Who is Entitled to Social Security Benefits?

In the first installment of the Social Security series, we covered the basics of the retirement benefit for workers that have contributed to OASDI. Not only are those who have paid into SS eligible to receive benefits; spouses, children, and survivors are entitled to receive payments – no wage or contribution history required.

Below is a list of those who can apply to receive benefits based on a worker’s SS credits. Not to worry, the act of anyone claiming benefits using your SS credits does NOT reduce your benefit.

  1. Spouses are entitled to half of the worker benefit beginning at age 62 in the year that the worker applies for benefits or the year the worker reaches FRA – whichever is earlier. The spouse is not required to have ever earned SS credits to receive spousal benefits.
  2. Ex-spouses are entitled to half your worker benefit if he or she is at least 62 years old, was married to you for 10 years and has been divorced from you for at least two years, and unmarried at the time of application.
  3. Minor children can receive benefits if their parent is already receiving SS. This scenario is becoming more prevalent as people enter into marriages with spouses that are much younger.
  4. Survivors include spouses, ex-spouses, children, and the parent of your children and he or she is entitled to the same amount as the worker.

Another note related to spousal benefits, the SSA will always allow the larger benefit. For instance, if your spouse has also worked, then they are eligible to receive benefits based on their own credits as well as your benefits. The SSA will calculate which is higher upon application and payments will be made according to the higher amount. It is important to keep in mind that the worker’s decision of when to apply directly affects the spousal benefits. In the next installment, we will discuss the what factors reduce your Social Security benefit.