Individuals qualify for Social Security retirement, disability and survivors benefits by accumulating enough work credits while employed or by being a family member of someone with enough work credits. Eligibility for Supplementary Security Income is based on age or disability and the applicant's income and resources.
To qualify for Social Security retirement, disability or survivors benefits, workers need 40 work credits generally earned at the rate of four per year for a total of 10 years of covered employment, as of 2015. Workers receiving retirement benefits must be at least 62 years old, although they do not receive 100 percent benefits until they reach full retirement age, which varies from 65 to 67 depending on their date of birth. To receive disability benefits, workers must be unable to work at their job or do other work because of their disability, and the disability must last at least one year or be expected to result in death. Spouses, children, dependent parents, widows or widowers of workers with enough credits may also be eligible for Social Security benefits.
Supplementary Security Income is available to U.S. citizens and resident aliens who are aged 65 and over, disabled or blind who meet the requirements for limited income and resources. Unlike other Social Security programs, a minimum number of accumulated work credits is not necessary for eligibility for SSI.