You must be insured under the Social Security program before retirement, survivors, or disability benefits can be paid to you or your family. We consider the number of quarters of coverage you earned to determine if you are insured. You earn a quarter of coverage (QC)—also called a "credit"—for a certain amount of work covered under Social Security, but you may earn no more than 4 QCs per year. Generally you need to be fully insured to receive Social Security benefits, but other requirements may also apply.
To be fully insured, you need at least one QC for each calendar year after you turned 21 and the earliest of the following:
- the year before you attain age 62,
- the year before you die, or
- the year before you become disabled.
The minimum number of QCs needed is 6. The maximum number needed is 40. Any year (all or part of a year) that was included in a period of disability is not included in determining the number of QCs you need.
You are permanently insured if you are fully insured and you will not lose your fully-insured status when you stop working under covered employment.
- You have earned the maximum 40 QCs, so you are permanently (and fully) insured.
- You were born in 1949 and worked under covered employment in 1971-77, earning a total of 28 QCs. You attained age 21 in 1970. You were fully insured after you earned 6 QCs and you continued to be fully insured if you were to die or become disabled before the end of 1999 (1998 less 1970 is 28). After 1999 you were no longer fully insured. Because you earned only 28 QCs, you were never permanently insured.
You have disability-insured status if you:
- have earned at least 20 QCs during the last 10 years, and
- are fully insured.