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WOMEN & SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

WOMEN RELY ON SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

Women need to understand Social Security benefits. The reason this is important it that women tend to care of children, spouses, and parents, they often do not have a traditional job or a private retirement plan. Therefore, they are more likely to be dependent on Social Security benefits during their lifetime.

Social Security benefits provide financial protection for women. Nearly 55% of the people getting Social Security benefits are women. Currently, more women work, pay Social Security taxes, and earn credit toward monthly retirement than at any other time in US history.

Unfortunately, women face greater economic challenges in retirement. There are multiple reasons for this. First, women tend to live longer than men. A woman who is 65 years old today can expect to live until about 87 years old. However, a man who is 65 today, can expect to live until about 84.

Second, women may have lower lifetime earnings than men. This is due to pay inequality between women and men. It is also due to the fact that women may leave work for a time to care for children. Third, because of these issues women reach retirement having earned less money. Therefore, they have fewer benefits and assets than men.

You can outlive your savings and investments, but you can never outlive your Social Security benefits. Social Security benefits provide an inflation protected source of income that lasts as long as you live. However, Social Security benefits, whether they are disability benefits, survivor benefits, or retirement benefits, are based on how long you have worked. They are also based on how much money you have earned and when you start your benefits.

Women and Social Security benefits. Women and girls different nationalities and cultures stand together near the big letters of the word Women. Female friendship, union of feminists or sisterhood. Colorful vector illustration.

SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS A WOMAN CAN PLAN ON

Today, women have challenging choices to make. Some may spend their time in a career or job outside the home. Some may work for a few years, leave the labor force to raise children, and then return to work. Others may choose not to work outside the home for pay. Whether they work, have worked, or have never worked, women need to understand how Social Security benefits can help themselves and their families.

Social Security offers a basic level of protection to all women covered by the program. When women work, they pay taxes into the Social Security system, which provides benefits. For example, working and paying taxes gives you access to retirement and disability benefits.

Additionally, the earnings of your spouse can give you Social Security coverage as well. Women who don’t work are often covered through the work of their spouse. When their spouse retires, develops a disability, or dies, then women can be paid benefits.

Over time, the level of Social Security protection for women has increased. For example, the SSA raised the amount of benefits for surviving spouses and spouses with disabilities. Economic protection for divorced women improved with the removal of the requirement that the divorced wife be dependent on her spouse. Learn more about divorce and benefits.

Also, the number of years a couple must be married for the divorced spouse to qualify for benefits decreased to 10 years. For example, a divorced spouse can receive up to 50% of an ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the divorced spouse is divorced at least two years, is not married, and is at least 62 years old.

MAKE SURE YOUR EARNINGS WITH THE SSA ARE CORRECT

Both women and men need to make sure their earnings are correct so they can qualify for Social Security benefits. If you are employed, then your employer sends a copy of your W-2 Form (Wage and Tax Statement) to the SSA every year. The SSA compares your name and Social Security number on the W-2 form with the information in their records. They add the earnings shown on the W-2 form to your Social Security record.

Your name and Social Security number must agree with your payroll records and W-2 form. This ensures that the SSA can credit your earnings to your record. However, it is up to you to make sure that both your records and the records from your employer are correct.

If your Social Security card is incorrect, then contact any Social Security office to update it. Check your W-2 form to make sure your what your employer reported is correct. If it is not, then give your employer the accurate information.

Finally, sign up for a personal My Social Security account. Your personal My Social Security account gives you immediate access to important information, such as a list of all of your earnings during your working life. You can check your the earnings record and verify that the information is correct. Remember, your future benefits are all based upon your earnings record. Therefore, it must be correct for you to get all of your benefits.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU CHANGE YOUR NAME WHEN YOU MARRY?

The days of women changing their last name when they get married are mostly over. However, women are still following the tradition, even though they may not know the history behind it.

The tradition of changing a woman’s last name to her husband’s last name reaches back to English common law, when upon marriage a woman’s legal identity was merged into her husband’s identity. The reason a woman’s last names was changed to the last name of her husband was because she had no legal rights of her own. Upon marriage, a woman’s identity was subsumed by her husband under the legal concept of coverture. Coverture means “covered by.” In the past, women had no legal identity apart from their spouse.

For example, coverture laws prevented women from entering into contracts, engaging in litigation, owning a business, and owning real estate or personal property. As stated by former Justice Abe Fortas of the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Yazell, “[c]overture… rests on the old common-law fiction that the husband and wife are one, [and] the one is the husband.”

