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


  1. Michelle

    To : social security who may concern this letter for me ..plan for me …why my daughter stop her benefit when she turn 16…and in oct /16 that on her birthday but in the 1 of this the month there stop already …

    You will not betitled to a social security benefit beginning Oct/2018. When Sally is 16.

    Your benefit will stop but your child will continue receiving benefit to age 18.
    We may be able to continue your benefit if your child is disabled or you caring for other child who is under 16or disabled…..

    ( Please plan to me this letter I receive from social security couple month ago.. and my daughter stop her benefit already when her birthday not came yes ,,,Oct/16/2018 she will turn 16 …but now oct/1/2018. The social security stop her benefit already …and my question is I’m disabled I’m receiving my ssi and my ssa I’m take care my daughter thought when she turn 18 ?

  2. Michelle

    Any at social security plan for me this letter I received from social security…I m the mother of the child she will turn 16 year old on oct/16/2018.. she not yes 16 but there stop her benefit already …and she under 18 …why the S.S stop her benefit she received that money from her dad die…and I’m her mother ,I m sick and I received my disability benefits that call the ssi and ssa…now I don’t understand this letter from S.S sent to me stop benefit for my daughter or my ..and why ?? Frist my daughter not 18 year old yes…and second thing ,if there stop my benefit that not right too ..I’m disability that why I received my ssi and ssa benefit a long time before my husband die …can anyone plan to me what going on …

    • Vonda V.

      Michelle, thank you for using our blog. For your security, we do not have access to your benefit information in this venue. For assistance, please call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Representatives are available between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday or contact your local Social Security office.

  3. Governor U.


  4. Hireny

    Mí padre murió en su lugar de trabajo y no nos quieren dar el seguro hace 6 años

  5. ken P.

    Can I get information on how to sign my kids into the project?

  6. deborah w.

    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

    • Sherry

      I have a similar question, regarding a 16-year-old who dropped out of school but he does still live with his mother. If he dropped out of school, will his survivor’s benefit from his father be discontinued? I have been unable to find an answer on the web site.

  7. Chris N.

    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

    • Amy

      Yes. You’ll need to bring certified copies of the death certificate and the birth certificate of the minor child when you meet with the local social security office representative.

  8. Angela R.

    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.

    • Ray F.

      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.

  9. Heidi R.

    How do i sign my children up for ss? Their father recently passed away.

    • Ray F.

      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.

      • D. H.

        I have tried several times to call and schedule an appointment to apply for benefits for my daughter & I am always told there is no representative available to assist me at this time and then the call disconnects? The closest office is over 30 minutes away with limited hours

  10. Unknown

    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.

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