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Full-time students can still get Social Security

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Q: I get Social Security benefits as a student because my Dad receives SSA retirement. How long will I receive checks?

A: Students might receive Social Security through a parents record if their parent is retired, deceased or receiving SSA disability Benefits for minor children generally continue until age 18 or 19 if they are still in high school, unless they are disabled and eligible for childhood disability benefits. For SSA benefits to continue beyond age 18, eligible students must have school officials certify they are still in full time school attendance. Without this certification, monthly Social Security checks automatically stop when a student turns 18. With school certification of attendance, checks generally can continue until the month before the month the student turns 19, or the first month in which he or she is not a full-time student, whichever is earlier. For more about SSA student benefits, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/schoolofficials. Instructions about what both the student and school official must do to ensure that benefits continue are there. Changes in marital status and amount of earnings can affect student benefits too and need to be reported.

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Q: Is there a best time for starting my Social Security retirement?

A: What works best for you? When to start your SSA retirement involves much to consider such as your benefit amount, health, family longevity, and work plans after you retire. What are your current and future financial needs? What is your other income including pensions and investments. If you retire early, at 62 or any time before your full retirement age, you will get SSA benefits sooner and longer, but they are reduced for the rest of your life -- which can add up to a big difference over time. Your decision can affect your spouse and family, too. If you die before your spouse, he or she might be eligible for survivor benefits with the amount partly based on your benefit amount. To help your planning, read the SSA online publication, "When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits," at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html and use the SSA online calculators at www.socialsecurity.gov.

Q: Does Social Security ever conduct customer surveys?

A: Yes, but these do not involve cold calls, email or letters asking for personal information. For example, over the next few months SSA will use a private contractor named Synovate to conduct a national survey by mail of people age 50-64 about preferred methods of conducting business with SSA. This will help SSA prepare for future clients. The contractor does not have access to individual personal information. As always, protect your identity. Do not provide personal information unless you are absolutely sure of who you are dealing with.

Did you know? Thursday, Aug. 14 marks 73 years since President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. Today, more than 164 million workers are protected by the program and more than 50 million people receive retirement, survivors or disability benefits. One in three beneficiaries is not a retiree but a disabled worker, the dependent family member of a disabled worker or the survivor of a deceased worker. Social Security is a compact between generations. Today's workers are paying for the benefits that their parents and grandparents receive. Over the years, Social Security has become America's number one family protection plan. To learn more, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.

Howard Kossover is a public affairs specialist with the Social Security Administration office in Grand Forks, N.D. You can reach him by e-mail at howard.kossover@ssa.gov.

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