If you're on Social Security, you probably already know that your monthly benefit check isn't going to finance a life of luxury. In fact, you'll be lucky if it covers all of your basic expenses.
Often, there's not much you can do to boost your benefit once you're already claiming. But if you fall into one of the three groups below, more money could be a simple application away.
1. Low-income seniors 65 and older
Adults 65 and older are already eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, but they may also be eligible for supplemental security income (SSI) if their income falls below certain thresholds.
The maximum federal benefit in 2022 is $841 per month for a single adult or $1,261 for a married couple. Certain states add to these federal benefits, though, so it's possible to get more each month. It's also possible to get less or be ineligible for these benefits if your income is too high.
The Social Security Administration doesn't count all your income when determining the size of your SSI checks. It ignores all of the following:
The first $20 of your monthly income
The first $65 of your monthly earnings from working and half of any amount over $65
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits
Shelter you get from private nonprofit organizations
Most home energy assistance
The program does weigh the resources you own, though, including bank account balances and investments.
Seniors interested in learning if they qualify should fill out the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool questionnaire to determine if they're eligible. If they are, they can apply for SSI on the Social Security Administration website or by visiting their local Social Security office. Have your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, mailing address, and phone number ready when you apply.
2. Some disabled people
Blind and disabled people are also eligible for SSI, regardless of their age. But they still have to meet the same income requirements that seniors do to qualify.
It is possible to claim SSI and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) at the same time. However, the Social Security Administration considers your SSDI checks to be countable income. This could affect your eligibility for SSI if your SSDI checks, along with any other household income and resources, exceed the eligibility thresholds for SSI.
Unlike SSDI, there's no waiting period between when you apply and when benefits begin. Disabled people interested in SSI can apply using the same steps described above.
3. Some seniors with dependents
Technically, this one may not increase your benefit at all, but it could help boost your total household benefits. You probably already know that if you're married, your spouse can claim a spousal benefit on your work record. This is up to 50% of your benefit at your full retirement age (FRA) — somewhere between 66 and 67.
Your spouse can claim this even if they've never worked a day in their life, as long as you qualify for Social Security. They may also qualify for their own benefit if they've worked long enough. In that case, the Social Security Administration automatically gives them the larger of their own benefit or their spousal benefit when they sign up. However, they can't claim a spousal benefit until you apply.
But spouses aren't the only ones who can claim benefits on your work record. Though it's a rarer situation, seniors who have minor children or children who were disabled before 22 can also qualify for benefits. Adopted children and stepchildren may also qualify for benefits under certain circumstances. These benefits only last until the child turns 18 or 19, if the child is still enrolled in grade 12 or below, unless they're disabled.
An adult must apply for benefits on behalf of minor children. You need the child's birth certificate or proof of adoption as well as your Social Security number and your child's. Bring these to your local Social Security office or contact the Social Security Administration by phone.
Once the Social Security Administration has approved your child's application, they'll start receiving monthly checks, which you can use to help provide for them until they reach adulthood.
If you believe you fall into any of these groups, there's not a moment to waste. Fill out your application as quickly as possible so you can get the financial help you need. And if you have any questions, reach out to the Social Security Administration for assistance.
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