Most people think of Social Security as a retirement benefit, and that's understandable. Among the 61 million Americans receiving Social Security at the end of 2016, 68%--44.3 million people--were retired.
But Social Security's broad aim is to protect against the risk of lost income from work. The income loss might be due to retirement, disability, or to a survivor after the death of a family breadwinner. Last year, 14% of Social Security beneficiaries (10.6 million people) were disabled workers; the remaining 18% were survivors, spouses, or children of workers entitled to benefits.