Survivors

If You Are Young and Lose a Parent

September 13, 2018 • By

Last Updated: September 13, 2018

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.


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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Comments

  1. Vanessa

    If I was never married to my children’s father and he passed away 9 years ago and I am still receiving death benefits for my 2 younger sons will they lose it if I get married.

    • Vonda

      Hi Vanessa, thanks for using our blog. Unmarried children who are under 18 (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time) can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a parent dies. Your marital status will not impact their Social Security survivor benefits even though you are their representative payee. We hope this helps!

  2. Hayley B.

    I received child’s benefits on my fathers record I now receive ssi both my mother and father are now deceased my father was a us army veteran with honeriable discharge and my mother worked for kmart and drove school bus before she became disabled from a car accident that left her nearly paralyzed suffered from 22 surgeries on her neck,back,stomach and hip after the passing of both my mother and father I thought my benefits would automatically be changed but I haven’t received anything other than my ssi

    • Sue

      We are sorry for your loss, Hayley. Unfortunately, your question is a bit more complex than we can handle in this forum. For your security, we do not have access to information about your record. We ask members of our Blog community to call your local office with specific questions. You’ll find the phone number with our Social Security Office Locator. We hope this helps.

  3. Stephanie G.

    I filed for my niece who lost both her parents in 2019. When should start receiving her benefits?

  4. Jocelyne B.

    My son receives SSI benefits due to his father’s disability. I am the payee for these benefits, as his father and I are divorced. His father is currently receiving hospice services, and isn’t expected to make it much longer. Will my son continue to receive benefits after his fathers passing? Will he be eligible for additional benefits, such as survivors benefits? Thanks.

  5. Stan L.

    I am older now (50+), my Mother just passed away are there any death/burial benefits?

    • Vonda

      We’re sorry for your loss, Stan. Thanks for reading our blog and for your question. Social Security pays a one-time lump-sum death payment of $255 but only to a surviving spouse or any children who are eligible for benefits on the deceased parent’s record.

  6. Craig S.

    My Father pasted away 6 months ago and I have not a clue how to get his Social Security Number, to receive more information about him in the Navy. Please help.

    • Vonda

      Hi Craig, thanks for using our blog. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for details on how to request a copy of a deceased person’s Social Security number. We hope this helps!

  7. Candice J.

    My daughters father passed and I’m not quite sure what his work history was like! How can I see if she applies for any benefits? He did have a claim pending with SS but I’m not quite sure of the claim!

    • Vonda

      We are very sorry for your loss, Candice. Your daughter may be eligible for survivor benefits if the child’s father earned enough Social Security credits through his work. Unmarried children who are under 18 (up to age 19 if attending elementary or secondary school full time) can be eligible to receive Social Security benefits when a parent dies.

      To inquire about potential benefits, you will have to call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can call your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  8. Victoria l.

    Now what happens if I was 10 when my mother died and I had received a letter stating that I would receive benefits but never seen a cent?

  9. Raylene D.

    My son died leaving my grandchild his ssi. She is 7 yes old and her mother has no health benefits for her. Can my granddaughter get Medicaid?

  10. Heather E.

    My granddaughters father passed away. She is receiving benefits. Would those benefits continue if her stepfather adopts her?

    • Vonda

      Hi Heather, thank you so much for your question. Typically, the adoption of a child already entitled to benefits does not terminate the child’s benefits. For specific questions, please call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

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