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How Do I Claim Survivors Benefits from Social Security?

form for social security survivors benefitsWhen a family loses the sole wage earner, it can be not only emotionally devastating, but also financially burdensome. However, if a Social Security recipient passes away, his or her surviving dependents may be eligible to receive survivors benefits based on the recipient’s earnings.

The Harrisburg-based Social Security Disability lawyers at Schmidt Kramer further discuss the requirements involved to claim survivors benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you need help applying for survivors benefits or have already had your claim denied, learn more about your available legal options during a free consultation. There is no risk in calling us and no obligation to hire our firm.

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How Are Survivors Benefits Earned?

When an individual works and pays Social Security taxes, he or she can earn credits toward his or her Social Security benefits. A worker is able to earn up to four credits every year.

The number of work credits needed for family members to receive survivors benefits will depend on the worker’s age at the time of death. The younger the individual is, the fewer credits that individual needs to provide benefits to his or her survivors.

Even if a worker does not have enough credits, Social Security can issue benefits to his or her children or surviving spouse who cares for his or her children. The individual must have worked for one and one-half years – obtaining 6 work credits – within the three years prior to his or her death.

Eligibility for Survivors Benefits

Family members who may be eligible to receive survivors benefits from Social Security include:

  • Spouses (widow or widower) age 60 or older
  • Disabled spouses age 50 or older
  • Spouses of any age who care for a child of the deceased under age 16
  • Spouses of any age who care for a disabled child of the deceased
  • Unmarried children of the deceased who are up to age 19 and a full-time elementary or secondary student
  • Unmarried children of the deceased who are age 18 or older and have a disability that started before age 22

In certain circumstances, divorced spouses may also qualify for survivors benefits in addition to:

  • Stepchildren
  • Grandchildren
  • Step grandchildren
  • Adopted children
  • Parents age 62 or older who depended on the deceased for at least half of their support

If you are looking to apply for survivors benefits, you must visit your local Social Security field office or call an SSA representative. You cannot apply for survivors benefits online.

How Much Are Survivors Benefits?

The amount paid in survivors benefits depends on the earnings of the individual who passed away. The more he or she paid into Social Security, the higher these benefits could be.

The SSA will use the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount in order to calculate the percentage survivors may be eligible to receive. This percentage will depend on two factors:

  • The age of the survivor
  • The survivor’s relationship to the deceased

Generally, in most claims for survivors benefits:

  • 100 percent of the deceased’s benefit amount is given to a spouse (widow or widower) who has reached full retirement age or older
  • 71 and a half to 99 percent of the deceased’s benefit amount is given to a spouse (widow or widower) who is age 60 or older but under full retirement age
  • 71 and a half percent is given to a disabled spouse between age 50 and 59
  • 75 percent is given to the deceased's spouse with a child under age 16
  • 75 percent is given to the deceased’s child if under age 18 or disabled

Lump-Sum Death Payment 

A surviving spouse or child could also be eligible to receive a lump-sum death payment of $255 if certain requirements are met. This payment is typically issued to the surviving spouse who was living with the deceased when he or she passed away.

If they were not living in the same household, the surviving spouse may still be able to receive this payment. This may be true if, during the month the worker passed away, the spouse was receiving benefits on the deceased’s record or became eligible for benefits when the worker passed away.

If there is no surviving spouse, this payment could be issued to the deceased’s child or children. This may be true if during the month the worker passed away the child was receiving benefits on the deceased’s record or became eligible for benefits when the worker passed away.

If eligible, you have two years from the date of your loved one’s death to apply for this payment.

Get Answers to Your Social Security Questions

Need help obtaining survivor's benefits or other benefits from the SSA?

Schmidt Kramer is prepared to offer guidance. Our firm has assisted many claimants over the years in applying for disability or appealing a denied application. We know what it takes to strengthen a claim.

Reach out to set up a free consultation with a member of our legal team. You are under no obligation to hire us after this meeting, but if you do, there are no upfront fees to retain our services.

Talk to a licensed lawyer today. Call: (717) 888-8888