COVID-19 Information Update
The Social Security Administration (SSA) website has updates about SSA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including office closures.
Topics on this page
- What are Retirement Insurance Benefits?
- Income Eligibility
- Asset Eligibility
- Sources of Law
The U.S. Social Security Administration funds the Social Security Retirement Insurance Benefits, which may be available to individuals who have earned sufficient Social Security credits and are 62 years old or older. Access to these benefits depends on your work and earnings history. Review the factors that may affect your Retirement Benefits.
You must be 62 years old for early retirement at reduced benefits. The age to receive full benefits is changing. It will depend on when you were born. Near retirement? Check with Social Security about your options.
You must be also "fully insured". Your insured status is determined by your work and earnings history. Generally this means that you worked 10 years in jobs covered by Social Security.
Check the earnings limit calculator on the Social Security Administration's website to see how much you can earn up to each year without any effect on your benefit amount. If you earn above the limit, your benefit is reduced.
Many figures used to calculate Social Security Retirement benefits are revised annually by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the federal agency that administers the program. These figures are usually updated in October and can be found in the November issue of the Federal Register, the official government source for administrative changes.
Note: the press office www.ssa.gov/pressoffice of the Social Security Administration issues annual updates on the Social Security cost-of-living increases. The figures are reliable and are updated each year after October 1st, based on an examination of changes in the Consumer Price Index since the previous year.
You can also find the figures on the SSA website, or by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or TTY at 1-800-325-0778 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Eastern time. (See also www.ssa.gov.)
You can have any type of assets of any value without any effect on your benefits. However pensions based on work that was not covered by Social Security may reduce your benefit. See "The Windfall Elimination Provision."
- You can appeal any denial, termination, or reduction of benefits
- You must file an appeal within 60 days of the date of the written notice with which you disagree.
- In addition, you have a 5 day "grace period" to allow for the mailing of the notice to you, making the total amount of time you have to file an appeal 60+5 days.
Most appeals must be filed electronically or, if you do not have access to a computer, then you should go to the closest local office.
For an explanation on how to appeal a decision by SSA, see Appeals Process Fact Sheet.
Federal Law: U.S. Code, Title 42 §§ 401 to 434, specifically, § 402. Old-age and survivors insurance benefit payments
Federal Regulations: Generally, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 20 §§ 404.1 to 404.2127.
The law and regulations are long and complicated, so it is hard to get a quick overview or to find any specific topic. The best way to get quick, clear information is The Social Security Handbook. The most important information about retirement benefits is Chapter 3.