Social Security Survivors Benefits

Last Updated: October 20, 2020

Written by the Open Caregiving Team. Editorial review by Joyce O. Murphy RN, MSN.

What are Social Security Survivors Benefits?

The Social Security survivors benefits program offers payments to the spouse, parent, or children of eligible, deceased workers.

Who is entitled to Social Security survivors benefits?

To be eligible for Social Security Survivors Benefits:

  • Your deceased loved one must have earned enough Social Security working credits through paying social security taxes.
    • The Social Security Administration (SSA) bases the required number of credits on how old the person is when they pass.
    • No individual needs more than 40 credits (10 years of working and paying social security tax).
    • The younger someone is when they die, the fewer credits they need for their dependents to be eligible.
  • You as the survivor must be:
    • The surviving spouse and at least 60 years old (if you are a spouse and are disabled, you only have to be 50 years old).
      • If you are the surviving spouse and caring for the deceased’s child (who is younger than 17 years old or is disabled) you may also be eligible.
    • An unmarried child of the deceased person and:
      • Under the age of 18 or over the age of 18 with a disability if it started before the age of 22.
    • The deceased person’s parent who is at least 62 years old and depended on the deceased for at least half of your financial support.
    • One of the following family members who are sometimes eligible:
      • A divorced spouse.
      • A dependent stepchild, grandchild, or adopted child.

Read more about eligibility on the SSA survivors benefits page. All Social Security survivors’ benefits situations are different. The best way to know if you or your family is eligible is to speak with a Social Security claims employee at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Or visit your local Social Security Office.

How do you apply for Social Security survivors benefits?

When your loved one passes, make sure the funeral home reports the death to the Social Security Administration. They will need the deceased person’s social security number.

After the funeral home reports the death to the SSA, you can call to speak with a Social Security Administration employee at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Or you can visit your local Social Security Office to apply for survivors benefits.

Can you get survivors benefits in addition to other Social Security benefits?

Yes, this is called “concurrent benefits” by the SSA.

If you are already getting Social Security Benefits from your spouse’s record when they pass, you do not need to apply for survivors benefits. It’s still a good idea to call to learn about what you’re eligible for.

Call an SSA office to apply for social security survivors benefits, even if you’re receiving social security retirement or disability benefits for yourself.

To apply you need certain documents based on your relationship with the deceased. To find out which documents you may need, visit SSA.gov survivors benefits and scroll down to the section called “Documents You Need to Apply.”

Continue learning about how Social Security works when a spouse dies on AARP.

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