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Questions and answers with Social Security


My neighbor said my kids, 8 and 15, might be eligible for survivors’ benefits since their mother died. Are they?


Maybe. Their mother must have worked and earned the required number of Social Security credits. If she did, both you and your children may be eligible for benefits.

Apply promptly for survivors benefits because benefits are generally retroactive only up to six months.

You can apply by calling Social Security’s toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday.

People who are deaf or hard of hearing may call our toll-free TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

For more information, read the publication Survivors Benefits available at


I’m expecting a baby this June. What do I need to do to get a Social Security number for my baby?


Apply for a number at the hospital when you apply for your baby’s birth certificate.

The state agency that issues birth certificates will share your child’s information with the Social Security Administration which will mail the Social Security card to you.

You can learn more about the Social Security number and card by reading the online publication on the subject, available at


How long does it take to complete the online application for retirement benefits?


It can take as little as 15 minutes to complete the online application.

In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required.

Social Security will process your application and contact you if any further information is needed. There’s no need to drive to a local Social Security office or wait for an appointment with a Social Security representative.

To retire online, go to


My husband doesn’t have enough work credits to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. Can he qualify on my record?


A spouse receives one-half of the retired worker’s full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age.

If the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age, the amount of the spouse’s benefit is reduced by a percentage based on the number of months before he or she reaches full retirement age.

You can learn more by reading our online publication, Retirement Benefits, available at


I currently receive Social Security disability benefits. I now have a second serious disability. Can my monthly benefit amount be increased?


No. Your Social Security disability benefit amount is based on the amount of your lifetime earnings before your disability began and not the number of disabling conditions or illnesses you may have.

For more information, go to


Is there a time limit on how long I can collect Social Security disability benefits?


No. Your disability benefits will continue as long as your medical condition has not improved and you remain unable to work. Your case will be reviewed at regular intervals to determine whether you still are disabled.

If you are receiving disability benefits when you reach full retirement age, the benefits will automatically convert to retirement benefits, without a change in your payment amount.

For all your disability questions, read the publication Disability Benefits, available at

Kirk Larson is a Social Security Washington public affairs specialist


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