Prescribed Period

When a surviving widow/widower or divorced surviving widow/widower applies for Social Security Disability benefits, they have a seven year window from the time of the deceased spouse’s death in which to meet the qualifications for survivor benefits. This seven year period is called the prescribed period.

Generally speaking, to qualify for survivor’s benefits, a widow or widower must be or turn 60 years old within the seven year period of the spouse’s death. If the surviving widow is also disabled according to the Social Security Disability standards, she may qualify for Social Security Disability survivor’s benefits if she is 50 years old within the prescribed period.

The prescribed period is calculated from the time of the spouse’s death. In most cases, if your spouse was covered by Social Security Disability Insurance when he died, you have seven years in which to qualify to receive widow’s survivor benefits. If you don’t meet the age and disability requirements, there are several other conditions which may qualify you for your late spouse’s Social Security Disability benefits (though you would still need to qualify within the prescribed period). The most common of these is when the widow or widower is the primary caregiver for the deceased’s minor children. For these purposes, minor children are children 16 and under during the prescribed period (it is worth noting that the children likely qualify for survivor’s benefits as well).

To qualify based on disability, widows must be disabled according to the same set of standards as workers, meaning that they are completely unable to perform any kind of available work. Additionally, they must be disabled and apply for Social Security Disability benefits within the prescribed period. Those who do not meet the qualifications within the prescribed period will not be able to collect survivor’s benefits.