Coverage for survivors benefits under Social Security is based on the insurance status of the deceased. In order to become insured for survivors benefits, a person must work at a job covered by Social Security. A person can earn up to four Social Security credits each year, based on his or her earnings in a covered job. The number of credits a person needs to qualify for Survivors Insurance depends on how old the person is when he or she dies.

A person is fully insured for survivors benefits if he or she has at least 40 credits (or 10 years of work) at death; fewer credits are required for workers who die before age 62. Spouses, former spouses, children, and parents of fully insured workers are eligible for all types of survivors benefits as long as they meet the other requirements for those benefits. In 2005, 87 percent of Social Security-covered Americans over age 20 were fully insured.

A deceased worker