General, Survivors

Social Security Survivors Benefits Explained

December 16, 2021 • By

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Last Updated: December 16, 2021

Elderly man looking out the window while reviewing tabletWe are here for surviving family members when a worker dies. In the event of your death, certain members of your family may be eligible for survivors’ benefits. These include widows and widowers, divorced widows and widowers, children, and dependent parents.

The amount of benefits your survivors receive depends on your lifetime earnings. The higher your earnings, the higher their benefits. That’s why it’s important to make sure your earnings history is correct in our records. That starts with creating your personal my Social Security account.

A my Social Security account is secure and gives you immediate access to your earnings records, Social Security benefit estimates, and a printable Social Security Statement. The Statement will let you see an estimate of the survivors benefits we could pay your family.

You may also want to visit our Benefits Planner for Survivors to help you better understand Social Security protections for you and your family as you plan for your financial future.

Please visit our website or read our publication, Survivors Benefits, for more information. You can also help us spread the word by sharing this information with your family and friends.

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About the Author

Dawn Bystry, Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications

Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications


  1. Eileen P.

    Good morning how r u? I was diagnosed with benign vertigo and osteoarthritis on my left knee and I am receiving my benefits from social security can I apply for social security disability insurance ? Hope do.

    • Linda G.

      I deal with vertigo and osteoarthritis as well. Is it possible to receive disability for these things?

      • Ann C.

        Hi, Linda. Thanks for your question. Social Security disability benefits are paid to people who are unable to work because of a medical condition that is expected to last one year or more or end in death. For adults, we use a five-step evaluation process to decide whether you are disabled. We consider any current work activity you are doing, your medical condition, and how it affects your ability to work. You may find our listing of impairments useful. If you think you are disabled, you can file for disability. To apply online for disability benefits, go to our Disability Benefits webpage. We hope this helps!

        • Deirdre j.

          My son has paranoid schizophrenia and suffers with depression and neurological tic disorder and the medication he takes makes him sleep 12-14 hours a day and he has been denied 4 times and was in mental hospital and can not hold a job

  2. Lorie P.

    How long can a child recieve survivors benefits?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Lorie. Thanks for your question. Generally, the benefits stop when children reach age 18 unless they are disabled. If the child is still a full-time student at a secondary (or elementary) school at age 18, benefits will continue until the child graduates or until two months after the child becomes age 19, whichever is first. For more information, check out our publication, Benefits for Children.

  3. Linda R.

    I was given Emergency temporary custody of my granddaughters the father is receiving survivers benefits from their mother, he got arrest for 2nd degree murder and is now waiting to go to court on the criminal charges can I claim the benefits for my granddaughters

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Linda. We are sorry to hear about this situation. Unfortunately, your comment is a bit more complex than we can handle in this forum. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. Please contact your local Social Security office for assistance. We hope this helps.

  4. Violeta F.

    We moved in the Philippines feb 14,2021 but my husband died Nov 27.How can I claim the Survivor’s benefit?

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Violeta. We are sorry for your loss. Since you are living outside of the U.S., you can contact your local Federal Benefits Unit for any assistance related to Social Security benefits. Also, our Office of International Operations home page provides more information to assist our customers living abroad. We hope this helps.

  5. Debra

    My husband is 71 years old . I will be 62 in 3 years. Do I have to be married to him for a certain amount of years to be able to collect on his social security ? We will be married 9 years by then.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Debra. Generally, you must be married for one year before you can get spouse’s benefits. You also have to meet additional eligibility requirements. Visit our Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse for more information. Thanks!

  6. elizabeth A.

    Hi my name is elizabeth kelly my wallet was stolen an i need a replacement socail securiry card can i make an appointment to come in to get one

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Elizabeth. We are sorry to hear about your situation. First, realize that you may not need a replacement card. You will rarely need to show it. Knowing the Social Security number is what is important. To see if you’re eligible to apply for a replacement Social Security card online or to learn more on the process and what documents you will need to get a card please visit our Social Security Number and Card page. for additional information, you can also visit our blog, Replacement or Corrected Social Security Cards during the COVID-19 Pandemic. We hope this helps.

