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Apply For Social Security Survivor Benefits

Apply For Survivors Benefits

Who qualifies for Social Security survivor benefits?

You should notify us immediately when a person dies. However, you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online.

In most cases, the funeral home will report the persons death to us. You should give the funeral home the deceased persons Social Security number if you want them to make the report.

If you need to report a death or apply for benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 . You can speak to a Social Security representative between 8:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can find the phone number for your local office by using our Social Security Office Locator and looking under Social Security Office Information. The toll-free Office number is your local office.

If you are not getting benefits

If you are not getting benefits, you should apply for survivors benefits promptly because, in some cases, benefits may not be retroactive.

If you are getting benefits

If you are getting benefits on your spouse’s or parent’s record:

  • You generally will not need to file an application for survivors benefits.
  • We’ll automatically change any monthly benefits you receive to survivors benefits after we receive the report of death.
  • We may be able to pay the automatically.

If you are getting retirement or disability benefits on your own record:

  • You will need to apply for the survivors benefits.
  • We will check to see whether you can get a higher benefit as a widow or widower.

What Is A Partial Survivor Benefit

Under the Civil Service Retirement System , a retiree can elect to provide less than the maximum survivor benefit. A partial survivor election is based on 55 percent of the annual base amount you choose. For example, if you choose a survivor base of $3,600, then the benefit will be 55 percent of $3,600, which would be a survivor benefit of $1,980 per year or $165 per month. By law, you must attach the form Spouse Consent to Survivor Election to your CSRS application. The form must be signed by your spouse in the presence of a notary.

Under the Federal Employees Retirement System , individuals can elect a partial survivor benefit which is based on 25 percent of one unreduced annual base annuity. Your spouse must complete and attach Spouse Consent to Survivor Election to your application.

How Long Does The Application Process Take And When Will I Get My First Check

It will usually take 30-60 days for you to start receiving your payment. Once the SSA has received your application and approved it they should process and send out your check shortly afterward.

If you do not hear anything back from the SSA or receive your approval you can check your application status by calling your local Social Security office.

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What Are Death Benefits

The Death Benefit is a one-time lump-sum payment for the spouse of the deceased.

The Death Benefit will be paid to the surviving spouse if they lived with their deceased partner before they died, or if they lived apart but were receiving Social Security Benefits from their partner.

If there is no living spouse of the deceased the payment will be made to a child who is eligible to receive the benefits.

The lump-sum payment will be $255.

You May Qualify For Legal Assistance

Social Security Survivor Benefits and Food Stamps?

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How Does Social Security Help You When Your Loved One Dies

When someone dies, you should notify the Social Security Administration as soon as you can.

The Social Security Administration will provide information and access to certain benefits when your spouse has died.

There is a one-time Death Benefit, payments under Survivors Benefits, and you may be eligible to apply for your deceased spouses Social Security Retirement benefits.

To learn more about these provisions read on or view this link. .

If You’re Not Sure Why You Received A Payment

If you receive a check or direct deposit payment from the Treasury Department and do not know what its for, contact the regional financial center that issued it. Only the agency that authorized the payment can explain why you received it.

If you received a check, look for the RFCs city and state at the top center. Then contact that RFC to find out which federal agency authorized the payment. It will be one of these:

If you received payment byelectronic funds transfer , or direct deposit, follow the directions under Find Information About a Payment.

Use the Treasury Check Verification System to verify that the check is legitimate and issued by the government.

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Other Things You Need To Know

There are limits on how much survivors may earn while they receive benefits.

Benefits for a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse may be affected by several additional factors:

  • If you remarry before age 60 , you cannot receive benefits as a surviving spouse while you are married.
  • If you remarry after age 60 , you will continue to qualify for benefits on your deceased spouse’s Social Security record.
  • However, if your current spouse is a Social Security beneficiary, you may want to apply for spouse’s benefits on their record. If that amount is more than your widow’s or widower’s benefit, you will receive a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount.

  • If you receive benefits as a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62. This assumes you are eligible for retirement benefits and your retirement rate is higher than your rate as a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse.
  • In many cases, a widow or widower can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and allow the other benefit amount to increase.
  • If you will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government or foreign work, your Social Security benefits as a survivor may be affected.

