Q: What's so easy about applying online for benefits?
A: There's no need to go to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative. You can apply in less than 15 minutes. Just visit www.socialsecurity.gov. Once you submit your electronic application, you're done. In most cases, there are no forms to sign or documents to mail.
Q: What is the earliest age that I can begin receiving retirement benefits?
A: You can get a reduced benefit as early as age 62. Keep in mind that your monthly benefit amount would be about 33 percent higher if you wait until age 66 and nearly 80 percent higher if you defer payments until age 70. Visit our retirement estimator to find out how much you can expect to receive. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator.
Q: How does Social Security decide if I am disabled?
A: For an adult to be considered disabled, Social Security must determine that you are unable to do the work you did before and, based on your age, education, and work experience, you are unable to adjust to any other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Also, your disability must last or be expected to last for at least one year or to result in death. Social Security pays only for total disability. No benefits are payable for partial disability or short-term disability (less than a year). For more information, we recommend you read Disability Benefits (SSA Publication No. 05-10029), available online at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10029.html.
Get answers to your Social Security questions each Thursday from Social Security District Director Martin Coffey. Submit questions by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org