Social Security Tips – September 2020

Guide for Displaced Workers

How Breaks In Earnings Affect Social Security Benefits

Retirement Benefits

Social Security bases your benefits on your lifetime earnings. Social Security adjusts or “indexes”

all of your actual earnings to account for changes in average wages. Your benefit is determined by using your 35 highest years of “indexed” earnings. If you have fewer than 35 years of earnings, we calculate your benefit using a zero (0) for each year without earnings.

Disability Benefits

In addition to the medical requirements, a disabled worker must meet the non-medical requirement to be eligible for SSDI. To qualify, the worker must have earned credits through recent work. A worker age 31 or older must have earned at least 20 credits in the 10 years before becoming disabled. Workers younger than 31 can qualify with fewer credits. A worker can earn up to four credits per year, and the amount of earnings needed for a credit changes from year to year.

Social Security and Unemployment Compensation

If you receive unemployment compensation and you become entitled to Social Security benefits on your own work record or on the record of another (such as a living or deceased spouse), your Social Security will not be reduced. Any reduction in your unemployment benefit if you are also collecting Social Security is determined by state law. Contact Michigan’s Department of Labor for details.

Online Resources

There is a database of Frequently Asked Questions, where you can find answers to many questions. You can find plenty of information on our website,, including:

Contacting Social Security

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are asking the public to first try to use our online services before calling us. Although our offices are not providing service to walk-in visitors, our employees are answering your calls. You can find the phone number for your local office by using our Field Office Locator and looking under Social Security Office Information. The toll-free “Office” number is your local office.

You may also call our National 800 Number at 1-800-772-1213 where you may be able to take care of your business by using one of our automated telephone services without having to wait for a telephone agent. If you need to speak with an agent, be aware that wait times may be longer than usual, which is why we encourage you to try our online services or call your local office first.

The Q&A for the month:

Question: I have a client who lost his wife. He is still working but planning to retire soon. He was born in 1957 and would receive $1716 at FRA (66 and 6m). His wife passed in 2019 and was born in 1952. When she passed she was already collecting social security of $1122/m. She had first collected based on SS disability but that had changed to regular retirement SS at FRA according to the client.

Can he retire and collect survivor SS? If so, would the amount be the same? If not, how would he go about determining the amount? If he chooses to start this can he apply online? In person?

If he started collecting survivor SS, can he change to his at FRA or at 70?

Answer: First of all, please note that there are different full retirement ages for survivors and retirement. His full retirement age for a widowers benefit is 66 and 2 months. His full retirement age for a retirement benefit is 66 and 6 months. Once he retires, he can receive reduced widowers benefits and switch over to his own retirement later, up to age 70. He cannot apply for widowers benefits online. He needs to call and make an appointment at 1-800-772-1213 OR call his local office. Most local offices are open 9am – 4pm.

The amount that he would receive as a widower depends on HIS age when he applies. If he waits until his widowers full retirement age of 66 and 2 months, he would be eligible for 100% of what the deceased was receiving at the time of her death. If he files prior to his FRA, the widowers benefit is reduced. Here is a month by month widowers benefit percentage chart based on his year of birth:

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