Eligibility for social security depends on many factors, including what type of benefits you are applying for, the age of the person applying, whether the person making the claim is a dependent or survivor, and the age of the worker. The one clear requirement is that the worker must have worked for a sufficient number of years in covered employment. This usually means 10 years of paying social security taxes by either the worker or his/her employer.

Does Eligibility for Social Security Depend on my Type of Work?

Yes, there are some separate eligibility rules for certain types of workers.  There are separate eligibility rules for federal, state, and local government workers as well as for nonprofit organization workers, farm workers, household workers, and members of the military. Contact a lawyer or the Social Security Administration if you have worked in any of these to learn more about the requirements.

What are Some of the Eligibility Requirements for Retirement Benefits?

In order to receive retirement benefits, you must have worked in covered employment for at least 10 years. In addition, you are not eligible to receive retirement benefits until you are 62 years of age. If you begin receiving retirement benefits at 62, they will be less than if you wait until you reach your full retirement age, which depends on when you were born. If you were born before 1938, your full retirement age is 65. The age increases after 1938.  As of now, if you were born in 1960 or later, the age is 67. 

What about Eligibility Requirements for Disability Benefits?

The main requirement for disability benefits is that you must have a physical or mental impairment that will likely keep you from performing substantial work for a year or you must have a condition that is expected to result in death. Earning $500 or more a month is usually considered substantial. 

What Are the Requirements for Family Members to Be Eligible?

There are a variety of family member who can be eligible to receive benefits. A few examples are: 

  • Your spouse, if s/he is over 62
  • Your spouse, if s/he cares for your child who is under 16 or who receives social security benefits
  • Your unmarried children under 18 or under 19 if still in high school

Also, survivors of a person who is eligible for social security may be eligible for social security as well. For example, the following are all eligible for survivor benefits: 

  • Widows and widowers over 62
  • Disabled widows and widowers over 50
  • Unmarried children under 18 or under 19 if still in high school
  • Unmarried children 18 or older who are disabled
  • Parents who are dependent on their children for at least half their support

Do I Need a Lawyer?

The laws that govern social security are very complex. A government lawyer experienced in dealing with social security claims can help you understand what benefits you are eligible for and help you apply for them.