Nine out of 10 Americans who have reached retirement age receive a monthly income check from Social Security. (Reduced retirement benefits may start at age 62.) Monthly benefits are available to workers upon retirement, their dependents and/or survivors, and, in some cases, to persons with severe disabilities. Employed persons can begin receiving benefits at full retirement age, regardless of income.
Full retirement age is currently at age 66 years and 10 months (2023). The age will gradually increase until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959. See the chart on the Social Security website (ssa.gov) for more information.
To apply, contact the Social Security Administration for instructions on how to file a claim. Available options are: File online (ssa.gov); call your local Social Security field office; or go to your local office for same-day service. Spouses and widows or widowers may be eligible for special benefits, including death benefits.
Individuals who are disabled before age 65 may apply for Social Security disability benefits. Direct deposit of Social Security checks and Direct Express debit cards have eliminated lost or stolen checks and saved the federal government millions of dollars.
Track Social Security information, manage benefits, and make changes as needed online through your own MySocialSecurity account.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides a minimum monthly income to persons with limited income and resources who are 65 or older, blind, or have other disabilities. Eligibility is based on income and assets.
The Social Security Administration provides information about the program, takes applications, and helps file claims. One may be eligible for TennCare (Medicaid) if they receive SSI now–or if they received both Social Security and SSI in at least one month after April 1977. Legal Aid of East TN also has information.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
The Social Security Disability Insurance program (also called SSDI) pays benefits to individuals and certain family members if they paid Social Security taxes and worked long enough to qualify. Adult children also may qualify for benefits through their parents’ work records if the children have a disability that started before age 22. If an application for SSDI is denied, an appeal should be filed. It may be helpful to contact an attorney specializing in Social Security matters or Legal Aid of East Tennessee for advice.
Disabled individuals ages 18 to 64 who have low incomes and limited assets may qualify for disability benefits through the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program.