Tens of millions of Americans are receiving monthly benefit payments from Social Security in 2022.
Social Security provides people with an income when they retire or can’t work due to disability. Those who are retired can typically start receiving their Social Security benefits as early as age 62.
Faith recently asked the VERIFY team if someone will receive their spouse’s full monthly Social Security benefit checks when their husband or wife dies.
VERIFY is breaking down how Social Security makes payments to spouses and other family members in the event of a person’s death.
WHAT WE FOUND
The widow or widower of a deceased person who received Social Security benefits can receive monthly checks after the person dies. These are called survivors benefits.
Surviving spouses are eligible for monthly benefits if they are age 60 or older, or age 50 or older if the survivor has a disability. They will receive between 71.5% to 100% of their late spouse’s Social Security benefit, depending on their age, AARP says.
Survivors benefit amounts are based on the earnings of the person who died. The more money they paid into Social Security, the higher the survivor’s benefits will be.
There are some factors that could impact payments, such as if the spouse already receives Social Security retirement benefits.
Here’s a full breakdown of what percentage of the monthly benefit payment surviving spouses will receive based on their age and other considerations.
Surviving spouse is full retirement age or older:
A widow or widower of full retirement age or older will receive 100% of the deceased person’s benefit amount. Your full retirement age is dependent on the year you were born.
Surviving spouse is between age 60 and their full retirement age:
If a widow or widower is between age 60 and their full retirement age, they will receive 71.5 to 99% of the deceased’s benefit amount, SSA says.
Surviving spouse has a disability and is age 50 to 59:
Those who are disabled and aged 50 to 59 will receive 71.5% of the benefit amount.
Surviving spouses who already claim retirement benefits from Social Security:
If you already claim retirement benefits from Social Security, you can still be eligible for a survivors benefit.
But you won’t be eligible for a survivors benefit in addition to your own retirement benefit. Instead, Social Security will pay the higher of the two benefit amounts, AARP explains.
Surviving spouses can also take one benefit first and wait until they are older to claim the other benefit instead. The payment amount rises if you wait past the minimum age to apply for both retirement and survivors benefits.
Surviving divorced spouses:
Surviving divorced spouses can also receive the same benefits as a widow or widower if the marriage lasted 10 years or more. The eligibility rules are largely the same as for widows and widowers, according to AARP.
There are some caveats for widowed and divorced spouses who remarry. If they do so before age 60, or 50 if they have a disability, they cannot collect survivors benefits. Eligibility is not affected if the widowed or divorced spouse remarries at age 60 or older.
“Survivor benefits paid to you as a divorced spouse do not affect payments to the late beneficiary’s widow or to other former spouses,” AARP says on its website.
Other family members who are eligible for survivors benefits:
Family members apart from surviving spouses age 50 or older can receive survivors benefits, too. Here’s a breakdown of who is eligible from SSA:
- A widow or widower of any age caring for the deceased’s child who is under the age of 16 or has a disability.
- An unmarried child of the deceased who is younger than 18 (or up to age 19 if they are a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school); or age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
- Dependent parent(s) of the deceased, age 62 or older.
If you are caring for a child of the deceased who is under 16 or disabled, the survivors benefit will be 75% of the deceased’s Social Security payment. Qualifying unmarried children can also collect 75% of a late parent’s benefit.
One parent who is financially dependent on the deceased will receive 82.5% of the monthly benefit payment, while two surviving parents in the same situation will receive 75% each.
Stepchildren, grandchildren and adopted children may also be eligible for survivors benefits in certain circumstances, according to SSA.
More from VERIFY: No, people born in 1960 won’t earn less in Social Security benefits due to a payment formula quirk
How to apply for survivors benefits:
Social Security says family members should notify the agency as soon as possible when a person dies.
In most cases, the funeral home will report the death to SSA if you provide your late family member’s Social Security number.
Family members can’t report deaths or apply for survivors benefits online. They can do so by calling 1-800-325-0778 between 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, or by contacting their local Social Security office.
How are survivors benefits different from a death benefit?
Survivors benefits shouldn’t be confused with Social Security’s lump-sum death benefit, a one-time payment of $255 to a deceased person’s surviving spouse or child.
In some cases, a spouse or child will automatically receive the death benefit once the death is reported to Social Security. If not, they must apply for the death benefit within two years by calling SSA or contacting their local Social Security office.