In case you think this is a practice that is one hundred years old, like women’s right to vo in the 1970’s women couldn’t take out a credit card or buy a house in their own name. Even today, if a woman who is not married buys a house, the paperwork states that she is “an unmarried woman.” These legal traditions are slowly going out of style. But sexism and discrimination against women still exists.

WHY DO WOMEN CHANGE THEIR LAST NAME WHEN THEY MARRY?

Many women change their last name when they get married simply because it is tradition. They do it without thinking they are continuing the tradition of the husband owning the wife, like property.

For some brides, the decision is an easy one. Last year, Jennifer Lopez announced in Vogue magazine that she would change her name to Jennifer Affleck following her wedding to Ben Affleck. “We’re husband and wife,” she explained. “It still carries tradition and romance to me.” This is the same thought that 80% of women in the United States have about changing their name.

For the other 20% of women, they may have other reasons to change their name. For example, they might change their name because they don’t like their own last name. Many women change their name so they have the same last name as their children. Because, the patriarchal tradition of ownership also extends to children. Children had the last name of the father because they belonged to the father and the father was the head of the household.

Some couples are changing tradition by hyphenating their last names when they marry. Going with another option, some couples are changing both of their last names to an entirely different new last name. Then, when children are born, the children have the last name of either both parents or the family.

WHAT ARE THE NAME CHANGE TRADITIONS IN OTHER COUNTRIES?

The US tradition of changing names is not followed in other countries. For example, in many Latin American countries, men and women both carry two last names. The first name is from their father and the second last name is from their mother. In fact, in studies of groups of women, Hispanic women are the most likely to keep their last name after marriage.

In the study, 30 percent of Hispanic women said they kept their last name after marriage, while 10 percent of White women and 9 percent of Black women said the same. Traditionally, women in China, Korea and Vietnam keep their surname after marrying. This is also the case in Muslim communities. Additionally, France, Belgium and the Netherlands all have laws that require last names to stay the same after marriage.

If you change your last name when you marry, then be sure to report the change to the SSA. Otherwise, the SSA may not record your earnings properly, which will result in you not getting all the benefits you are due. Not changing your name with the SSA, when you have done so legally in a court, can also delay your income tax refund.

HOW DO YOU REPORT A NAME CHANGE TO THE SSA?

Once you change your name legally after you marry, you must submit proof of identity and proof that you legally changed your name. For example, you can submit your marriage certificate. Documents the SSA may accept to prove a legal name change include:

  • Marriage document.
  • Divorce decree.
  • Certificate of Naturalization showing a new name.
  • Court order for a name change.

The SSA must see the original documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them. They cannot accept copies or notarized copies. This includes the information when you apply for SSDI and SSI benefits.

The document you provide as evidence of a legal name change may not give the SSA enough information to identify you in their records. If that is the case, then you must show the SSA an identity document in your old name. The SSA will accept an identity document in your old name that has expired. You must show the SSA a legal document in your old name if you changed your name more than 2 years ago.

If you don’t have an identity document in your old name, then the SSA may accept an unexpired identity document in your new name. However, the SSA has to be able to properly establish your identity in their records.

If you are a U.S. citizen, born outside the United States, and the SSA’s records don’t show that you are a citizen, then you will need to provide proof of your U.S. citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, then the SSA will ask to see your current immigration documents.

WHAT BENEFITS DOES THE SSA PROVIDE FOR WOMEN?

When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn Social Security credits. Credits can count toward your retirement benefits and can qualify you and your family for disability and survivors benefits. In addition, when you pay Medicare taxes, you earn Medicare benefits. Medicare is available to you when you reach age 65 or sooner if you qualify for Social Security disability benefits. Learn more about Medicare benefits.

Social Security benefits can include:

  • Retirement benefits paid to retired workers as early as age 62.
  • Disability benefits paid to workers of all ages who have a severe medical condition that prevents them from working for over 12 months.
  • Family benefits paid to the spouse and children of retired workers or workers with disabilities.
  • Survivors benefits paid to the widow or widower and children of a deceased worker. In some cases, the family of a young deceased worker can receive these benefits even if the worker had as few as 1 to 1.5 years of work.
  • Medicare benefits, which help with hospital bills and provide limited coverage for skilled nursing facility stays and hospice care. Medicare benefits can also cover doctor visits and prescription drugs.