If You Are The Survivor

How to Apply for Social Security Survivor Benefits for Spouse

Just as you plan for your family’s protection if you die, you should consider the Social Security benefits that may be available if you are the survivor that is, the spouse, child, or parent of a worker who dies. That person must have worked long enough under Social Security to qualify for benefits.

How Your Spouse Earns Social Security Survivors Benefits

A worker can earn up to four credits each year. In 2022, for example, your spouse can earn one credit for each $1,510 of wages or self-employment income. When your spouse has earned $6,040 they have earned their four credits for the year.

The number of credits needed to provide benefits for survivors depends on the worker’s age when they die. No one needs more than 40 credits to be eligible for any Social Security benefit. But, the younger a person is, the fewer credits they must have for family members to receive survivors benefits.

Some survivors can get benefits if the worker has credit for one and one-half years of work in the three years just before their death. Each persons situation is different and you need to talk to one of our claims representatives about your choices.

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Effect Of Delaying Retirement Benefits

1Represents Full Retirement Age based on DOB January 2, 1960

2PIA = The primary insurance amount is the basis for benefits that are paid to an individual

That higher baseline would last for the rest of your retirement and serve as the basis for future increases linked to inflation. While it’s important to consider your personal circumstancesâit’s not always possible to wait, particularly if you are in poor health or can’t afford to delayâthe benefits of waiting can be significant.

Be aware that if you decide to wait past age 65, you may still need to sign up for Medicare. In some circumstances your Medicare coverage may be delayed and cost more if you don’t sign up at age 65. If you start Social Security benefits early, you’ll automatically be enrolled into Medicare Parts A and B when you turn age 65.

Your annual Social Security statement will list your projected benefits between age 62 to 70, assuming you continue to work and earn about the same amount through those ages. If you need a copy of your annual statement, you can request one or view it online on the Social Security Administration portal.

What Is A Social Security Card

Your Social Security card is an important piece of identification. You’ll need one to get a job, collect Social Security, or receive other government benefits.

When you apply for a Social Security number , the Social Security Administration will assign you a nine-digit number. This is the same number that is printed on the Social Security card that SSA will issue you. If you change your name, you will need to get a corrected card.

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What We Will Ask You

If the worker is deceased, we will also ask you:

  • The worker’s date of birth and his or her name at birth
  • The worker’s date of death and the place of death
  • The State or foreign country of the worker’s fixed permanent residence at the time of death
  • Whether the worker was unable to work because of illnesses, injuries or conditions at any time during the 14 months before his or her death.
  • Whether the worker was in the active military service before 1968 or ever worked for the railroad industry.
  • Whether the worker earned Social Security credits under another country’s Social Security system
  • Whether the worker was employed or self-employed in all years from 1978 through last year
  • How much the worker earned in the year of death and the year before death
  • Whether the worker ever filed for Social Security benefits, Medicare or Supplemental Security Income. and
  • Whether each child was living with the worker at the time of death.

Depending on the information you provide, we may need to ask other questions.


You also should have with you your checkbook or other papers that show your account number at a bank, credit union or other financial institution so you can sign up for Direct Deposit, and avoid worries about lost or stolen checks and mail delays.

Minor Or Disabled Child

Social Security Survivor Benefits

Any child under 18 or up to 19 if they are in school full time can be eligible for Survivors Benefits. If you were disabled before 22 years of age and are still disabled you could also qualify for benefits.

Any stepchildren, natural children, grandchildren, or step-grandchildren could also be eligible to receive Survivors Benefits.

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How Do I Provide A Survivor Benefit For My New Spouse

If you get married after retirement, you can elect a reduced annuity to provide a survivor annuity for your spouse. You must make this election within 2 years of the date of your marriage.

Under the Civil Service Retirement System , you can elect any portion of your annuity as a basis for the survivor benefit payable in the event of your death.

Under the Federal Employees Retirement System , a full benefit is 50 percent of your unreduced annual basic annuity and a partial benefit is 25 percent of your unreduced annual basic annuity.

If you remarry the same person to whom you were married at retirement, you cannot elect a survivor annuity greater than the one you elected at retirement.

