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Survivors Benefits

Credits A Worker Has To Earn In Order For A Survivor To Qualify For Benefits

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Employees accumulate "work credits" each year by having F.I.C.A. taxes taken out of their salary and paid into the Social Security system. A maximum of 4 credits can be earned each year (See Social Security Retirement (SSR) for more information on earning work credits.)

If the worker earns enough work credits before dying, survivors benefits will be available The number of credits needed for survivors to receive benefits depends on the age of the worker when he or she dies, as well as the relationship of the survivor to the worker.

The younger a worker is, fewer work credits are needed for family members to be eligible for survivors benefits. The following chart shows the worker's year of birth and credits needed:

Year of Birth

Credits Needed

1929 or later












Nobody, regardless of age or relationship to the worker, needs more than 40 credits (10 years of work) to be eligible for any Social Security benefits.

  • Children: For children to be eligible for survivor benefits, the worker must have earned six (6) work credits during the twelve (12) quarters (3 years) prior to the worker's death.

  • Widow/er: For a widow/er to be eligible, the worker must have been Fully Insured at the time of the worker's death. If, however, the widow/er is caring for the worker's children, then the "six out of twelve" rule used for children will apply. (To learn more about Fully Insured, see: Social Security Retirement.)

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