How to Apply for Social Security Disability Widow’s Benefits

If you are the widow (or widower) of a worker who was covered by Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), you may qualify for Social Security Disability Survivors’ benefits. You may be entitled to full benefits when you reach retirement age (65-67, depending on when you were born). You may also qualify for full benefits if you are responsible for the care of the deceased’s children, as long as they are 16 years old or younger.

You may even qualify for survivor’s benefits if your ex-husband or wife is eligible for SSDI. If your marriage lasted at least ten years, and you meet the other qualifications set forth by the Social Security Administration (SSA), you could receive SSDI survivor’s benefits based upon your ex-husband’s eligibility.

Your spouse’s eligibility for SSDI is based upon how much he has worked and paid into FICA. The requirements regarding how much he needs to have worked in order to qualify for SSDI vary depending on his age at the time of death. In any case, those who have worked for 10 years and paid into FICA are eligible for SSDI.

If you are not currently receiving Social Security Disability benefits, and your husband or wife has died, contact the SSA right away to apply for survivors’ benefits. In most cases, you will receive back pay based on the date you applied, rather than on the date of your late spouse’s death. If you are caring for the deceased’s minor children, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits even if your marriage didn’t last the requisite 10 years.

You can apply for Social Security Disability benefits via the Internet or the telephone. You may also apply in person at a SSA Field Office. When you apply, you should bring documentation proving your spouse’s death (such as a death certificate or statement issued by the funeral home), proof of your spouse’s income (such as the most recent W-2 or pay stubs), your Social Security number, your late spouse’s Social Security number, your marriage certificate, and your divorce certificate (if applicable). Whenever possible, you should bring original documents. If you don’t have original documents, you will need a certified copy.

If you desire direct deposit of your Social Security Disability survivor’s benefits, you should also bring your banking information. This should include your account numbers and routing numbers as well as the name of your bank or financial institution.

You are entitled to representation by a qualified Social Security disability representative. If your initial claim is not accepted in a timely manner, consider hiring an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer to help you with the appeals process, as this will increase your chances of having your claim accepted quickly.

If you are already receiving SSDI benefits based upon your own work (and subsequent disability), you should still apply for survivors benefits if your spouse earned a higher income than you did. While you will not be eligible to receive both your own and survivor’s benefits, you will be eligible to receive whichever of the two is higher. You will, of course, need to bring in the appropriate documentation showing that your spouse has passed away.

In some limited situations, pensions that you are receiving may alter the amount of Social Security disability benefits you are entitled to. This includes pensions from jobs that did not require you (or your spouse) to pay into the Social Security Disability Insurance program through FICA.

While the process for claiming Social Security survivor’s benefits is not difficult, you should apply as soon after your spouse’s death as practicable.

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