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How To Apply For Social Security Survivor Benefits

What Is The Maximum Family Amount

How to Apply for Social Security Survivor Benefits for Spouse

The amount a family can receive is limited. There is a cap on the percentage of the deceased workers Social Security that the family can collect.

The limit can vary a little but generally, it is between 150% to 180% of the workers basic Social Security Benefits rate.

To read more about specific qualifications or factors that could make you ineligible click here.

Can I Qualify For Social Security Benefits Based On My Spouses Income

Short answer: in some cases.

Retirement benefits are based on your own earnings record. However, spousal and survivors Social Security benefits are based on your spouses earnings, whether the spouse is deceased or divorced from you.

Keep in mind that you can qualify for spousal or survivors Social Security benefits as well as your own retirement benefit but, Social Security wont let you add these amounts together. Instead, you will receive whichever benefit is larger.

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What Happens If The Deceased Received Monthly Benefits

If the deceased was receiving Social Security benefits, you must return the benefit received for the month of death and any later months.

For example, if the person died in July, you must return the benefits paid in August. How you return the benefits depends on how the deceased received benefits:

  • For funds received by direct deposit, contact the bank or other financial institution. Request that any funds received for the month of death or later be returned to us.
  • Benefits received by check must be returned to us as soon as possible. Do not cash any checks received for the month in which the person dies or later.

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Strategy: Why Filing Early For Retirement Benefits Could Be Best

Unfortunately, you dont get much of a say so as to when you file for survivors benefits or disability benefits. But you DO get to decide when to apply for your retirement benefits. For a household with children, the decision when to begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits is just more complicated. The penalty for not understanding the rules and the resulting difference in lifetime benefits can be enormous.

In many cases, there are many reasons to delay filing for Social Security benefits. But not all cases are the same! If you have kids at home, and are thinking about filing for Social Security, filing early could make more sense. Why? Your children cannot collect a Social Security benefit until you file.

Consider the difference in lifetime benefit amounts for a couple with the following circumstances.

Roger is 62 and his wife is 46. They have two kids at home, ages 8 & 10. Roger is financially well off enough to stop working and can be flexible on what age he begins to collect Social Security.

If Roger waits until his full retirement age, hell get $2,000 per month. If he files now, hell only get $1,500 per month. He ran the numbers and figured out that if he lived to 90, hed receive an additional $70,000 in benefits for delaying filing until 66 instead of filing at 62.

Heres how

If You’re Not Sure Why You Received A Payment

If My Spouse Dies, Do I Get His Social Security and Mine?

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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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.

How To Apply For Social Security Survivor Benefits

When a loved one passes away there are certain steps you must take to apply for Social Security survivor benefits. The first is reporting their death to the Social Security Administration, which the funeral home may do for you. You can also call yourself to report the death and begin the application process. The number for that is 1-800-772-1213. If you want to apply in person you should contact your local Social Security office first to make sure its open for in-person appointments.

Youll need certain documents to apply and what you need depends on your status. So for example, the list may include:

  • Birth certificate or other proof of birth benefits)
  • Proof of citizenship

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How Your Social Security Benefits Are Earned

To be eligible for Social Security benefits in retirement, you must earn at least 40 credits throughout your career. You can earn as many as four credits each year, so it takes 10 years of work to qualify for Social Security.

In 2021, you must earn $1,470 to get one Social Security work credit and $5,880 to get the maximum four credits for the year.

Apply For Survivors Benefits

Social Security Survivor Benefits 101 – How It Works

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.

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Qualifying For Social Security Disability

In order to be eligible for Social Security Disability, individuals must fit several qualification criteria put forth by the SSA.

First, any potential claimant must be able to prove to the SSA that he or she is permanently disabled, or suffering from a condition that has lasted, or is expected to last, more than 12 calendar months. Because of this time guideline, it is important that claimants keep their medical records and other paperwork organized and up to date to prevent any confusion or question about the extent of a disability.

In addition, the SSA will attempt to make a judgment as to whether or not a claimants disabling condition prevents the individual from achieving any type of substantial gainful activity. The condition must not only prevent the claimant from performing the duties of his or her previous employment, but also make it impossible to find a new line of work due to age, education, or impairment.

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For Your Surviving Divorced Spouse

If you have a surviving divorced spouse, they could get the same benefits as your widow or widower if that marriage lasted 10 years or more.

Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse won’t affect the benefit amounts your other survivors will receive based on your earnings record.

after they reach age 60

If your former spouse is caring for your child who is under age 16 who has a disability and gets benefits on your record, they will not have to meet the length-of-marriage rule. The child must be your natural or legally adopted child.

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Survivors Benefits If You Have Children

If your spouse dies and you have children with them under the age of 16, then , you can receive up to 75% of your spouses benefit. Similarly, if your spouse has children under 16 by a previous marriage, that spouse may receive up to 75% of your spouses benefit. Also, each child, up to the age of 18, or 19 if still in secondary school or disabledmay also receive up to 75%.

The maximum a family can receive is up to 180% of the workers PIA. If ex-spouses receive benefits, it does not in any way impact the amount a current spouse will receive . However, if you qualify because you have the workers child in your care, your benefit will affect the amount of the benefits of others on the workers record.

If a spouse or former spouse is not caring for the children of the deceased worker, they may still apply for benefits on their own, if they are at least 60 .

How Do I Provide A Survivor Benefit For My New Spouse

Teen Eligibility for Social Security Survivor Benefits?

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, well send you a statement describing the cost of the election and ask you to confirm your election.

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May I Receive The Survivor Annuity And Social Security Benefits

You may receive a CSRS survivor annuity and social security payments. You may receive a FERS survivor annuity and social security payments. However, if you are the survivor of a FERS retiree, you cannot receive the FERS survivor supplement if you are eligible for social security mother, father or disability benefits based on the deceased annuitants account. Please contact the local office of the Social Security Administration for information about social security benefits.

If you receive social security benefits based on your own employment, there may be a reduction in the social security benefit you receive based on your deceased spouse’s service. Contact the Social Security Administration for more information about the Government Pension Offset at .

See the information below about benefits which may be payable to the surviving spouse of a deceased annuitant who was covered by the Civil Service Retirement System Offset program. Under these circumstances, a survivor may be eligible for both a CSRS annuity and social security benefits.

Lost Or Stolen Federal Payments

Report your lost, missing, or stolen federal check to the agency that issued the payment. It’s usually one of these paying agencies. If your documentation indicates it’s a different agency, and you need its contact information, look in the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies.

To get an update on your claim, contact the Treasury Department Philadelphia Financial Center at 1-855-868-0151, option 1.

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How Do Social Security Survivor Benefits Work

If you are working and paying into Social Security, some taxes go toward survivors benefits. The more you pay into Social Security, the higher your benefits will be for eligible family members.

In the event of your death, your family could be eligible for benefits based on your earnings. However, you must have worked long enough to qualify for benefits.

For example, workers paying into the Social Security system earn up to four work credits a year. Once you reach 40 credits, your family members may be eligible for survivor benefits if you die. On average, it takes ten years to earn 40 credits.

Each eligible survivor is entitled to a percentage of a deceased workers benefits, depending on their relationship. However, families cannot receive more than 150% of the deceaseds benefits. The SSA will reduce all benefit amounts proportionally if the sum of benefits exceeds the limit.

Note: In some cases, families of workers who die young or have less than 40 credits can still qualify for survivors benefits. Also, the SSA can pay benefits to your children and your spouse caring for your children under a special rule.

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Three Important Factors When It Comes To Your Financial Life

How Do Social Security Survivor Benefits Work?

About 5 million widowed Americans get Social Security survivor benefits. If your spouse has passed, you may be eligible to collect them. This means that you could receive as much as 100% of your late spouses Social Security income.1,2

Some widows and widowers arent aware of these additional retirement benefits. Thats a shame, because they can provide significant financial help during a period of uncertainty.

You can file for survivor benefits at age 60. In fact, you can claim them as early as age 50 if you are disabled and if the condition that left you disabled began before or within seven years of your husbands or wifes death. In contrast, you cant put in a claim for spousal Social Security benefits until age 62.1,3

You have to call Social Security to apply for these benefits. Dial 800-772-1213 to do that . The SSA doesnt yet permit widows and widowers to apply for survivor benefits online.1

You are actually calling to make an appointment at your local Social Security office, where you can file your survivor benefits application. The SSA says that the process will be faster if you complete its Adult Disability Report beforehand and bring it with you. You can download this form.

If you are disabled and file for survivor benefits in your 50s, then you will be poised to collect 71.5% of your late spouses monthly Social Security income.2

Divorce is no barrier to survivor benefits. Divorced widows and widowers are eligible for them as well.2


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Minor Or Disabled Child

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.

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.

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