Throughout the years you work, you should review your earnings record each year. More earnings increase your benefit amount. Also, if you qualify for benefits on more than one work record you should receive the higher benefit amount. When you apply for benefits, the SSA can determine the benefits you are due.

MEDICARE BENEFITS FOR WOMEN

In addition to Social Security benefits, you will have Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) coverage. If you qualify on your own or the record of your spouse, then you will have Medicare hospital insurance (Part A) protection at age 65.

You will also the opportunity to buy Medicare medical insurance (Part B) for a monthly premium. Also, you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) and a Medicare prescription drug plan (Part D). If you don’t qualify for benefits and you don’t have enough credits, then you can pay a monthly premium to buy Medicare coverage.

SOCIAL SECURITY DISABILITY BENEFITS FOR WOMEN

If you develop a disability, then you may be able to get SSDI benefits if you earned enough quarters of coverage under Social Security. The amount of work you need to qualify increases with age. You need credits for up to 5 out of the last 10 years if you develop a disability at age 31 or older.

Unfortunately, some women lose their ability to qualify for SSD benefits  when they move in and out of the workforce. As a result, they don’t meet the quarters of coverage requirement. If you need help figuring out how much work you need to maintain your SSD benefits, then call your local Social Security office.

Military service members can receive faster processing of SSD claims from the SSA. However, SSD benefits are different from those available through the Department of Veterans Affairs and require a separate application. The SSA uses an expedited process for military service members who develop a disability while on active military service on or after October 1, 2001. Learn more about Veteran benefits.

HOW TO APPLY FOR SSDI BENEFITS

You can apply for Social Security retirement, disability, Medicare, benefits from a spouse, or any combination of those benefits online. If you apply for SSDI benefits online, then you may be able to apply for SSI at the same time.

The easiest way to apply for benefits is using your computer. You can apply online for SSD and SSI benefits by going to Social Security’s website. The SSA has updated their website and made it easy for any individual with access to a computer to apply for benefits. It is also easy to complete the forms online that are needed to begin the five step Social Security review process.

You can also apply for SSD and SSI benefits over the phone. Once you have called the SSA, they will send you the forms that you need to complete by mail. You will need to have a current mailing address to receive the forms. Even if you get the forms in the mail, the day you call the SSA is your “protective filing date.” In other words, the day you call the SSA is the day they will state that you filed your application. This date is important because it is the day the SSA uses to figure out when you should be paid benefits.

Finally, you can apply for benefits in person at your local SSA office. This is not a great option, because the lines at the SSA offices are long. However, every city has local Social Security offices which you can visit. At your local office, they can help you complete the forms to apply for SSDI and SSI benefits.

WHAT HAPPENS TO BENEFITS WHEN WOMEN DIE?

When women die, their family members may qualify for benefits based on her work record. Family members who may collect benefits include a surviving spouse who is:

  • Age 60 or older.
  • Age 50 or older and has a disability.
  • Any age, if your surviving spouse is caring for your child who is younger than age 16, or who has a disability, and is getting Social Security benefits.
  • Your children can receive benefits, too, if they’re unmarried and:
    • Younger than age 18.
    • Between ages 18 and 19 and a full-time student at an elementary or secondary school (grade 12 or below).
    • Age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
    • Additionally, your parents can receive benefits on your earnings if they were dependent on you for at least half of their support. If you have enough credits, then the SSA will also make a one time payment of $255 after your death to your surviving spouse or children.

OUR LEGAL TEAM CAN WIN SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS

One of the main benefits women need is Social Security Disability Insurance benefits (SSDI). Under SSA’s rules, each severe medical condition has its own listing. To meet a listing, the SSA considers only the elements under that specific listing. If you meet the listing, then you should be paid SSD benefits. Equalling the listing, however, allows the SSA to consider the combination of all of your severe conditions, including both mental and physical conditions.

Hire our law firm. We know how to prove to the SSA that you should be paid SSD benefits. Our legal team prepares you for success. During your case, we collect your medical records. All you have to do is get treatment from your doctor. Medical records from your treating sources prove you deserve benefits. Medical records prove the case, whether you have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from working.

We know you need benefits to replace your income. Over the past 30 years, we have won over 20,000 SSDI and SSI cases. We want to win your case too. Contact us today for your free review of your case. Let us help you win SSDI and SSI benefits.

Also, we are happy to explain to any woman the many Social Security benefits that are available to her. Learning about Social Security benefits can help women make a sound financial plan for their future. Finally, if you can’t work due to a severe medical condition, then you need to apply for SSD benefits as soon as possible. Call us for help.

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