Losing a spouse is difficult enough, but if you relied on their income to help make ends meet, you can find your grief compounded by financial concerns. Fortunately, you may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) survivors benefits that can help. Here's what you need to know about SSDI benefits for surviving spouses and other family members, and how our highly-skilled Social Security disability attorneys can help you obtain the benefits you need and deserve.
Earning Survivors Benefits
Credits for Social Security benefits accumulate as you work and pay Social Security taxes. The longer you work, the more credits you earn. However, no one needs more than 10 years of work to access benefits.
There's also a special rule for SSDI beneficiaries with children. As long as they worked at least one-and-a-half years in the three years prior to their death, the Social Security Administration (SSA) can pay benefits to the children and the surviving spouse that's caring for them.
Benefits Available to Survivors
The SSA will pay survivors a one-time benefit of $225 following a beneficiary's death, provided they've worked long enough and you lived with the deceased. This benefit isn't automatic; you'll need to contact the SSA within two years of your spouse's death to apply for it.
SSDI survivors benefits also include an ongoing monthly payment to surviving spouses (or another eligible family member). The amount of these benefits is based on a decedent's work history and average lifetime earnings. The longer they worked, the higher the monthly benefit payment will be.
The percentage of benefits you can receive is as follows:
- You can receive 75 percent of your spouse's benefit if you are caring for a child under the age of 16.
- You can receive 71.5 percent of the benefit if you are 50 years (or older) and disabled, and the disability started before your spouse's death or within seven years of it.
- You can receive between 71.5 percent and 99 percent of your deceased spouse's SSDI benefit if you are older than 60, but not yet at full retirement age.
- You can receive 100 percent of your spouse's benefit if you've reached the age of full retirement (66 for people born between 1945 and 1956, and 67 for people born in 1962 or later).
Aside from surviving spouses, other family members who can receive survivors benefits include:
- Divorced spouses (under certain circumstances)
- Unmarried children (up to age 19) who are full-time students
- Stepchildren, grandchildren, step-grandchildren, and adopted children (under certain circumstances)
- Parents (age 62 or older) who were dependent on the decedent for financial support
After a Spouse's Death
You'll need to notify the SSA of your spouse's death as soon as possible. Oftentimes, funeral directors will make this notification as part of their services. However, to ensure that the death was reported—and reported properly—you can call the SSA at 800-772-1213 or contact your local Social Security office.
If you're currently receiving benefits, your benefits will be converted to survivors benefits when you notify the SSA of your spouse's death. If you aren't currently receiving benefits, you'll have to apply for survivors benefits and provide the following documentation:
- Proof of death (from the funeral home or the death certificate)
- Your Social Security number (SSN)
- Your deceased spouse's SSN
- Your birth certificate
- Your marriage certificate (if you're a widow or widower)
- Your divorce papers (if applying as a divorced widow or widower)
- Dependent children's SSN numbers and birth certificates
- Your deceased spouse's W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax returns for recent years
- Your bank and bank account number
Let Us Help You Obtain the Survivors Benefits You Deserve
At O'Connor Law PLLC, our skilled New York Social Security disability attorneys fight to help survivors obtain much-needed benefits after the death of a spouse. We know this is a difficult time. Let us review your claim, handle your application for benefits, and ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation.