Collecting on Survivor or Widow Benefits If Disability Results in Death before a Hearing Date

Social Security survivor's insurance is designed for surviving children's financial and emotional security following the death of a working parent. Survivor's benefits are responsible for more benefits to children under 18 years of age than any other federal program or institution.


Widows or widowers may receive full benefits at retirement age. If the surviving spouse is disabled, they may be able to receive benefits at age 50. Widows or widowers may also receive widows benefits regardless of age if they're taking care of children younger than 16, disabled, and receiving Social Security benefits.

According to the Social Security Administration, Social Security survivor benefits may be paid to widows or widowers at full retirement age or receive reduced benefits at age 60. Disabled widow or widower's can receive benefits at age 50.

According to Social Security Administration's Code of Federal Regulations guidelines (20 CFR 404.335, How do I become entitled to a Widows or widowers benefits? The code states that "we will find you entitled to benefits as the widow or widower of a person who died fully insured if you meet the requirements in paragraphs (a) through (e) of this section…" The code section goes on to state, "(3) you are entitled to wives or husbands benefits and to either old age or disability benefits in the month before the month of the insured’s death, you are under full retirement age (as defined in section 404.409) in the month of death, and you have filed a Certificate of Election in which you elect to receive reduced widow’s or widower’s benefits."

The good news is that if a claimant dies while waiting for hearing, the case does not close if the claimant was married and/or had dependents. When claimants have a spouse, a document known as a Notice of Substitution of Party is filed along with a death certificate. The surviving spouse and any eligible children may continue to claim and be awarded benefits as they would have been awarded to the claimant spouse or parent.

In such cases, the widow, widower or other survivors should notify the Social Security Administration regarding the claimant's death and their intention to continue with the claim process.

The Notice of Substitution of Party upon death of claimant (form HA-539) must be filled out in order to notify the Social Security Administration that the surviving spouse or other survivors wish to pursue the disability claim for the deceased. Contact the Social Security Administration as soon as possible for information regarding eligibility for survivor's benefits and or death benefits. You may obtain form HA- 539 at your local Social Security office or the hearing office.

Information regarding the name of the deceased's claimant name or the wage earner's name should be sent to the address of the hearing office. If an eligible person is not substituted for the claim, the hearing will be dismissed. Individuals eligible to pursue the claim include:

  • Widow/widower
  • Surviving divorced spouse
  • Child
  • Disabled child
  • Parent
  • Administrator/executor of the state

For more information regarding pursuing a claim in progress following the death of a spouse, contact your local Social Security office for information and guidance or contact a Social Security Disability attorney to help you with your disability claim. To receive a free evaluation of your claim, click here, and you will be contacted by an attorney who will be able to tell you if you can qualify for benefits.