These Americans Aren’t Eligible to Get Social Security


  • Nearly 90% of Americans age 65 or older receive Social Security benefits.
  • Eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits is based on work history.
  • There are several reasons you may be unable to claim benefits.

Social Security is a significant source of retirement income for millions of Americans. According to the Social Security Administration, nearly 9 in 10 people age 65 or older received these benefits in June 2023, and their payments represented about 30% of their income.

While most people are eligible for Social Security — officially known as Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance — some may be in for a surprise when they file. Maybe they didn’t work long enough to qualify or have a pension that offsets their expected Social Security payments.

Whether you plan to retire in the next few years or the next few decades, it’s important to understand who is eligible for Social Security and what types of Americans might have to do without this cash during their golden years.

Who is eligible for Social Security?

Social Security benefits typically come in one of three forms for retirees:

  • Retirement benefits.
  • Spousal benefits.
  • Survivors benefits.

For more information on these types of benefits and whether you are eligible, create an account on the Social Security website.

Who isn’t eligible to receive Social Security?

In some cases, even people with long work histories may find they aren’t eligible for retirement benefits. The following are some types of Americans not eligible to get Social Security.

People who haven’t worked for 10 years

Not working long enough is the most obvious reason someone wouldn’t be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. You must have a work history of at least 10 years to earn the credits you need to be eligible for Social Security as a retiree.

Workers who don’t pay Social Security taxes

It’s possible that someone worked for 10 years but isn’t eligible for Social Security because they didn’t pay taxes into the system.

Government workers with pensions

Certain employees don’t pay into the Social Security system and therefore don’t earn Social Security credits. But some of those workers may have second jobs where they do pay Social Security taxes.

Some retirees living outside the country

Retiring abroad is a dream for many people. Assuming you are a U.S. citizen, you can continue receiving your Social Security benefits unless you live in a country with Social Security payment restrictions.

Anyone incarcerated for more than 30 days

Prisoners are another group that is not eligible for Social Security payments. Once someone is convicted of a crime and incarcerated for more than 30 days, their benefits are suspended.

Individuals who die before age 62

Some Americans will not be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits because they do not live long enough to claim them.

Here are some resources for further information:

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