What is a Social Security Check?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 August 2019
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A Social Security check is a type of check a person receives because he is eligible for Social Security benefits. For example, in the United States, retired and disabled individuals may be eligible for monetary benefits to help them meet the expenses of daily living. The survivors of retired Americans who are deceased and dependents of those eligible for Social Security may be eligible for monetary benefits as well. It’s important to note that some beneficiaries receive their money through direct deposit instead of paper checks, but they may refer to these deposits as Social Security checks as well.

Social Security benefit checks, including benefits paid by direct deposit, are usually paid each month; however, each check is actually in payment for the previous month’s benefits. For example, a social security check a recipient receives in December is actually the benefit award for November. When a beneficiary receives his check depends on his date of birth. A person who was born on the 1st through 10th of the month should receive his Social Security check on the second Wednesday of each month while those born on the 11th to 20th of the month should be paid on the third Wednesday. Those with birth dates ranging from the 21st to the 31st of the month should be paid on the fourth Wednesday.


The amount of each Social Security check varies as well. For example, Social Security check amounts depend on an average of the monthly earnings a former worker made over a period of up to 35 years. Then, the Social Security Administration applies a special formula, called the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) formula, to the average in order to come up with a benefit award. This special formula considers general wages throughout the country. Retired worker benefits also depend on the whether or not the retired worked stopped working before normal retirement age. Benefits may be lower for workers who retired early and higher for those who retired after the normal retirement age; the normal retirement age in the United States may change with each passing year.

Disability benefits are calculated in a different manner. They are based on the average lifetime earnings of the disabled individual. Like retirement benefits, they are paid on a monthly basis.


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