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Fully Insured Status Defined

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at

203. Fully Insured Status Defined

203.1 When are you "fully insured?"

You are fully insured if:

  1. You have at least one credit for each calendar year after 1950; or

  2. If you turn 21 after 1950, you have at least one credit for each calendar year after you turned 21 and the earliest of the following:

    1. The year before you turn 62;

    2. The year before you die; or

    3. The year before you become disabled.

You can obtain covered credits and count them in any year. (See §201.2 for additional requirements if you are an alien worker and you were assigned an original Social Security number on or after January 1, 2004.)

203.2 Are there any exceptions to determining fully insured status (as above)?

The following individuals are also fully insured:

  1. Males born before January 2, 1911, need one credit for each year after 1950 up to the year before the year below that occurs first:

    1. They turn 65;

    2. They die; or

    3. They become disabled; and

  2. Males born from January 2, 1911, through January 1, 1913, need one credit for each year after 1950 up to the year before the year below that occurs first:

    1. 1975;

    2. They die; or

    3. They become disabled.

203.3 Are years included in a period of disability counted to determine credits?

In determining the number of years to be used in computing your credits, any year (all or part of a year) that was included in a period of disability is not counted. (For exception, see § 209.2.)

203.4 Do you need a minimum number of credits in order to be fully insured?

In order to be considered for fully insured status, you need at least six credits. No more than 40 credits are required, regardless of your date of birth.

203.5 Are there special benefits if you turned 72 before 1972?

If you turned 72 before 1972, you may be entitled to a special cash monthly payment. This is true even if you are not fully insured (see §211 and §346).

Last Revised: Aug. 1, 2006




There are 12 Comments

What application do I need to feel out for this? My husband died June 18, 2011. I am not working, he was fully insured through his work.
Please let me know which app to feel out.

Thank you so much for your help

My ex-husband was on social security disability at the time of his death. We were married over 10 years prior to our divorce. Neither of us remarried. Am I eligible to receive widow's benefits?

Yes, based on your statement, it's likely you'll qualify if you're at least age 60 (50 if disabled).

If your divorced spouse dies, you can receive benefits as a widow/widower if the marriage lasted 10 years or longer and you are age 60 or older (or age 50 if you are disabled.)

Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse who is 60 or older (age 50 if disabled) will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors receiving benefits.

In general, you cannot receive survivors benefits if you remarry before the age of 60 unless the latter marriage ends, whether by death, divorce, or annulment.

You may want to delay receipt of benefits as long as possible. Delaying initiation will give you a higher monthly benefit.

is there such thing as back pay for survivors, my dad pass in 1975, when I was 5 years old and my brother was 3 years old, Im 42 years old now and just begining to find there is such thing as Survivor Benefits, My mom remarried in 1976. I know its been a long time but I think its worth a try! I do not know my fathers employment history! Please let me know! so I can put this to a closure, Thx

I was widowed in 1995, remarried and widowed again in 2005. I have not remarried. I am 71 years of age, and collect my own social security benefit. Under these circumstances, am I eligible for any widow's survivor benefits? If so, are they retroactive?

I'm not sure of the details of your case, but I would check with the SSA as you may qualify for higher survivor (widow) benefits.

If you remarry before you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), you cannot receive benefits as a surviving spouse while you are married UNLESS the remarriage ends by death, divorce, or annulment.

Since your later marriage ended, you may qualify for survivor benefits on either the first or the second husband's record.

I have seen indications survivor benefits may be paid retroactively for up to six months.

My husband is 71 and receives $1750 SSA benefits. I am 67 and receive just under $1200 on my own benefits. Will I be eligible for his benefits instead of mine when he passes?

I could survive on his benefits, but not on mine.

Your survivor benefit amount would be based on the earnings of the person who died. The more he or she paid into Social Security, the higher your benefits would be.

If you are getting retirement benefits on your own record, you will need to apply for the survivor benefits. Call or visit the SSA. They will check to see whether you can get a higher benefit as a widow or widower.

My ex-husband and I were married 28+ years when we divorced, I have never remarried although he has. Currently, his health is not the best. I know that a marriage of at least 10 years entitles me to draw from his account; can I still do so if he dies before I reach retirement age (he has not yet begun to draw social security since he is not disabled and we are both just 57).

Yes, it sounds like you would qualify for survivor benefits. You can receive full benefits at full retirement age (FRA) for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60. Your FRA is 66 years if you were born in 1954.

If possible, you may want to delay initiation of Social Security survivor benefits well past age 60. Each month you start early reduces your monthly benefit by about 0.4 percent.


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