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Widow/Widower Benefits

The death of a spouse can be both emotionally and financially devastating. When a person receiving Social Security Disability benefits dies, the surviving spouse will likely have many questions about whether they qualify to receive survivor benefits, known as Widow/Widower Benefits.

When a person receiving regular Social Security Disability or regular Social Security benefits passes away, the surviving spouse, if over the age of 60, is eligible to receive their spouse’s benefits. If the surviving spouse is disabled, the eligibility age to receive Widow/Widower Benefits is lowered to age 50.

To be entitled to your deceased spouse’s benefits as a disabled widow/widower, you must have a medically proven physical or mental condition which prevents you from gaining employment and is expected to last at least 12 months or until death.

One important thing to note about Widow/Widower benefits is that no benefits are to be paid the month in which your spouse dies. If a Social Security Disability check is mailed or deposited directly into a joint banking account, it is required that it be returned to the Social Security Administration (SSA). This is necessary because the SSA must determine if a surviving spouse is eligible to receive benefits, and if eligibility is determined, the payments must be transferred from the deceased to the surviving spouse.

In addition to the transfer of Social Security Disability benefits, as a surviving spouse, you will receive a one-time Widow/Widower Benefit payment of $255 if you were living with your spouse at the time of his or her death.

To apply for Widow/Widower Benefits and begin receiving your deceased spouse’s Social Security Disability benefits, you need to visit or call your local Social Security office after your spouse’s death. Several pieces of documentation will be required to obtain survivor’s benefits. The documentation required is:

  • Death certificate or a notice from the funeral home

  • Your own and your deceased spouse’s Social Security number

  • Deceased spouse’s birth certificate

  • Marriage certificate

  • Most recent tax forms

Widow/Widower Benefit amounts are subject to change as the surviving spouse reaches age 62 to 70 and the level of Social Security Disability benefits paid to you may change, as they would if they were being paid to your surviving spouse. A review with Social Security Administration representative will likely be required to determine the benefit level.