Social Security offers more than just benefits to those over 62.
Consumer Education Research Center, a national non-profit consumer group, has been researching the system and the benefits it provides since 1972. It found that more than 10 million of the 400 million people collecting Social Security benefits are under age 62, and their average age is 30.Robert L. Berko, consumer writer and executive director of the center, said the group updates and publishes a complete list of benefits and how to qualify for them every year. The most recent, a 144-page book called "1987 Guide to Social Security Benefits," was released this month.
The book provides forms and instructions to help consumers get a copy of their Social Security accounts, which is important, Berko said, because the Social Security Administration will not alter records more than three years old. In many cases, employers have not deposited enough in a worker's account.
"Billions of dollars go unclaimed," Berko said, "because many Americans do not realize they are eligible for benefits."
Among findings in the 1987 guide:
-In some cases, parents of a deceased worker are eligible for benefits, even if they have not paid into the fund.
-Many children are eligible for benefits although their parents never paid into the system.
-Minor children and the surviving spouse of a person who worked under the system for as little as one day in each of six annual quarters can collect.
-Income from investments, interest, annuities, rentals and royalties are not considered in determining eligibility, nor is income from a business in which a person was a partner if payments are made as a retirement benefit.
-The Supplemental Security Income Program provides benefits to the aged, blind and disabled that can be collected by recipients who own cars, homes or other assets. No lien is taken on assets, and a person cannot be disqualified because relatives are financially able to provide support.
-A divorcee is eligible for benefits when her ex-husband starts collecting disability or retirement payments if she is 62 or over and was married to him at least 10 years.
"Even if you are eligible, you won't receive benefits unless you apply," Berko said. The book tells how to apply. Oddly, he said, the administration does not provide a comprehensive book for consumers.
This book can be purchased by sending $8 to CERC-SS, 439 Clark St., South Orange, NJ 07079 or by credit card by calling 1 (800) USA-0121.