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When Your Spouse Dies Do You Get Their Social Security?

Losing a spouse can be one of life’s most painful and difficult experiences. There’s no question about it. Certainly, the loss of a spouse can often bring plenty of emotional distress – but in many cases, there can be financial stress as well. Every couple has a unique financial situation, but particularly for those who are disabled or of retirement age, Social Security benefits are an important source of income.

As a result, when an individual who was receiving Social Security benefits of one kind or another passes away, spouses often wonder if they are eligible for what are commonly known as “survivor’s benefits”. Whether or not a surviving spouse may receive those benefits can be dependent upon the type of benefit itself, as well as the circumstances involved.

Generally, there are various types of Social Security benefits that may be received – Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, and Social Security retirement benefits. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI):

SSDI is a monthly disability payment made by the federal government to those individuals who are disabled, and who have worked for a sufficient length of time at a job through which they have paid money into the Social Security system. If you are the surviving spouse of an individual who was receiving SSDI benefits, you may be eligible to receive survivor’s benefits. Depending upon which category of eligibility you fit into, you may be eligible to collect different percentages of that benefit. For example, if:

  • You care for a child under the age of 16 years old who receives survivor’s SSDI benefits from the deceased spouse, you may be eligible to receive 75% of the benefit.
  • You are at least 50 years old and disabled yourself, and your disability started either before your spouse died or within seven years of your spouse’s death, you may receive roughly 70% of your spouse’s benefit.
  • You are at least 60 years old, but not yet of full retirement age, you may receive between 70 to 99% of your deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit.
  • You are full retirement age or older – you may be eligible to receive 100% of your deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit.

Various other factors may affect eligibility to receive these benefits, including remarriage, returning to work, and other circumstances. Consulting with an attorney who knows and understands the law and who can help you determine whether or not you might qualify will be important.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

Supplemental Security Income benefits are monthly payments typically made to qualifying individuals with a disability who have income or resources that fall below specific financial limits. For the most part, when an SSI beneficiary dies, the eligibility for benefits passes with them. Surviving spouses may be eligible for other types of benefits, but usually, SSI is restricted to the individual receiving the benefits.

Social Security Retirement:

Generally, when a Social Security retirement beneficiary dies, his or her surviving spouse will be eligible for survivor’s benefits. If the surviving spouse has reached full retirement age, they can typically collect 100 percent of the deceased spouse’s benefits. However, that amount will be lower if the deceased spouse claimed benefits before he or she reached full retirement age. As with other types of benefits, the percentages received will depend upon a variety of factors, and consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney will be essential.

full retirement age

Generally, if the spouse of the individual receiving benefits was already named on the deceased individual’s account, then in many cases, Social Security will automatically switch the surviving spouse to survivor benefits when the death is reported. If not, then the surviving spouse will usually need to apply for survivor’s benefits by calling the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, visiting the website at, or by contacting the local Social Security office.

While this basic information is intended to be helpful and to provide general guidance on what benefits may or may not be available to surviving spouses, it is certainly no substitute for seeking personalized legal advice regarding your unique circumstances. A knowledgeable and experienced legal team will be able to assess your particular situation and provide you with guidance as to the best path forward in your case.

Call London Disability Today

If you find yourself faced with a Social Security issue – whether it’s attempting to obtain your deceased spouse’s benefits, applying for your own benefits, or any other aspect of the process – the team at London Disability is here for you, and we’re ready to help. At London Disability, we understand Social Security law. With over 25 years of practice experience, we know the best legal strategies to pursue on your behalf as you seek the benefits you need and deserve. Maybe you’ve lost your spouse. Maybe you struggle with a disability yourself. Maybe you’ve applied and been denied. Whatever you’re struggling with, we can help. Call us today. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

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