Types of Social Security Benefits

Social Security isn’t just for the elderly or retired people.

The system also pays benefits to the disabled, widows and widowers, children, stepchildren, divorced spouses, and ex-service people and to name just a few.

Most people who claim Social Security Benefits will fall into three different categories:

  • Retired worker and auxiliary beneficiaries;
  • Survivor beneficiaries; and
  • Disabled worker and auxiliary beneficiaries.

Here is a look at each of these categories, including who qualifies and how you go about making a claim.

Retired Workers

To qualify for benefits, you must first meet the age requirements and have paid into Social Security. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, you can begin receiving full benefits at age 66. If your birthday is between 1955 and 1959, two months are added for each additional year until people who were born in 1960 or later receive full benefits at 67 years of age.

In addition to meeting the age requirement, you have to have earned 40 quarters of credits if you were born in 1929 or later. You can earn a maximum of four credits each year. Credits are based on earnings. The number may change each year but in 2014, $1,200 in earnings equals one credit. To get the maximum amount of credits, you had to make $4,800 in a single year. If you earn more than enough to be credited with 40 credits, and most people will, you won’t receive additional quarters of credits.

Children under the age of 18, high school students under 19 or adult disabled children (if they became disabled before age 22) may also receive benefits.  There are special rules regarding this.

Survivor Benefits

Spouses of deceased workers are entitled to benefits as early as age 60, but it’s important to note that they never receive two Social Security checks. Once widows or widowers reach retirement age, they will either receive a check based on their individual financial contributions to Social Security or the deceased’s.  Sometimes they can receive widow/widower benefits first, then switch to their own (higher) benefits when they reach full retirement age or beyond.

Children under the age of 18, high school students under 19 and adult disabled children (if they became disabled before age 22) may also receive benefits.

Stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren and adopted children may qualify as well.