    • Walt

      Don’t ever keep your SSN card in your wallet routinely

  7. Sheree M.

    My mother was on social security when she died my brothers and I are now grown could we get survivors benefits from her social security

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Sheree. Thanks for your question. Only eligible family members may be able to receive monthly survivor benefits. For more information on this, please check out our publication, “How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies.” We hope this helps.

      • Ann B.

        Thank you

  8. Carolyn H.

    I need to know what steps to take to receive my Deceased Husband ,
    Widow benefits. He passed Sept 27, 2021. SS has already stopped his cks going into our account.
    Please help me to proceed in this matter. Thank You

    • Angelita

      Look for nearest ssa office in your area. They will need cert of death, and worker’s data records, marriage contract . They will help you file your claims. I just did andnow waiting for notification from them.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Carolyn. We are sorry to hear about your loss. Please contact your local Social Security office for assistance. We hope this helps.

  9. Ashlee

    Hi my sister works but my brother in law no longer works he has been on disability for 8 years and they just found out he has stage 4 cancer on top of his issues. My question is if he passes will my sister be able to get his disability or SSA? He has worked all his life and made good money more so then she so can she get his Social Security or disability while she herself works? Thank you.

    • Patricia B.

      Depends upon her age and if she has dependent children. She needs to contact Social Security and explain the situation. That’s the only way she will know what she is entitled to and at what age. Sorry about his health.

      • Ashlee

        Thank you for this. She is over 50 but they have no children. I have told her to contact the local SS office she did contact them and she said they are closed so she cant go there and no one picks up at their office and the machine just says leave message but no one responds so I said I would help but I cant talk for her just get her direct contacts if possible.

    • Sandy B.

      She has to be over 50 , Or have children under age of 18

    • Cynthia S.

      Minor children would qualify for benefits and I believe at retirement age she would qualify for an adjusted version of his benefits but this requires lots of help figuring and shouldn’t be done in a phone call. Don’t count him out. People can live for many years with stage 4. I know 2 people right now going into their 6th year with it.

      • Ashlee

        Thank you for that. I haven’t counted his tough NY self out but she is having doubts with his doctors telling him its not looking good between the stage 4 and now he has to have dialysis for failing kidneys. I swear this State is not trustworthy with medical issues as he isn’t the only one doctors have messed up and gotten sued for it but we are hoping he wont be added to the list of people these “doctors” didn’t save. She wont let me go with her to talk to any of them she knows my NY temper would be unleashed on them big time! How the heck do you find stage 4 cancer after seeing a primary for years non stop then months later find his kidneys are failing. I am at a loss. We just lost our dad a few months ago they claimed he had stage 4 cancer and dementia and I found out SARS was thrown into the mix thanks to the hospital who blamed the nursing rehab they put him in after he left their hospital.

    • Linda

      I’m divorced married for 23 yrs never re married. First contact SSI benefits ex spouse I was told file under his benefits because his income was higher given amount. I was told not true have the rules changed ex spouse filing benefits ex husband. We both file taxes all this years sorry don’t understand why rules keep changing.

      • Ann C.

        Hi, Linda. To be eligible for divorced spouse benefits, you had to be married to your former spouse for at least 10 years, and you cannot be eligible for a higher benefit on your own record. For more information on how to qualify for divorced spouse benefits, visit our Benefits Planner: If You Are Divorced. We hope this helps.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Ashlee. We are sorry to hear about your brother-in-law’s condition. Your sister would be eligible to apply for widow’s benefits when she reaches age 60 (age 50 or over if disabled). For more information about widow’s benefits, check out our Survivors Planner. We hope this information is helpful.

  10. Trey

    If you are 31 and collect SSI, can you still get survivor benefits off of your parents social security? If so, how do you do it? Both parents are currently still working, but one is turning 66 in February 2022.

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Trey. Thanks for your question. In certain cases, a child may qualify for family benefits. An adult who has a disability that began before age 22 may be eligible for benefits if a parent is deceased or starts receiving retirement or disability benefits. We consider this a “child’s” benefit because it is paid on a parent’s Social Security earnings record. For more information, please visit Benefits for a Disabled Child on our Disability Benefits page. We hope this helps.

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