In some cases, the surviving spouse of someone who dies while receiving Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may qualify to collect all or a portion of their loved one’s monthly payment. Survivor’s benefits, sometimes called widow’s or widower’s benefits, offer a way for you to continue to get the income you need to pay your family’s bills after losing your loved one.
Do I qualify to collect my spouse’s SSD benefits?
If your spouse died while collecting SSD benefits, you probably qualify to draw a certain percentage of their Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) check. The amount of survivor’s benefit you can draw depends on your age, your own health situation, and other details about your family.
If you care for children under age 16, you can continue to draw 75% of your spouse’s SSDI check. Those who are 50 years old or older and also suffer from a disability may qualify for 71.5% percent.
If you are over the age of 60 but have not yet reached the full retirement age based on your birth year, you can draw between 71.5% and 99% of your spouse’s benefits. This percentage increases each year until you reach full retirement age.
If you are full retirement age or older, you can continue to draw the full amount of your spouse’s SSDI benefits.
Our disability attorneys can assess your current family situation and help you estimate the percentage of survivor’s benefits you may receive.
Can I collect survivor’s benefits if I still work?
If you are over full retirement age, you can continue to work without it affecting the amount of SSDI you can collect through survivor’s benefits. For those who have not yet reached full retirement age, there is an income limit for 2017 of $16,920. Earning above this limit will reduce the amount of retirement benefits you can draw.
If you are within a year of full retirement age, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will reduce your check by a third of the amount you earn over this limit. For those who are more than a year away from full retirement age, the SSA reduces benefits by half of the amount earned over the annual limit.
For example, if you are age 60 and earn $20,920 in 2017, the SSA will reduce your survivor’s benefits by a total of $2,000.
If you are receiving or applying for widow’s disability benefits you must be between the ages of 50 and 60, be disabled according to Social Security’s rules, and not be capable of earning substantial gainful activity (in 2017 that is $1,170.00 gross earnings per month).
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How does getting remarried affect survivor’s benefits?
Remarriage may affect your widow or widower’s benefits depending on your age. If you remarried after age 60—or 50 if you suffer from a disability yourself—it will not affect your benefits at all. If you are drawing survivor’s benefits and remarry before this age cut-off, however, you will lose your benefits.
If you are considering getting remarried but need these benefits to pay your bills, we can help you understand how a new marriage would affect your survivor’s benefits. Some people find it necessary to wait until after they turn 60 to remarry because of this stipulation.
Can I get survivor’s benefits if we divorced before my former spouse died?
In some cases, a divorced spouse can also draw survivor’s benefits after the death of an ex-spouse. The primary qualification is that their marriage lasted 10 years or longer. The rules and benefit amounts are identical to those of widows and widowers, and your ex’s marital status at the time of their death does not alter your qualifying status. The same rules for remarriage also apply. It is important to note, however, that if your second marriage ended before your former spouse passed away you can still qualify.
For example, imagine you divorced your first spouse at age 40 and remarried at age 45. Your second marriage ended at 50. You could still apply for and receive survivor’s benefits when your first spouse died at a later date, as long as:
- You are raising children age 16 or younger;
- You are at least 60 years old; or
- You are 50 years old with a qualifying disability.
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How can I apply for survivor’s benefits?
The process to get SSD for widows begins when the SSA receives notification of your spouse’s death. In many cases, the funeral home reports this information. If not, you can contact your local Social Security field office to report your spouse passed away.
If you already receive benefits based on your spouse’s record, you do not need to take any action. The SSA changes your benefit type and usually also handles any special death benefits due to you automatically.
If you currently draw SSD or retirement benefits based on your own work history, you must contact your local field office to see if it is beneficial to begin drawing survivor’s disability benefits instead. If so, you can file an application with them.
If you are not currently drawing any benefits on your own, it is imperative to contact us as soon as possible after your loved one’s death. We can help you apply for survivor’s benefits with the SSA, and ensure you do not go without the money you need to pay your bills and support your family.
How can I reach a Pittsburgh attorney about survivor’s benefits?
At Berger and Green, our disability lawyers understand how stressful it is to wonder how the death of your spouse will affect your household income. We can help you understand the rules that govern survivor’s benefits and help you file an appeal if the SSA attempts to deny you money you qualify for. Call us today at 412-661-1400 to learn more.