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Taking Care of Mom and Dad: Benefits to Other Family Members

As mentioned above, when your parents start receiving Social Security benefits, other members of your family may also qualify for benefits. For example, if your dad qualifies for benefits, your mom -- even if your parents are divorced -- an qualify.

Even if your mom has never worked under Social Security, she can receive at full retirement age a benefit equal to one-half of your father's full benefit amount and can qualify on his record for Medicare at age 65. (If she gets a pension for work not covered by Social Security, the amount of her Social Security benefits on your father's record may be reduced.)

Your mom can begin collecting the benefits as early as age 62, but the benefit amount will be permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months between her actual and full retirement age.

If your mom is still caring for children who are receiving benefits, she can receive the full one-half benefit amount no matter what her age is. She would receive these benefits until the child reaches age 16. At that time, the child's benefits continue, but your mom's benefits stop unless she is old enough to receive retirement benefits (age 62 or older) or survivor benefits as a widow (age 60).

What if you mom has also worked under Social Security? In this case, she's eligible for retirement benefits on her own record and Social Security will pay that amount first. If, however, her benefit on your father's record is higher, she will get a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount. Social Security will check both records to make sure that she gets the higher amount.

If your mom continues to work while receiving benefits, the same earnings limits apply to her as apply to your father. If she is eligible for benefits and is also working, she can use what's called an earnings test calculator to see how those earnings would affect her benefit payments. (Your mom's earnings affect only her benefits; they don't affect your father's or those of any other beneficiaries on his record.)

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