published Thursday, August 15th, 2013

Social Security: Benefits paid on partial year of work

By Gregory Holmes
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    Gregory Holmes, district manager for Social Security

Q. I worked the first half of the year, but plan to retire this month. Will Social Security count the amount I earn for this year when I retire?

A. Yes. If you retire mid-year, we count your earnings for the entire year. We have a special "earnings test" rule we apply to annual earnings, usually in the first year of retirement. Under this rule, you get a full payment for any whole month we consider you retired regardless of your yearly earnings. We consider you retired during any month your earnings are $1,260 or less, or if you have not performed substantial services in self-employment. We do not consider income earned, beginning with the month you reach full retirement age. Learn more about the earnings test rule at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/rule.htm.

Q. If I receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability, what is the effect on my benefits when I take seasonal work?

A. Even a small amount of earned wages can cause a deduction in your SSI payment. However, it takes substantial work to make your benefits stop. In 2013, a person who receives SSI can earn up to $1,505 a month and still continue receiving some SSI payments. In many cases, we will deduct approved work expenses to determine your SSI payment amount. In most cases, you can continue to receive your medical coverage for up to two years after you begin working. We have several publications on SSI, including Reporting Your Wages When You Receive Supplemental Security Income, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs. For more information, call us toll-free at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) or visit our website at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Q. How do I know if I have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security disability benefits?

A. You must have worked long enough -- and recently enough -- under Social Security to qualify for disability benefits. Social Security work credits are based on your total yearly wages or self-employment income. You can earn up to four credits each year. The amount needed for a credit changes from year to year. In 2013, for example, you earn one credit for each $1,160 of wages or self-employment income. When you have earned $4,640, you've earned your four credits for the year. The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 40 credits, 20 of which you earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits. To learn more, see our Disability Planner at www.socialsecurity.gov/dibplan/dqualify3.htm.

Submit questions to local Social Secuirty Director Gregory Holmes by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@timesfreepress.com

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