Q: Doesn't Social Security pay money to many people who are not really paying into it?—L.V.
A: Yes. Social Security provides a variety of benefits to people who have not paid into the system. If one meets certain eligibility criteria, one can be eligible for benefits based on another person’s account. Here are some examples:
- Spousal and/or divorced spouse retirement benefits based on spouse’s or former spouse’s account.
- Survivors benefits for a spouse and/or divorced spouse based on the deceased account.
- Disabled survivors benefits for a spouse and/or divorced spouse based on the deceased account.
- Minor or disabled child’s benefit based on a living or a deceased parent’s account.
- Dependent* parent benefit based on account of person who has reached age 62.
*Parent must receive at least one-half of his or her support from that individual.
Eligibility criteria vary according to the type of benefit. The amount of benefits is determined by things such as the worker’s earning record, age when the benefit was started, and other factors. For more information about whether you might be eligible for any of the above types of benefits visit http://www.ssa.gov or call Social Security toll-free (800) 772-1213.
Social Security coverage to persons who have not worked long enough under the system to draw benefits on their own account is of major significance in the debate to allow individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes into private retirement accounts. As proposed, private Social Security retirement accounts would unlikely be able to provide the extent of coverage the current program now offers.
As our nation begins to deal with the problems of the long-term financing of Social Security, we face some very difficult decisions. To what extent should individuals be required to save for their own retirement and to what extent should the government provide for those who cannot or have not been able to save? Proposals for reform have yet to provide answers.