Q. My sister died last month of a heart attack leaving behind a husband and four children. Her husband worked out of town, but when this happened, he had to take a lower paying job to stay at home with the kids. I called social security and they said that the family would receive nothing. I just can’t believe they punish all housewives. Isn’t there anything that she could receive? It just doesn’t sound right.

A. Social Security is an insurance program covering workers and their dependents. Had your sister earned Social Security work credits equal to one-fourth of the years between age 21 and the year of her death, she would have been insured. Her husband would have received a $255 lump sum death benefit and her children would have been eligible for cash benefits through age 18 – through age 19 if still in high school. With as little as one year of work in the paid labor force, your sister was not insured for benefits.