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Did you know that Justia offers numerous free resources to make the law more accessible and help people better understand the foundations of a variety of legal areas? In this post, you can learn more about the information available in Justia’s Social Security and Retirement Planning Center.
Among the many free resources that Justia provides to the public are Justia Legal Guides on dozens of diverse practice areas. In a series of posts, we will continue to explain how each of these guides may be used to understand the laws and procedures in a certain area of law.
This month marks the 87th anniversary of the Social Security Act, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. The Social Security Act created a federal benefits program to address economic insecurity for elderly people and people with disabilities. Before 1935, elderly people relied upon largely inadequate economic security programs such as company pension programs, which were scarce, and state old-age pension programs, which were restrictive and ineffective. It is estimated that around this time, over half of all elderly people in America could not support themselves. The changes that the country was experiencing, including industrialization, urbanization, an increase in life expectancy, and the economic crisis of the Great Depression, highlighted the need for a more effective system.
Registration for the Social Security program began in November 1936, and over one million workers obtained Social Security numbers within the first eight days. Since then, many amendments have been made to the Act with the goal of making the program more helpful and accessible. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Social Security Act was amended to provide benefits for workers with disabilities and their dependents. Medicare was added in 1965.
People seeking to understand more about the benefits available to them today under the Social Security Act and other ways to effectively support themselves in retirement may find Justia’s Social Security and Retirement Planning Center helpful. Its content covers Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, and planning for retirement.
Social Security Benefits
As explained in Justia’s Social Security and Retirement Planning Center, the Social Security Administration offers four main types of benefits: retirement benefits, disability benefits, benefits for dependents, and benefits for survivors. Most people probably think of retirement benefits when they think of Social Security. People are eligible for retirement benefits through Social Security if they have worked for at least 10 years in the private sector and are at least 62 years old. As Justia’s page on when to claim Social Security benefits explains, people may start collecting retirement benefits at age 62, but they will receive a lesser benefit per month than if they wait until full retirement age at age 66 or 67. The page also notes factors to consider when deciding when to claim these benefits. For example, it may sometimes be advantageous for married couples to claim Social Security retirement benefits at different times.
The Social Security Administration also offers disability benefits and benefits for dependents and survivors. Disability benefits are available for people who have not reached full retirement age but who have worked in the private sector for a certain amount of time and who have a disability that meets the Administration’s requirements. Even if someone’s disability does not meet the criteria for a specific entry in the Administration’s listing of impairments, they may be eligible if they can show that their disability prevents them from working in any job. Spouses and children of people who qualify for disability or retirement benefits may also be eligible for dependent or survivors benefits.
Importantly, as Justia’s page on Social Security benefits points out, applicants cannot receive retroactive Social Security benefits. Therefore, the Administration allows people to apply for benefits up to three months before they will become eligible. Justia’s page also reminds readers to apply for Medicare coverage three months before turning 65, since there is no advantage to waiting to claim Medicare benefits.
Some Social Security claims that are initially denied are eventually granted during the appeals process. In addition to outlining the steps in an appeal and the necessary forms and other documents, the Justia page on this topic notes that the benefit for which the claimant applied may affect the likelihood of success on appeal. For example, almost half of disability benefit denials are reversed on appeal because the eligibility standard is more complex and subjective than for retirement benefits.
Medicare and Medicaid
The Social Security and Retirement Planning Center also contains information about Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a program that helps aging Americans with their health care costs. Anyone eligible for Social Security benefits is generally also eligible for Medicare coverage at age 65. Younger people may also be eligible if they receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or if they suffer from permanent kidney failure. Medicaid, on the other hand, helps those with low income and assets afford health care. A person could potentially be eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, but Medicaid eligibility varies by state.
People eligible for Medicaid may wonder if Medicaid would cover nursing home or assisted living costs. As Justia’s page on the topic explains, the federal government requires every state to cover nursing home care and home health care costs for those who qualify for nursing home care, but assisted living facilities, housekeeping assistants, live-in nurses, and home health aides might not be covered. Additionally, not every nursing home or assisted living facility accepts Medicaid. The page explains how people might establish eligibility and receive Medicaid coverage for these costs.
Finally, the retirement planning section of Justia’s Social Security and Retirement Planning Center contains information about investing, saving, and budgeting for retirement, as well as the laws that may affect retirement planning.
For example, many people plan to make charitable contributions in retirement. Potential donors should consider not only whether they can afford to donate cash or assets, but also whether their donation may qualify for a tax deduction and how they may properly claim that deduction. Cash donations to qualified charities are fully deductible so long as the donor does not receive anything of value in exchange. A donor must have a record of their donation and in some cases must have a written acknowledgment from the organization to claim a tax deduction. Property donations involve more complex rules, but they can benefit both the donor and the charitable organization so long as these rules are followed.
People may also consider how their family members will access their retirement benefits if they pass away or become incapacitated. In addition to keeping clear records of all available accounts, plans, or benefits, people should ensure that they have correctly named their intended beneficiaries. For instance, divorce does not always terminate an ex-spouse’s rights to certain retirement benefits, so it may be best to have an ex-spouse waive their right to these benefits in writing.
The Social Security and Retirement Planning Center helps readers understand the benefits that may be available to support their loved ones and them, as well as the legal and practical considerations to take into account while planning for retirement. Although it may help to consult a lawyer for specific needs, the Social Security and Retirement Planning Center serves as a useful starting point. Like the rest of the Justia Legal Guides, this resource helps make the law transparent and accessible to all.Related Posts
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