Feb 15, 2008


To be eligible for benefits under Social Security, an individual must have credit for a minimum amount of work under the program. This credit is based on quarters of coverage. For 2001, a worker receives credit for one quarter of coverage for each $830 in annual earnings on which Social Security taxes are paid, up to a maximum of four quarters in any one calendar year, even if all wages are earned within one calendar quarter. Consequently, a worker paying Social Security taxes on as little as $3,320 (that is, $830 × 4) during the year will receive credit for the maximum four quarters. As in the case of the wage base, the amount of earnings necessary for a quarter of coverage is adjusted annually for changes in the national level of wages.

Quarters of coverage are the basis for establishing an insured status under Social Security. The three types of insured status are fully insured, currently insured, and disability insured.

Fully Insured
A person is fully insured under Social Security if either of two tests is met. The first test requires credit for 40 quarters of coverage. Once a person acquires such credit, he or she is fully insured for life even if employment covered under Social Security ceases.

Under the second test, a person who has credit for a minimum of six quarters of coverage is fully insured if he or she has credit for at least as many quarters of coverage as there are years elapsing after 1950 (or after the year in which age 21 is reached, if later) and before the year in which he or she dies, becomes disabled, or reaches age 62, whichever occurs first. Therefore, a worker who reached age 21 in 1988 and who died in 2000 would need credit for only 11 quarters of coverage for his or her family to be eligible for survivors' benefits.

Currently Insured
If a worker is fully insured under Social Security, there is no additional significance to being currently insured. However, if a worker is not fully insured, certain survivors benefits are still available if a currently insured status exists. To be currently insured, it is only necessary that a worker have credit for at least 6 quarters of coverage out of the 13-quarter period ending with the quarter in which death occurs.

Disability Insured
To receive disability benefits under Social Security, it is necessary to be disability insured. At a minimum, a disability insured status requires that a worker (1) be fully insured and (2) have a minimum amount of work under Social Security within a recent time period. In connection with the latter requirement, workers aged 31 or older must have credit for at least 20 of the past 40 quarters ending with the quarter in which disability occurs; workers between the ages of 24 and 30, inclusively, must have credit for at least half the quarters of coverage from the time they turned 21 to the quarter in which disability begins; and workers under age 24 must have credit for 6 out of the past 12 quarters, ending with the quarter in which disability begins.

A special rule for the blind states that they are exempt from the recent-work rules and are considered disability insured as long as they are fully insured.


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