Spotlight on Elderlaw: Social Security and Medicare Benefits at a Glance

by Linda F. Marshak, Esq.

Social Security is a retirement plan most for which most American workers are eligible. The Social Security System taxes employee’s wages throughout working years and credits are earned towards retirement benefits.  If you were born in 1929 or later, the requirement is to have 10 years of work which is equal to 40 quarters of employment.  That is the minimum number of quarters required to earn to collect social security retirement benefits on your own earnings.  You are able to start and stop working and still accrue the 40 quarter requirement across the span of your entire working career.

Age 62 is the earliest age for Social Security for eligibility for retirement benefits. At this age, however, benefits will be the lowest.  For each year thereafter, benefits will increase up to 8% per year until age 70.  Another factor that will have a positive monetary effect on a Social Security award is the continuance of work after full retirement age.

Additionally, if one of the pair of a married couple dies, the surviving widowed spouse may be eligible to collect on their deceased spouse’s wages and earned credits. An example of how this rule most commonly affects senior citizens is as follows:  Husband works his entire adult life and wife remains at home or works part time.  When husband dies, wife can collect on spouse greater Social Security record rather than on her lesser Social Security lifetime contributions.

A divorced spouse is eligible for a former spouse’s earnings if the marriage was at least 10 years in duration, be age 62 or older and not re- married. These benefits will not affect the benefits a present spouse will receive.

Lastly, Social Security retirement benefits may be available to certain family members if work requirements are met:

  1. Children up to the age of 18 or age 19 if they are a student and they have lost a parent;
  2. Disabled children, even over age 18;
  3. Surviving spouses age 62 or older;
  4. Surviving Spouses younger than age 62 who care for a disabled child or a child younger than age 16 who is not disabled.

To learn more about Social Security benefits or to apply online visit www.socialsecurity.gov or call 1 800 325-0778.  A Social Security’s decision with regard to your benefits may be appealed.

Some things to keep in mind with regard to Social Security benefits:

  1. Benefits may be taxable;
  2. Receipt of some federal and other government or civil service employment may reduce your benefits under the Social Security program and
  3. A U.S. citizen may retire outside the United States and receive Social Security retirement benefits by mail except for a small number of countries throughout the world.


Best defined as a federal health insurance program, Medicare is provided to United States citizens at age 65 years and to those qualified for Social Security benefits after two years.

There are four parts to the Medicare Program, as follows:

  1. Part A pays for hospitalization;
  2. Part B pays for doctor’s care;
  3. Part C (Medicare Advantage Plan) combines parts A and B through one provider and
  4. Part D pays for prescriptions.

In most instances it will be necessary to carry supplemental health insurance as the above described Parts of Medicare will NOT provide 100% benefits for your medical expenses. The attorneys at Brady & Marshak, LLP can be reached at (718) 738-8500.  This information does not constitute legal advice.