention. Any Social Security credits you earn remain on your record, and after ten years of work in which you have earned the maximum of four credits each year, you are fully covered for retirement, disability, and survivors benefits.
For disability benefits, you also need to have recent work. For example, if you're over age 30, you need five years of work out of the last 10 years (20 credits). Younger workers need less, as little as year and a half of work out of the past three years. Thus, homemakers need to periodically check their recent work status to make sure they still meet the requirements for the valuable disability protection.
More and more parents are finding themselves raising grandchildren. Social Security will pay benefits to grandchildren when the grandparent retires, becomes disabled, or dies if certain conditions are met. Generally, the biological parents of the child must be deceased or disabled, or the grandchild must be legally adopted by the grandparent.
In addition, the grandchild must have begun living with the grandparent before age 18 and received at least one half of his or her support from the grandparent for the year before the month the grandparent became entitled to retirement or disability insurance benefits, or died. Also, the natural parent(s) of the child must not be making regular contributions to his or her support.
If the grandchild was born during the one-year period, the grandparent must have lived with and provided at least one-half of the child's support for substantially all of the period from the date of birth to the month the grandparent became entitled to benefits.
The grandchild may qualify for benefits under these circumstances, even if he or she is a step-grandchild. However, if the grandparents are already receiving benefits, they would need to adopt the child for it to qualify for benefits.
A child who is disabled may depend on your help for a lifetime. Social Security has two programs that pay benefits to disabled children:
- Social Security Disability Insurance; and
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Disabled Children Under 18 Years Old
Social Security makes payment under the SSI program to disabled children under 18 whose families have little income and resources. SSI payments are based on need rather than prior work and may be paid to children regardless whether a parent is retired, disabled or has died. These benefits also continue as long as the child is disabled and has little income or resources.
A child under 18 is considered disabled if his or her physical or mental condition is so severe that it results in marked and severe functional limitations. The condition must last or be expected to last at least 12 months or be expected to result in the child's death. And of course, the child must not be working at a job that we consider to be substantial work.
Disabled Children 18 Years Or Older
If you retire, become disabled, or die, Social Security benefits may be paid to your children over 18 who have been disabled before the age of 22 and continue to be disabled. Social Security benefits for disabled children may continue as long as they are unable to work because of their disability.
There are two ways parents may qualify for benefits even if they never worked under Social Security.
Benefits for Parents with Dependent Children
If you have children in your care who receive Social Security benefits and are under age 18, you can receive a benefit until they reach age 16. The child's benefit continues until he or she reaches age 18, or 19 if he or she is still in school full time. Your monthly payments stop with the 16th birthday of your youngest child receiving Social Security benefits, unless the child is disabled and continues in your care.
Dependent Parent's Benefits
The second way you may receive a parent's benefit is as an elderly parent of a worker who has died. If your child dies and you are dependent on him or her for more than one half of your support, you can collect a Social Security benefit. Social Security pays monthly benefits to parents on the record of a deceased worker under the following conditions:
- The parent must be at least 62 years old and must not have remarried since the worker's death;
- The parent cannot be entitled to his/her own, higher Social Security benefit;
- The parent must be able to show that he/she was receiving one-half of his/her financial support from the worker at the time of death. This proof of support must be submitted to Social Security within two years of the worker's death.
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