According to the public policy institute of the American Association of Retired Persons, Social Security is the country’s central federal social insurance agency and “a vital tool for promoting the wellbeing of those who can no longer work.” It is the main source of income for 50 percent of the nation’s population aged 65 and older. It covered only retired workers when it became law in 1935; four years later, it was expanded to include the spouses and minors of retired and deceased workers. By 1956, it began providing benefits for disabled workers.
The United States Social Security Administration will pay full benefits until 2036, after which it will pay about 75 percent of those amounts.
The Social Security Administration is the independent government agency that distributes benefits through its more than 1,300 field offices. Its 2018 budget was just over $1 trillion, or 23 percent of the annual federal budget.
Those who qualify for retirement, disability and survivor benefits pay taxes on their earnings, with the benefit amount based on the earner’s contributions through his or her work life. To be eligible, a person must have worked for at least 40 credits (generally about ten years). About 91 percent of workers aged 21 to 64 in covered employment, or about 128 million workers, have worked long enough to receive disability income. The 35 years with the worker’s highest earnings count toward the benefit level.
As of 2019, the average Social Security retirement age is 66.5.
Benefits are adjusted automatically to protect against inflation. The funds match the annual inflation rate of any given year.
Retirement and spouse’s benefit applicants must be 61 years and 9 months of age and want their benefits to start no more than 4 months in the future. Disability claimants, who must be at least 18 years of age, may review the adult disability checklist before completing the disability benefits application. Workers’ widows and widowers can receive partial survivor benefits at age 60 (50 if disabled) and full benefits at retirement age if there have been married for at least nine months.
The official website of the Social Security Administration is ssa.gov.
Medicare, a national health insurance program begun under the Social Security Administration and administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, provides health insurance for Americans aged 65 and older. Its official website is medicare.gov.