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Social Security Basics

If you're approaching retirement age, or simply planning for your future, you'll want to know how to ensure a secure, comfortable income when you retire or should disability prevent you from working. Understanding Social Security can provide some peace of mind. Social Security provides retired workers with a continued income after retirement and can provide important benefits to the disabled and dependents of a deceased worker. FindLaw's Social Security Basics section is here to provide the resources and answers you need to understand the Social Security system.

This section offers information on a variety of issues related to Social Security, from how to apply for benefits to how early or late retirement will affect your Social Security payments and who might be entitled to your benefits should you pass away. You'll find in-depth information on the types of Social Security benefits available, including retirement and disability benefits, how to file for benefits and contest a denial, how your pension and other retirement income impacts payouts, and how to understand your Social Security taxes and benefit statements.

Understanding Your Retirement Benefits

Social Security is an earned benefit, funded through payroll taxes. To qualify for benefits later in life, you have to pay into the system, usually through working ten years or more. The size of your retirement benefits will be influenced by how much you paid into the Social Security system when you were working. Your benefits' size and availability can be impacted by a number of other factors as well, such as whether you take early, full, or late retirement.

Even those who haven't worked a full ten years may be entitled to Social Security benefits in certain situations. Social Security can also provide benefits for those who are disabled or the dependents and survivors of a deceased worker.

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits

Workers who have paid into Social Security and become disabled before retiring may be able to collect Social Security disability insurance benefits. Social Security has a strict definition of disability. You must be unable to work in your previous occupation, unable to perform any new work, and unable to work for at least a year. You'll want to know your disability onset date, how to prove your disability, and whether certain impairments are covered.

How and When to Apply for Benefits

When you claim your hard earned benefits will impact your Social Security payments for the remainder of your life. Early retirement can provide needed income as early as age 62, but delaying retirement until age 70 may result in much larger monthly payments. Understanding the retirement age that is right for you can help you optimize your Social Security benefits. If you're applying for disability benefits, knowing how to prove that you're disabled will be essential to your claim. Since many Social Security claims are initially denied, following our helpful tips can help you assemble a strong application.

What to Do if Your Claim Is Denied

If you apply for Social Security benefits and your claim is denied, you aren't alone. Over half of Social Security applications are initially denied. Many of these are later approved on appeal. Social Security has an established appeals process and you have the right to the aid of an attorney throughout.