Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay
Courtesy: Social Security Administration

Seeing taxes taken out of your paycheck can be a little disappointing at first time. However, you can take pride in knowing that you are making an important impact each week when you contribute to Social Security. Understanding how important your contribution is takes some of the sting away because your taxes are helping millions of Americans — wounded warriors and the chronically ill and disabled, and it is protecting you and your family for life.

By law, employers must withhold Social Security taxes from each worker’s paychecks. While usually referred to as “Social Security taxes” on an employee’s pay statement, the deduction is sometimes labeled as “FICA,” which stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act, a reference to the original Social Security Act. In some cases, you will see it labeled as “OASDI,” which stands for Old Age Survivors Disability Insurance.

The taxes you pay now translate into a lifetime of protection — for retirement in old age or in the event of disability. And when you die, your family (or future family) may be able to receive survivors benefits based on your work, as well.

Because you may be a long way from retirement, you might have a tough time seeing the value of benefit payments that could be many decades in the future. Keep in mind, however, that the Social Security taxes you’re paying can provide valuable disability or survivors benefits now in the event the unexpected happens. Studies show that of today’s 20-year-olds, about one in four will become disabled, and about one in eight will die before reaching retirement.

Be warned: If an employer offers to pay you “under the table,” you should refuse. It’s against the law. They may try to sell it as a benefit to you since you get a few extra dollars in your pay. But you’re really only allowing the employer to cheat you out of your Social Security credits.

To learn more about Social Security and exactly what you’re building up for yourself by paying Social Security taxes, take a look at our online booklet, How You Earn Credits, at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10072.html.

If you have a friend who lost a parent when they were a child, they probably received Social Security survivors benefits. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die. In fact, 98 of every 100 children could get benefits if a working parent dies. And, Social Security pays more benefits to children than any other federal program. You can learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov/survivors.

Do you prefer wathing videos to reading? Check out webinar, “Social Security 101: What’s in it for me?” The webinar explains what you need to know about Social Security. You can find it at www.socialsecurity.gov/multimedia/webinars/social_security_101.html as well as on YouTube a www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hkLaBiavqQ

You can also learn more at www.socialsecurity.gov.



Question: What is full retirement age?

Answer: Full retirement age is the age at which a person may first become entitled to full or unreduced retirement benefits. Your full retirement age depends on your date of birth. For people born before 1938, it’s 65. For those born after 1959, it’s 67. If your birthday falls between 1938 and 1959, your full retirement age is between 65 and 67. (The age for Medicare eligibility is 65, regardless of when you were born.) For more information, go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html.


Question: How long does it take to get a decision after I apply for disability benefits?

Answer: The time it takes to get a decision on your disability application can vary depending on:

  • The nature of your disability;
  • How quickly we can get your medical evidence from your doctor or other medical source;
  • Whether it is necessary to send you for a medical examination; and
  • Whether we review your application for quality purposes.

If you would like to apply for disability benefits, you can use our online application. Applying online for disability benefits offers several advantages:

  • You can start your disability claim immediately. There is no need to wait for an appointment;
  • You can apply from the convenience of your home or on any computer; and
  • You can avoid trips to a Social Security office, saving you time and money.
  • For more information, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/disability.

Jane Yamamoto-Burigsay is Social Security’s public information specialist in Hawai‘i.


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