Question: My husband passed recently, and I applied to receive survivor benefits under his social security.  However, I was denied.  Apparently, my husband retired from work, when he was a few credits short from collecting social security.

Answer: You raise two good points.  Survivors benefits are available to widowed spouses of social security recipients.  However, a surviving spouse can’t collect survivor benefits, when the deceased spouse never qualified for social security.  In order to collect social security, one must earn 40 social security credits.  What is credit, you ask?

These are earned by working in a job covered by social security.  A worker can earn up to four credits each year, with one credit for each $1,130 of wages.  When your spouse has earned $4,520, he or she has earned his or her four credits for the year.  Most seniors earn far more than the requisite 40 credits.  Yet, certain jobs do not accrue credit under the social security.

Many state and federal government jobs operate outside the social security system.  Your husband worked most of his life outside the system.  Near the end, he worked a few years in a job which afforded him social security credits.  Unfortunately, he retired before earning 40 social security credits.  Your husband did not qualify for social security benefits when he was alive, unfortunately, the same goes for you.

Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate law, estate planning and probate at 790 Boston Road, Billerica, MA. He gladly invites questions at or by phone at 978-671-0711.  His website blog is found at and

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