Social Security Answers Your Questions


The Social Security offices of Arizona have provided the following frequently asked questions and answers.


When should I start planning my retirement?


It’s never too early to start planning your retirement. Social Security has a new Retirement Estimator online at This important tool will help you estimate your future Social Security retirement benefits.

In addition, the Social Security statement is an important document that can help you plan for your retirement.

The statement, which includes a record of your earnings each year, provides estimates of the retirement, disability and survivor benefits you and your family may be eligible for.

If you’re like most workers who pay Social Security taxes, are at least 25 years of age and not yet receiving benefits, you automatically receive a statement in the mail each year, about three months before your birthday.

You can learn more about financial planning at www.mymoney. gov.

When you are ready, you can apply for retirement benefits online at applyforbenefits.

Generally, people should apply for retirement benefits no more than four months before they want their benefits to begin.

Even if you have no plans to receive benefits, you should still sign up for Medicare three months before age 65.

For more information, visit our Web site at www.socialsecurity. gov, or call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


My husband gets Social Security disability benefits for his diabetes. Last month, his leg was amputated due to his diabetes. Can we apply for an increase in his benefits since his condition has gotten worse?


The benefit amount a person gets is not based on the severity of a person’s disabling condition. It is based on whether or not a person is disabled. Once that determination is made, other factors go into figuring the benefit amount, such as the person’s age and the amount of Social Security taxes paid. For more information visit the Web site,, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).


How many years do I need to work before I can qualify for Social Security disability benefits?


The number of work credits you need to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age when you become disabled. Generally, you need 20 credits earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you become disabled.

Younger workers, generally those under 31, who have not had the opportunity to work that long, may qualify with fewer credits, so if you become disabled and cannot work, you should still apply for benefits.

To learn more, read a copy of our publication, Disability Benefits. You can get a copy online at, or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to have a free copy mailed to you.


What is the difference between Social Security disability and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability?


Social Security Disability Insurance is financed with Social Security taxes paid by workers, employers and self-employed persons. SSI payments are paid from general revenues.


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