There is a lot of doubt as to the long term viability of the Social Security program, but for now it provides financial security for millions of Americans that are retired or disabled. It can also be an economic lifeline to their family and/or ex-spouses. These benefits represent a good portion of the retirement income for the majority of Americans.

Benefit amounts depend on many factors. Early retirement will decrease the benefit amount, whereas delaying retirement will increase it. The maximum Social Security benefit a qualified worker can receive at full retirement age is $2,687 a month. If you wait until age 70 to apply for benefits, the maximum monthly amount rises to $3,538. However, it is really important to keep in mind that the average monthly benefit is only $1,342, which is a long way off from the $3,538 maximum. Social Security benefits can also be taxable depending on your circumstances, which further reduces the actual amount.

The various benefits come with different eligibility requirements, resulting in hundreds of different potential benefit outcomes depending on your information. The best way to find out what benefits you are eligible for, is to use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST). No personal information that could identify you is required. The list of questions that you will be asked includes your current earnings, details and dates of all marriages (length, dates, etc), divorce dates, dates of certain family member’s death, benefits you are receiving, disability information, spouse’s or former spouses work history, etc.

Social Security Benefits & Eligibility Requirement

Social Security Retirement Insurance Benefits

  • Minimum age of 62
  • Earned sufficient Social Security credits

Social Security Disabled Widow(er’s) Insurance Benefits

  • Between the age of 50 and 59
  • Married for a minimum of 9 months immediately before spouse’s death
  • Unmarried, or in a marriage that doesn’t affect benefits
  • Not entitled to your own Social Security retirement benefit that is equal to or higher

Social Security Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse’s Benefits

  • Minimum 62 years old
  • Unmarried
  • Divorced from someone who is a minimum of 62 years old and has sufficient work credits to qualify for benefits
  • Married to that person for 10+ years
  • Divorced from that person for 2+ continuous years
  • Not entitled to your own Social Security retirement or disability benefits that are equal to or higher

Social Security Spouse’s Insurance Benefits

  • Married minimum one year to someone already receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits
  • Minimum 62 years old or caring for a child of the retired or disabled worker (child must be under 16 or disabled)
  • Not entitled to your own Social Security retirement or disability benefits that are equal to or higher

Social Security Child’s Insurance Benefits

  • For the children of a disabled, retired, or deceased parent
  • Unmarried
  • Under the age of 18 or under 20 if still in high school
  • Qualifies as a dependent

Social Security Parent’s Insurance Benefits

  • For the dependant parent of a deceased worker
  • Minimum 62 years old
  • Remained unmarried after worker’s death
  • There have been times when at least one half of your support has come from the deceased worker
  • Entitled to share in the worker’s intestate (without a will) property
  • Worker was adopted by you before turning 16
  • Filed the requirements for proof of support

Supplementary Security Income (SSI)

  • For disabled adults and children with limited income and assets

Social Security Medicare Program

  • Minimum 65 years old
  • Currently receiving Social Security Disability Benefits, or
  • Have certain disabilities, or
  • Be of any age if suffering from permanent kidney failure

Social Security Medicare Savings Program

  • Available for people with limited income and assets
  • Provides payment assistance for premiums, deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance
  • Reside in the U.S.
  • Minimum 65 years old
  • Currently receiving Social Security Disability benefits, or
  • Have certain disabilities, or
  • Be of any age if suffering from permanent kidney failure

Social Security Disabled Surviving Divorced Spouse Benefits

  • Divorced from a deceased spouse
  • Between the age of 50 and 59
  • Married at least 10 years prior to finalization of divorce
  • Meet the disability requirements
  • Unmarried, or in a marriage that doesn’t affect benefits
  • Not entitled to your ownSocial Security retirement benefit from working that is equal to or higher

Social Security Divorced Spouse Benefits

  • Minimum 62 years old
  • Unmarried
  • Divorced from someone who is receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits
  • Married at least 10 years prior to finalization of divorce
  • Not entitled to your own Social Security retirement or disability benefits that are equal to or higher

Social Security Lump Sum Death Benefit

  • $255 available to surviving spouse or child that meet certain requirements

Social Security Widow(er)’s Insurance Benefits

  • Minimum 60 years old
  • Widow(er) of fully insured deceased worker
  • Unmarried, or in a marriage that doesn’t affect benefits
  • Not entitled to your own Social Security retirement benefit from working that is equal to or higher

Social Security Mother’s or Father’s Insurance Benefits

  • For the surviving spouse or surviving divorced spouse of eligible worker
  • Unmarried
  • Length of marriage meets requirements
  • Caring for a child of the deceased worker (child must be under 16 or disabled) that is eligible for child’s insurance benefits
  • Not entitled to your own Social Security retirement benefit that is equal to or higher
  • Not entitled to a widow(er)’s benefit
  • Divorced from the deceased worker

Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits

  • For a qualified worker or family member that is unable to work because of a medical condition
  • Condition is expected to last at least a year or until death
  • Meet disability requirements
  • Haven’t reached full retirement age

Social Security Special Benefits for Qualified WWII Veterans

  • Available to certain WWII veterans that served September 16, 1940 to July 24, 1947
  • It is also available to certain Filipino veterans July 26, 1941 to December 30, 1946
  • Must be 65 or older as of December 14, 1999
  • Eligible for SSI both in December 1999, and when applying for benefits
  • Benefit entitlement is less than 75% of the current SSI benefit

Social Security Medicare Program

  • Minimum 65 years old
  • Currently receiving Social Security Disability Benefits, or
  • Have certain disabilities, or
  • Be of any age if suffering from permanent kidney failure