Understanding Social Security Survivors Benefits

by Diana Varela, Public Affairs Specialist, Social Security Administration

Unfortunately, tragedy can strike without any warning. The loss of a family member can be devastating both emotionally and financially. Social Security helps by providing income for the families of workers who die. These include widows and widowers (and divorced widows and widowers), children, and dependent parents.

Below is a list of those eligible to receive Survivors Benefits based on a worker’s earnings record:

  • Widow or widower may be able to get full benefits at full retirement age. Your widow or widower can get reduced benefits as early as age 60. If your surviving spouse is disabled, benefits can begin as early as age 50.
  • Widow or widower can get benefits at any age if they take care of the worker’s child who is younger than age 16 or is a disabled adult child.
  • Unmarried children, younger than age 18 (or between age 18 to age 19 if they are attending high school full time), can also get benefits. Your children can get benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22. Under certain circumstances, we can also pay benefits to your stepchildren, grandchildren, step grandchildren, or adopted children.
  • Dependent parents can get benefits if they are age 62 or older. (For parents to qualify as dependents, the worker must has provided at least half of their support.)

The Social Security Administration Offices remain closed to the public for face-to-face service, and employees continue to work remotely and provide services to the public, but if you or someone you know needs to apply for Survivors Benefits, call 1-800-772-1213. For more information about Survivors Benefits, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.

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