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Social Security Benefits: FAQ

NEW INFO: Social Security is now offering a new mobile-friendly website for smartphone users offering answers to Frequently Asked Questions, an interactive tool to help users identify documents needed for a new or replacement Social Security card and mobile publications. Users can also learn how to create a My Social Security account to get an online statement, connect with Social Security on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and find their nearest field office.

NEW INFO: Several popular Social Security services are now available online! Click here for more information.

If you have tried to resolve a problem with the Social Security Administration (SSA) without reaching a solution, Congressman Ruppersberger’s office may be able to help. Please review the following Frequently Asked Questions before contacting the office, as they may contain the information you need. You can also find out if you qualify for benefits, estimate your future benefits, apply for benefits and appeal a decision on the SSA online portal.

Am I qualified for Social Security benefits?

You can determine your eligibility for benefits and calculate your benefit amount at the SSA's Retirement & Medicare page.

Generally, in order to be eligible for retirement benefits, you have to have enough "credits" (10 years of work) and have paid into Social Security during that time. Beginning in 2003, the age at which you can apply for retirement benefits began increasing gradually from 65 to 67 (it will reach 67 starting with individuals born in 1960), but you can apply early at age 62. If you apply early, the benefits you receive will be reduced. The amount you receive depends on how much you earned when you were working. You can also delay applying for Social Security retirement. SSA recommends that you speak with a representative to determine your benefits before you retire.

How do I apply for Social Security benefits?

You can fill out SSA's application online at the Retirement & Medicare page. If you do not want to apply online, you may contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also call or visit your local Social Security office.

I’m seriously injured or sick. Do I qualify for Social Security Disability?

You can determine your eligibility for disability benefits at the SSA's disability planner.

Generally, in order to qualify for disability benefits, you must be unable to perform work of any kind and your disability must be expected to last for at least one year or result in death. You must also have earned enough "credits" – at least 5 years of work in the 10-year period prior to the onset date for your disability. In addition, you must be fully insured under Social Security, which means you must have worked for 40 quarters (10 years). The 5 years of work prior to becoming disabled counts in calculating the 40 quarters.

How do I apply for Social Security disability benefits?

Because of the large volume of applications, it can take a long period of time to receive a decision. You can start the process by filling out an application online. If you do not want to apply online, you may contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also call or visit your local Social Security office.

What can I do if my application for disability is denied?

If your application is denied, you may appeal the decision. If you still disagree with the decision on the Request for Reconsideration, you will file an appeal which will go to the local Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, for a review by an Administrative Law Judge, and may take up to one year. If denied again and appealed, the third appeal will go to the Appeals Council and could take more than one year to be decided. If you receive disability benefits, the benefits won't begin until the sixth full month after the date the Social Security Administration decides the disability began. In addition, you must wait two years before you qualify for Medicare coverage.

You can file an appeal or read more about Social Security’s definition of a “disability” online at the SSA’s Internet Appeals page.

What is Supplemental Security Income (SSI)?

Supplemental Security Income is an income assistance program administered by the SSA for legal citizens who are elderly (65 or older), low-income, blind, or disabled (physical or mental problem expected to last at least one year or result in death), and have less than $2,000 in assets.

You can get more specific information about the program and its requirements through the Social Security Supplemental Security Income information page.

How do I apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits?

You can apply for SSI benefits online here. If you do not want to apply online, you may contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also call or visit your local Social Security office.You can generally expect an answer on whether you are eligible SSI within two to six months.

Still have questions? Contact our office!

If you would like Congressman Ruppersberger's office to make an inquiry with the Social Security Administration on your behalf, please contact our district office at 410-628-2701. You will need to submit a Privacy Act Release form, which you can generate here. The Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits any department or agency of the federal government from releasing any personal information about a person without their written permission. This form will enable my office to initiate an inquiry on your behalf. For quicker processing, fax your completed form to 410-628-2708. You can also mail your form or submit it in person to 375 West Padonia Road, Suite 200, Timonium, MD, 21093.