Social Security law is the branch of law related to the U.S. government program created in 1935 to include old-age and survivors insurance, contributions to state unemployment insurance, and old-age assistance. Social Security pays retirement, disability, supplemental income benefits.
Social Security benefits are earned by working and paying taxes. These benefits are earned by paying taxes each year. Most people earn the maximum of four credits per year.
The number of credits one needs to get retirement benefits depends on their date of birth. No Social Security retirement benefits can be paid to a person until they have the earned number of credits required. Social Security retirement benefits are based on a person's earnings averaged over most of their working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. If the person has some years of no earnings or low earnings, his benefit amount may be lower than if he had worked steadily. Social Security retirement benefits are also affected by the person's age at the time he starts receiving benefits. Social Security retirement benefits will only be paid after a person reaches a specified age. If he starts receiving Social Security retirement benefits at an earlier year, his benefit will be lower than if he had waited until a later age. Widowers and spouses may benefit from their spouse's Social Security benefits. Certain family members may benefit as well.
Social Security disability benefits provide income to blind or disabled persons under age 65 who have earned a sufficient number of qualifying quarters of work. To be considered "disabled," a person must have a diagnosed medical condition (including mental illness) that is expected to last at least twelve months or to result in death. Further, the person must be unable to engage in substantially gainful activity due to his medical condition. The number of work quarters needed to qualify for SSDIB benefits depends upon the person's age when he became disabled.
Social Security disability benefits do not pay for medical care. However, after a person has maintained Social Security disability eligibility for a certain number of consecutive months, he will automatically become eligible for Medicare.
Supplemental Security Income or SSI is separate from retirement and disability benefits. SSI is a financial needs-based public benefit program, which provides income to the elderly, blind, or disabled. SSI is federally funded and governed solely by federal law. SSI does not pay for medical care.