If You Are Young and Lose a Parent

Social Security is here for young people when a parent passes away. We know that the loss of a parent isn’t just emotionally painful; it can be devastating to a family’s finances. In the same way that Social Security helps to lift up the disabled and elderly when they need it, we support families when an income-earning parent dies.

In 2017, we distributed an average of $2.6 billion each month to benefit about 4.2 million children because one or both of their parents are disabled, retired, or deceased. Those dollars help to provide the necessities of life and help make it possible for those children to complete high school.

You might ask, who can get child’s benefits? Your unmarried child can get benefits if they’re:

  • Younger than age 18;
  • 18-19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12); or
  • 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.

To get benefits, a child must have:

  • A parent who’s disabled or retired and entitled to Social Security benefits; or
  • A parent who died after having worked long enough in a job where they paid Social Security taxes.

Benefits stop when your child reaches age 18 unless your child is a student or disabled.

Within a family, a child can receive up to half of the parent’s full retirement or disability benefit. If a child receives Survivors benefits, he or she can get up to 75 percent of the deceased parent’s basic Social Security benefit.

There is a limit to the amount of money that we can pay to a family. This family maximum is determined as part of every Social Security benefit computation. It can be from 150 to 180 percent of the parent’s full benefit amount. If the total amount payable to all family members exceeds this limit, we reduce each person’s benefit proportionately (except the parent’s) until the total equals the maximum allowable amount.

Children with disabilities may also be eligible for benefits. You can read more about Benefits for Children with Disabilities.

Social Security is securing today and tomorrow, protecting our future and the next generation.


23 thoughts on “If You Are Young and Lose a Parent

  1. I think it is wrong to stop paying for children at 18.
    How do you expect students to further their education without other resources? College Funds should be made available for children who want to prepare for a better future.

    • That’s the way it was 30 years ago but those benefits were stopped in order to make the program solvent. Once a child turns 18 it is expected that they can get a job and work their way through college which is what happened 2 generations ago.

  2. Age? Yes it’s important, but darn it how does one live on$30.00 a Month when all bill are paid. Yes I’m getting help however the help I need is food. I have been diagnoised by specilists for Chronic Migrainescnbigelow2charter.net

  3. My son received a monthly death benefit when my husband passed, for about 1 year, until he was 18. He took a part time job delivering pizza a few hours per week and earned $2,000. We recently received a letter that we owe the $2,000 for the amount he earned during that time when he received benefits. Is this correct? Doesn’t seem fair.
    Thank you,

  4. It seems like everyone can get more from social security benefits than a widow whose’s husband worked for more than 75 years was married to the same woman for 64 years raised their family without government help. At death, social security then penalizes his widow. Something is really wrong with social security as it now is..

  5. What if three children are receiving survivor benefits and they move to another state while they are still under 18? Do the benefits remain the same? If the widower remarries, would that impact the children’s survivor benefit from their deceased parent?

  6. My ex-brother-in-law just died of a heart attack. He has known for over 15 years of his heart condition, but never applied for S.S.D. or prepared for his death. He had custody of 3 children.
    The oldest son has been diagnosed a long time ago with autism and a few other disabilities. The father has never prepared this boy for a social life or education. The boy use to be full of rage and lash out in severe unhealthy behaviors.
    The father has never gotten the boy (now age 22) a photo I.D., or applied for S.S.I. (which he clearly would benefit from).

    My oldest son (age 32) wants to try to get custody so the boy will not become a part of a state hospital system.
    My fiance and I are supporting this decision.

    I’m confused by all the “political issue ” that stand in the way.

    What’s the very first best move for the 22 year old with a disability?

  7. I was young and lost a parent. Except mine was through divorce. They might have as well been dead. No child support; nothing. It’s sad that nothing is available for those in similar circumstances.

  8. My sister passed when she was in her 30s and left a 14 year old behind …. That was about 12 or so years ago..
    My guestion is where did my sisters SSecurity go..Can my niece ever recieve her mother’s benefits….the money she paid in or does the government just TAKE that money.

  9. My late husband’s Social Security was stolen by Brookdale Hospice Medical Staff an unknown male. My 4 children and me the surviving spouse did not get a dollar to live on. Outrageous. What’s wrong with the Social Security Administration? You pay drug addicts and alcoholism problematics, immigrants, and low life scum of the 🌎. They abused the government and the Presidents allow this. Something criminal is wrong is going on. Fix it. God going to get every no good judge watch.

    • Hello Heidi. We should be notified immediately when a person dies. However, you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online.
      If you need to apply for benefits for your children, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can also visit your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to speak to someone. Thanks.

  10. My husband was on social security disability and died October 1992. Our daughter became eligible to receive his ongoing disability income while she was a student starting at her age of 12. Her benefit was stopped on her 18th bday even though she was still in high school not graduating until that june 1998 or six months later, based on her date of birth and when she began school. When I questioned ss on this I was told no, 18 is 18 even if she is still a student. My daughter is owed those last six months of her father’s disability money. I await your written reply.

    • Hello Angela. Unfortunately, and because of security reasons we do not have access to personal records in this blog and cannot provide any assistance on this matter.
      One of our representatives should be able to provide you with an explanation. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week. Thanks.

  11. My grand daughter lost her mother Nov 12 2015. She fell off a cruise ship and died. We do not have a death certificate. Do we need that before we can get her any benefits? Chris

  12. Just a quick question if a 16 year old is receiving death benefits and drops out of school and leaves home and the parent is still supporting them dose the benefits stop or contain until they are 18

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