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Can a person who has never worked collect Social Security?

In the case of a deceased worker who has paid into social security throughout their career, it is possible for a child or spouse to receive their benefits.

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Around 63 million people in the United States receive Social Security benefits. Primarily the benefits are distributed to seniors who have retired or have a disability and have worked for the required number of years.

To qualify for Social Security benefits one must meet a few requirements.

For those hoping to claim benefits once they have retired, it is mandatory that the worker has paid into the Social Security pot. Depending on the number of years contributing and your annual income you will earn a certain number of work credits, which help to calculate your total benefit amount.

What are work credits?

Each year a worker who pays into Social Security will be able to receive a maximum of four work credits each year. The annual earnings need to earn a credit increase each year, in an attempt to follow a pattern in wages. To claim any benefits, one must have at least six work credits, regardless of age or disability and the maximum that can be accumulated is forty.

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For those applying for benefits because of a disability, “you must have earned an average of one work credit for each calendar year between age 21 and the year in which you reach age 62 or become disabled or blind.”

Survivor or dependent benefits

The only way to receive Social Security benefits if you have not worked is if you are the dependent or spouse of a deceased worker. Each month, millions of workers pay a portion of their income to the Social Security Administration, and later will be allowed to rely on a modest income in retirement. However, some of the money collected each month goes towards the distribution of payments for survivors of beneficiaries who had paid in or were receiving Social Security benefits.

Survivors can receive Social Security benefits from a decreased beneficiaries and work at the same time. The Social Security Administration does warn, however, that if you have a total income above a certain limit, the benefits will be reduced, but not lost. Once the survivor or spouse reaches retirement age, the amount withheld will be added to their benefit amount.

If you are eligible to receive survivor benefits it is important to claim them quickly, as they are not retroactive in many cases.

How many spouses or survivors receive benefits?

In 2020, around 11 percent of Social Security benefits were sent to the survivors of deceased workers. In economic terms, the total amount sent to the almost six million survivors was $7.9 billion.