A post-retirement marriage will result in two reductions in your annuity if you elect to provide the survivor benefit. One will be the reduction to provide the survivor benefit. The first reduction depends on the amount you elect for the survivor annuity.

Your annuity is also reduced by a permanent actuarial reduction equal to the difference between the new annuity rate with the survivor benefit and the old one without the survivor benefit since your retirement, plus 6 percent interest. In most cases, the actuarial reduction amount is less than 5 percent of your annuity. The actuarial reduction continues even if the marriage ends.

When you contact us, we’ll send you a statement describing the cost of the election and ask you to confirm your election.

Getting A Social Security Number For A New Baby

The easiest way to get a Social Security number for your child is at the hospital after they are born when you apply for your childs birth certificate. If you wait to apply for a number at a Social Security office, there may be delays while SSA verifies your childs birth certificate.

Your child will need their own Social Security number so you can:

  • Claim your child as a dependent on your income tax return
  • Open a bank account in their name
  • Get medical coverage for them
  • Apply for government services for them

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How Do Benefits Work And How Can I Qualify

While you work, you pay Social Security taxes. This tax money goes into a trust fund that pays benefits to:

  • Those who are currently retired
  • To people with disabilities
  • To the surviving spouses and children of workers who have died

Each year you work, youll get credits to help you become eligible for benefits when its time for you to retire. Find all the benefits Social Security Administration offers.

There are four main types of benefits that the SSA offers:

  • Learn about earning limits if you plan to work while receiving Social Security benefits

How To Apply For Survivors Benefits

How Do Social Security Survivor Benefits Work?

Have you lost a loved one in a sudden accident? If you have lost your spouse you may be eligible to receive survivors benefits.

If you have young children at home, these benefits can help you continue providing for them.

Losing a loved one is a very stressful and challenging experience. Finding emotional and financial support will be vital for you and your family.

The Social Security Administration provides support in the form of benefits for widows, widowers, and children of eligible workers.

These benefits can help the surviving family cover funeral expenses and costs of daily living.

This article will go over what Survivors Benefits include, who qualifies to receive them, and the application process.

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What’s Full Retirement Age

Full retirement age is when you’re eligible to receive full Social Security benefits. Your full retirement age depends on your birth year: For anyone born in 1960 or later, full retirement age is 67. For those born in 1955 through to the end of 1959 , full retirement age ranges between 66 and 2 months and 66 and 10 months. If you were born before 1955, you’ve already reached age 66 and full retirement age.

How Do My Survivors Apply For Benefits

The appropriate application for death benefits under the CSRS or FERS must be filed with an original signature to OPM. Your survivor should include the following relevant documents with the application:

  • A certified copy of the death certificate
  • If not already on file, a copy of your marriage certificate
  • Copies of birth certificates of eligible children
  • A certified copy of any divorce decree, and property settlement agreement, that occurred on or after May 7, 1985

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Documents You May Need To Provide

We may ask you to provide documents to show that you are eligible, such as:

  • Proof of the worker’s death
  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the United States
  • U.S. military discharge paper if you had military service before 1968
  • For disability benefits, the two forms that describe your medical condition and authorize disclosure of information to us
  • W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns for last year
  • Final divorce decree, if applying as a surviving divorced spouse and


We accept photocopies of W-2 forms, self-employment tax returns or medical documents, but we must see the original of most other documents, such as your birth certificate.

Do not delay filing your claim just because you do not have all the documents. We will help you get them.

When A Family Member Dies

This page lists the types of survivors benefits available if you are ...

We should be notified as soon as possible when a person dies. However, you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online.

If you need to report a death or apply for benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 . You can speak to one of our representatives between 8:00 am 7:00 pm. Monday through Friday. You can also contact your local Social Security office.

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Get Help With Your Survivors Benefits

You may want to consider hiring a disability benefits lawyer or advocate to help you with your survivors benefits. A lawyer or advocate will help you with your benefits application and gathering the necessary evidence and documentation. If your benefits application is denied, a lawyer can also help you with your appeal process.

Do We Pay Death Benefits

A one-time lump-sum death payment of $255 can be paid to the surviving spouse if they were living with the deceased. If living apart, they were receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceaseds record.

If there is no surviving spouse, the payment is made to a child who is eligible for benefits on the deceaseds record in the month of death.

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