Social Security is a welfare and insurance program that typically benefits disabled, unemployed, or elderly people. Many countries have their own version of these programs, each geared toward ensuring the healthy existence of those who cannot work due to physical or economic circumstances. The criteria for Social Security eligibility vary considerably from country to country, but most take into account several common factors.
In most countries, Social Security eligibility requires a few basic standards. All applicants must be citizens of the country to which they are applying for benefits, for instance. Most Social Security programs are paid through taxes levied on income and other transactions. A citizen of the country will likely have paid into the Social Security system through taxes for their entire working life. Most countries believe that it is only fair that those who have paid into the system should be able to apply for benefits.
One of the most common Social Security eligibility criteria is age. Most countries with a Social Security plan feature some services designed to help the elderly who can no longer perform their jobs safely or in a manner that allows them to remain competitive with younger workers. Some countries have a set age to determine eligibility for retirement Social Security benefits, whereas other programs may be based on the industry in which the person worked and how old he or she was upon retiring. In the United States, for instance, railroad retirement benefits serve as a Social Security program for people who worked for railway companies, but the benefits and income may change depending on the person's age at retirement.
Disability caused by age, illness, or pre-existing condition may be another important factor in determining Social Security eligibility. Most programs include some form of health insurance, which may offer more or less benefits to those with disabilities. Some government agencies will require proof of disability in the form of medical records or testimony from medical professionals. Disabilities such as psychological disorders may not always qualify a person for additional benefits; check carefully with the Social Security agency for details about what conditions do or do not qualify.
Upon requesting Social Security benefits, applicants may be given several forms to fill out that outline some of the Social Security eligibility requirements. Typical questions include age, citizenship status, family size, marital status, work history, and health status. Some programs may also be extended to military or government personnel, so be certain to mention civil or military service if applicable. These forms, which are usually available online or at Social Security agencies, can help determine status and explain what qualifications are required for each available program.