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What are Survivor’s Benefits?


Survivor’s benefits are exactly what they sound like. They are benefits available to a surviving family member in the event of your passing. These benefits are available for a widow or widower, dependent child, grandchildren or elderly parents. These benefits are only available if the individual who passed worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits. If you are a survivor, you can receive benefits based on the deceased’s work history. For each type of survivor, there are specific requirements. See below for a detailed explanation of each.

Surviving Spouses. The surviving Spouse, known as the widow or widower, may be eligible for their deceased spouse’s disability benefits as long as a few requirements are met. There are approximately 5 million widows and widowers currently receiving monthly Social Security benefits based on their deceased spouse’s earnings record. This program was initially started when the typical household only had one income. Meaning one spouse worked while the other spouse cared for the home and raised the children. In the event the working spouse passes, survivor benefits would give the stay-at-home spouse some type of income to keep them out of poverty. There are several categories for a surviving spouse to qualify for the deceased’s benefits. One thing to keep in mind is that these benefits are only available if the deceased spouse was “currently insured.” Being insured means the deceased was working and paying social security taxes for the past 5 out of 10 years. If that was occurring then the individual should have current disability insurance. If you are unsure as to whether the deceased was currently insured you can either call an experienced SSD attorney or call the local SSA office yourself. In terms of the benefits available for the widow or widower, let’s go through each category.

The first category involves caring for the deceased spouse’s dependent children who are under the age of 16. If the dependent child is receiving survivor social security disability benefits, you as the caregiver would be eligible for 75% of the deceased spouse’s disability benefit.

The second category involves the widow being disabled themselves. If the widow is at least 50 years of age, and the disability began within seven years of the spouse’s death, you would be eligible to receive 71.5% of the deceased spouse’s disability benefit.

The third category is for widows who are age 60 or older. If you are 60 years old but not yet full retirement age, you are eligible to receive 71.5% of your deceased spouse’s disability benefit, no matter if you have disabled yourself or not. If you are full-retirement age then you will be eligible to receive 100% of your deceased spouse’s disability benefit.

One thing to keep in mind is that you are unable to apply for these benefits online. You must go to your local social security office in person to submit an application for these benefits. The reason being, there are many different types of programs you may qualify for and this way SSA will be able to determine which benefit fits your situation. It is possible your own retirement amount is higher than your deceased spouse’s retirement. In that situation, you would elect to take the higher benefit, that being your own rather than your spouse’s.

Another consideration deals with remarriage. Even after divorce, you may still be able to receive social security benefits based on your deceased spouse’s work history. This can happen as long as:

  • You are unmarried;
  • Your marriage lasted for at least 10 years;
  • You are age 62 or older; and
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to either social security retirement or disability benefits.

The benefits you would be eligible for are equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount. Keep in mind, this benefit is only for retirement. There is no disability benefit for a divorced spouse.

Dependent Children or Grandchildren. If you are a child, with a deceased parent who was receiving SSDI, the child of a deceased SSDI recipient may be eligible to receive survivor benefits as long as the child is younger than the age of 18 and is unmarried. Children include natural children, adopted children, stepchildren and grandchildren. You would be eligible to receive 75% of the deceased parent’s disability benefit until your 18th birthday. If you are 18 or older you may be eligible for Adult Children benefits. In this situation, you could receive benefits if you are under 19 years of age and are a full-time school in high school. The other possibility is if you are disabled and became disabled prior to the age of 22. These would be called disabled adult children benefits and would comprise of again 75% of the deceased parent’s disability benefit.

Dependent Elderly Parents. Parents may be eligible for their deceased child’s disability benefit as long as the disabled child was providing substantial support to the elderly parent. The disabled child must have been providing at least half of the parent’s support at the time of death; the parent must be at least age 62, and the parent must not have married since their disabled child’s death. This is also assuming the elderly parent is not eligible to receive their own social security benefits. If you are found to be a dependent elderly parent, you would receive 82.5% of your deceased child’s disability benefits. If there are two surviving parents, each parent would then receive 75% of the deceased child’s benefits.

If you are faced with the unfortunate situation where a family member passes away, you should seek advice from an experienced social security disability attorney as to how to proceed. There are a number of survivor programs out there. It is simply a matter of seeing which program you qualify for. If you have questions, please free to call us at Labovick, LaBovick & Diaz for a free consultation as to your potential benefits. Please call us directly at (561) 623-3681.

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