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. Grandmother

    My daughter and husband passed away and we are raising their child who draws SS Benefits. My question is if we adopt him will he loose those benefits?

    • Vonda

      Hi there. Typically, the adoption of a child already entitled to benefits does not terminate the child’s benefits. For specific questions, please 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.

  2. Mitra Surik

    In our social studies classes, we were just dealing with social assistance and stuff like that. We were even forced to write an essay on this topic, and it was extremely difficult for me, but it’s good that I found a place to turn to on these cases. I just turned here to proposal writing services and they didn’t let me down. They even help me with dissertations, because it’s not a problem for them to write an essay. And I always have no time because of work, so I’m grateful for their timely help!

  3. Natasha brown

    My sister gets a check because my mom passed. The check comes in my fathers name and hasn’t put any use to the check but to gamble. How can I get it changed in my name as the older sister ?

    • Vonda

      Hi Natasha, thank you for using our blog. If you think your father is misusing your sister’s benefits, tell Social Security right away. We will investigate all allegations of misuse, gather facts and evidence, and make a decision on whether misuse has occurred. You will receive a letter from Social Security telling you what we found. If we find misuse, Social Security may name a new representative payee for your sister. We will then take action to recover the misused money.

      Go to our Representative Payee web page for additional details. To report misuse, 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.

  4. Shelley L Bullen

    I am wondering if a child had a parent who was disabled and hospitalized for much of 3 children’s life, (off and on) did not pay into social security(on state aid) can they get social security so the grandparent does not have to work since the parent died? Can this be applied for at all?

    • Vonda

      Hi Shelley. The children may be eligible for survivor benefits if their deceased parent earned enough Social Security credits through their 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 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.

  5. Eva Shook

    Me and my daughter receives survivor benefits from my passed husband in 2012. I received a letter stating that I would be losing my check when my daughter turns 16 but she will still get her survivor benefits. So, is there anything I can do to keep my part since its our only source of income? Please help a desperate mom.

    • Vonda

      Hi Eva. You may be eligible for reduced widows benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled) and at any age if caring for the deceased’s child who is disabled and receiving benefits on the deceased’s record. The benefits will not be established automatically, you will have to contact us.

      Check out our If You Are The Survivor web page for details. We hope this helps!

  6. Renee cordova

    My husband has passed away and I am trying to change my grandsons payee to me to assist him.i am not able to get through to d
    Social security I also received a letter he would no receive benefits until we gaveca new payee

    • Vonda

      Hi Renee, thanks for using our blog. We are very sorry for your loss. Please call your local Social Security office. 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.

  7. Dottie

    My grandson is living with me and his mother was disabled and died a week ago. I believe she received SSI disablilty. Is he now entitled to receive any benefits. I have had temporary custoday of him for the last 5 years. If so, what do I need to do to get this started for him? Thank you!

    • Vonda

      We are very sorry for your loss, Dottie. Your grandson may be eligible for survivor benefits if the child’s mother earned enough Social Security credits through her 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 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.

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  10. Celeste

    My 14 year old step son receives ssi benefits under his mother who was on disability and I am his representative payee, she recently passed away, will my step son still recieve the ssi benefits until he is 18 or will he instead start receiving survivors benefits? And how do I go about looking into this for him?

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