Social Security Income as Means to Pay for Senior Housing & Eldercare

Page Reviewed / Updated - Jan. 2014

Definition and Overview

Social Security is a federal program that provides retirement income for seniors who have paid into the program. This includes nearly everyone that has worked legally in the US. Social Security is also referred to as Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance or OASDI.

Social Security is very commonly used a source for covering the long term costs of elder care. As seniors receive payment directly from the government, they or their loved ones are free to apply those dollars toward home care, adult day care or residential care.  However the average amount of a Social Security check is approximately $1000, which is well short of the cost of long term care. This is especially true when one spouse of a married couple requires residential care and the other remains in their home.

 Lower income seniors may also be eligible for Supplemental Security Income and / or state SSI supplements.

 

Qualifications of Social Security
  • Age - The minimum age to collect Social Security is 62. Benefit amounts increase the greater the age of the recipient.
  • Health - There are no disability or health requirements to qualify for Social Security.
  • Marital Status - There is no marital status requirement. Note that one can collect social security for their deceased spouse. See Survivor’s Benefits.
  • Financial Requirements - benefits are not restricted by an individual’s net worth or their annual earnings provided they are at full retirement age.  
  • Veteran Status - Veteran status does not affect Social Security eligibility.
  • Geographic Requirements - State of residence has no impact on benefits and US Citizens are eligible for Social Security even if they reside abroad. However there are many exceptions to this rule.
  • Other - To collect Social Security, one must have paid into the system for at least 10 years. All persons legally working in the US pay into the system directly from their paychecks.

 

Benefits of Social Security

Social Security benefits are made as cash payments directly to the individual.  There are no restrictions on how the payments can be spent.  The average Social Security check is around $1,000 / month and the maximum is around $2,000 / month. However, each individual receives a different amount depending on the amount and number of years paid into the system as well as the age at which they began to receive benefits.

To begin receiving benefits can take between 1 - 3 months.  Benefits start in the month following the month of entitlement. Entitlement means when an individual meets the minimum age requirement and completes the application. However, it can take up to 3 months to start receiving checks.

 

How to Apply

One can apply for Social Security benefits on the SSA’s website.