Page Reviewed / Updated – October 6th, 2021

The Social Security Administration offers four types of benefits to eligible U.S. citizens and legal residents. These include retirement benefits, survivors benefits, disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. Each type of benefit serves specific populations and has certain eligibility requirements.

Breaking Down the Four Types of Social Security Benefits

Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits are perhaps the most well-known Social Security program. When people work, a portion of the taxes they pay go toward the Social Security program. Additionally, working people earn Social Security credits, with a minimum of 40 credits being required for retirement benefits. That generally translates to a minimum of 10 years of work for people born from 1929 onward.

Other eligibility requirements determine when people can begin drawing Social Security retirement payments and the amount they receive. Currently, people can retire at age 62, and begin collecting reduced benefits. Full retirement benefits are available for people beginning between age 66 and 67, depending on their birth year. Individuals may also opt to delay their retirement up until age 70 and receive an increased benefit amount. Payment amounts vary based on many factors, but on average, the typical Social Security retirement beneficiary gets 40% of their preretirement income.

Survivors Benefits

Survivors benefits are meant to support spouses, children and parents who depended on deceased workers who paid into Social Security. Eligible individuals may receive monthly survivors benefits following the death of the worker who supported them.

Widows and widowers 60 years of age or older are an example of an eligible population. The age threshold drops to 50 years for disabled widows and widowers. There’s no age threshold for widows and widowers caring for the deceased’s child, if the child is under age 16 or disabled. Surviving divorced spouses may also be eligible, and the worker’s children up to age 19 if they’re attending school. Parents of the worker who received at least one-half of their support from the deceased and are aged 62 or older may also qualify.

Disability Insurance Benefits

The Social Security Disability Insurance program serves individuals up to age 65 who have a medical condition that meets the SSA’s definition of a disability. To qualify, a person must have paid Social Security taxes on their income and have earned a sufficient number of credits. The number of required credits can differ depending on a person’s age when they become disabled. Certain family members of qualifying individuals may also be eligible for SSDI payments.

Supplemental Security Income

The Supplemental Security Income program is funded by general tax revenue rather than Social Security taxes. The program makes payments to disabled or blind people whose resources and income fall under certain financial limits. SSI also supports seniors 65 years of age and older who aren’t disabled but meet the program’s financial guidelines.