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C.O.P.S. Arizona

Concerns of Police Survivors — Rebuilding Shattered Lives

Social Security


Before you can receive benefits, a claim must be filed with a Social Security office. Generally, application can be made by telephone, mail, or in person. The people at Social Security will tell you what documents you will need to provide for the type of benefit you are claiming. A portion of your Social Security benefits will be subject to income tax if (1) your adjusted gross income plus (2) tax-exempt interest plus (3) one-half of your Social Security benefits exceeds $25,000*.

The portion of your benefits that is taxable will depend on whether your income exceeds $34,000*.

A. If your income exceeds $25,000* but not $34,000*, the taxable portion of your benefits will be the lesser of:

One-half of your benefits, or
One-half of the difference between your income and $25,000*.

B. If your income exceeds $34,000*, the taxable portion of your benefits will be the lesser of:

85% of the difference between your income and $34,000*, plus (1) the taxable portion calculated in "A" (above) or (2) one-half the difference between $25,000* and $34,000*, whichever is the lesser; or
85% of your Social Security benefits.

*These were the figures used in calculating taxable income in the tax year ended 12/31/95 and are subject to change each year. Refer to the current-year tax laws.


Monthly survivor benefits are available to the following beneficiaries if you are insured by Social Security when you die (regardless of your age):

Surviving spouse at age 60 or over (50 if disabled), or at any age if caring for your child(ren) (under 16 or disabled) who is entitled to benefits;

Unmarried children under 18 (or 19 if still in high school), and those age 18 and over who became disabled before age 22 and remain disabled;

Dependent parents age 62 or older;

Surviving divorced spouse (1) at age 60 or over (50 if disabled) who was married to you for 10 years and who is not eligible for an equal or higher personal benefit, or (2) at any age if caring for a child (under 16 or disabled) who is entitled to benefits on your record.

Each surviving dependent is entitled to a percentage of your PIA (Primary Insurance Allowance), subject to the Family Maximum Benefit. (Your PIA is the amount you would have received if you had lived to retire at full retirement age or, if you had already retired at that age, the amount you were receiving.) Note that benefits of surviving spouses (including those that are disabled or divorced) are reduced if begun before full retirement age. Eligibility for a government pension may also affect their benefits.

If your surviving spouse remarries before reaching age 60 (or 50, if disabled), (s)he will not be eligible for benefits on your record unless the subsequent marriage ends. After reaching age 60 (or age 50, if disabled), a surviving spouse or a surviving divorced spouse married to an insured worker for 10 years may remarry without losing entitlement to benefits.

Children's benefits are not affected by the remarriage of their mother or father, even though their stepparent adopts them and contributes to their support. Nor will adoption of a surviving child by any other person cause the child's benefits to stop.

Children's benefits stop when they marry or reach age 18, or 19 if still in high school. When the last surviving child marries or reaches the age of 16, the mother's or father's benefits also stop, but a surviving spouse or an eligible divorced spouse of a fully insured person can pick up again with a surviving spouse's benefits upon reaching age 60 (50 if disabled). As with retired workers, Social Security payments to a surviving dependent are reduced if the dependent works and earns more than the earnings limit for the year. However, work by a parent does not affect the benefits of surviving children under that parent's care.


In addition to the monthly benefits survivors receive, the deceased worker's eligible spouse is entitled to a one-time death payment. If there is no such spouse, this payment can be made only to a child entitled to survivors' benefits.

Social Security benefits are based on earned credits you or your spouse received while employed. The number of credits you will need will vary with the type of benefit. For more information or to apply for benefits, call or visit Social Security. It's easiest to call Social Security's toll free telephone number. The number is 1-800-772-1213. You can speak to a representative 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each business day.
The Social Security Administration treats all calls confidentially --- whether they're made to the toll free number or to one of the local offices. 

To locate your nearest Social Security office, look for the address and telephone number in the telephone directory under "Social Security Administration" or "U.S. Government".

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