Title II of the Social Security Act pertains to Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance benefits. The Social Security program pays benefits to retired or disabled workers and their families, and to the families of deceased workers.
To be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, an individual must be at least 62 years old, have worked, paid Social Security taxes, earned at least 40 credits (10 years of work) and apply.
To be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, an individual must be disabled (unable to engage in substantial gainful activity), earned a minimum number of credits from work covered under Social Security and apply. Generally, you need 20 credits earned in the last 10 years, ending with the year you became disabled. However, younger workers may qualify with fewer credits.
When a person dies, certain members of the family may be eligible for survivors' benefits if the deceased worked, paid Social Security taxes, and earned enough credits. The number of credits a person needs depends on their age at the time of death. The younger a person is, the fewer credits are needed for family members to be eligible for survivors' benefits. However, nobody needs more than 40 credits to be eligible for any Social Security benefit.
A former spouse can receive benefits under the same circumstances as a widow/widower if the marriage lasted 10 years or more. Survivors benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors receiving benefits.
For more information, you may want to read, "Social Security Retirement Benefits," publication number 05-10035, "Social Security Survivors Benefits" publication number 05-10084, and "Social Security Disability Benefits" publication number 05-10029. You can access these and other publications on the Internet at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/englist.html