A woman staring pensively out her window after using her laptop.

What are Social Security Survivor Benefits?

Social security benefits are mostly known for those of partial or full retirement age, though there are several different types of benefits, such as survivor benefits. The official name of the program is Old-Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) which helps your spouse or dependents receive a passed-on spouse’s social security benefits on top of their own. 

Below you’ll find information that gives a more in-depth understanding of a widow’s social security benefit derived from their spouse and some advice on how to navigate the complex rules of the program. 

Who Qualifies for Social Security Survivors Benefits?

To qualify for social security survivor benefits, you’ll have to meet the requirements for eligibility, which include:

  • You must be a widow or widower of any age who is caring for the deceased’s child or children under the age of 16, or who are disabled.
    • Step-children, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, and adopted children can be included under certain circumstances
  • A widow or widower who is 60 years older or more who has not remarried
  • Any unmarried children of the deceased who are younger than 18 years old or have a disability that surfaced before 22 years old.
  • Parents that are 62 years or older that were dependent on the deceased for at least half of their income and whose social security income would not be larger than of the deceased’s children. 
  • A surviving divorced spouse may receive benefits if they meet other eligibility requirements

Another point of qualification is shared with social security retirement requirements, meaning you would have to have worked a certain number of years and gained the proper amount of credits each year for your loved ones to be eligible for the benefits. 

How are Social Security Benefits Calculated for a Widow?

How the benefits are calculated for a widow can quickly become complex as there are several provisions for different circumstances. One such provision is the one-time death benefit payment of $225, which can be issued if the deceased spouse either lived with the widow(er) or was receiving social security benefits on their record. If there is no surviving spouse, the one-time payment can be given to a child who is eligible for the benefits. Another provision is if the death leaves a spouse with dependent children, which allows the benefits to be paid to them if the deceased had earned at least 6 credits within the three calendar years prior to their passing. 

To gain the benefits, a specific amount of credits are needed to be eligible, depending on the age of the spouse who has passed. The younger they are, the fewer credits are needed, but the maximum required is 40. Also, just as with the Social Security Administration’s retirement SSI program, the amount of survivors benefits depends on the average lifetime earnings of the spouse who passed. The more that was earned, the higher the benefit till a maximum amount is reached. 

How Big Can the Benefits Be for a Social Security Survivor?

The benefits survivors receive can depend on their age and the type of relationship they had with the deceased:

Widow(er) Benefits

If at the full retirement age, the surviving spouse can receive the total amount of the deceased’s benefits. If they are between the ages of 60 and full retirement age, they can receive between 71% to 99% of the amount. A disabled spouse between 50 and 59 years of age can receive up to 71%, and a spouse caring for a child under the age of 16 at any age can receive up to 75%. A divorced spouse, if they qualify as previously mentioned, can receive the same amounts listed above.

Children and Parent Benefits

Children under the age of 18, or 19 if still in school or disabled, can receive 75% of the deceased parent’s benefit. A parent that is dependent on the deceased is eligible to receive 82% of the benefits, but if both parents are alive and were dependents, then they each can collect 75%.

As you can see, it can become quite complicated to ensure you receive your social security from your loved one. Here at Marken Law Group, we have a comprehensive understanding of social security benefits for surviving spouses. We understand how stressful benefits can be and don’t want to add to your plate during this sad and stressful time. We have represented hundreds of claimants in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and California to obtain what is rightfully theirs. We focus on your individual needs and bring our extensive experience to help guide you through. 

Getting what you need to live and have what you deserve is too important to leave to chance. Partner with an experienced ally that is by your side from start to finish. Above all though, having qualified social security lawyers to help you through this process to secure your benefits.