Social Security Answers Key Questions



How many Social Security numbers have been issued since the program started?

Social Security celebrates its 74th anniversary on Aug. 14th. Since numbers were first issued in November 1936, about 442 million numbers have been assigned. Want to learn more about the history of Social Security cards and numbers? Step back in time with a visit to our history page. Visit ssn/ssncards.html.

Can a widow receive Social Security benefits on her husband’s record?

Yes. When a person who has worked and paid Social Security taxes dies, certain members of the family may be eligible for survivors benefits. Social Security survivors benefits can be paid to:

• A widow or widower — full benefits at full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60;

• A disabled widow or widower;

• A widow or widower at any age if he or she takes care of the deceased's child who is under age 16 or disabled, and the child gets Social Security benefits;

• Unmarried children under 18 (or up to age 19, if they are attending high school full time);

• Children at any age who were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled; and

• Dependent parents age 62 or older.

Learn more by visiting our benefit calculators at


How do I qualify for benefits as a divorced spouse?

You can receive benefits as a divorced spouse on a former spouse’s Social Security record if you:

• Were married to the former spouse for at least 10 years;

• Are age 62 or older;

• Are unmarried; and

• Are not entitled to a higher Social Security benefit on your own record.

In addition, the former spouse must be eligible to receive his or her own retirement or disability benefit. If the former spouse is eligible for a benefit, but has not yet applied for it, you can still receive a benefit if you meet the eligibility requirements and have been divorced from the former spouse for at least two years. Generally, we won’t continue to pay benefits if you remarry someone other than your former spouse. Learn more, and determine what your benefit might be by visiting our online Benefit Calculators at planners/benefitcalculators.htm.


I was disabled for a while several years ago. My health has since improved. Can I receive disability benefits for the time I was disabled?

If you were disabled “several years ago,” but are not disabled now, you probably can’t get benefits at this point. Whether or not you are entitled to what we call a “closed period of disability” depends on:

• When you became disabled;

• When you apply for Social Security disability benefits.

You may be entitled to a “closed period of disability” when medical evidence establishes you were unable to engage in substantial gainful work activity for a continuous period of 12 months, but by the time the disability decision is made, you have medically recovered. You must also meet the following requirements to be entitled to a closed period of disability:

• You must file an application within 14 months after the disability ended; or

• You must have filed an application between 15 to 36 months after the disability ended and you must show that your failure or inability to file a timely application was due to your physical or mental condition.

If you meet the requirements for disability benefits, there is a five-month waiting period before your first monthly benefit can be paid. You can receive up to 12 months of retroactive benefits from the date you file an application. Learn more at


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