General, Survivors

Social Security Survivors Benefits Explained

December 16, 2021 • By

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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  1. Sharon G.

    My husband passed away in 2012,I did get his survivor benefit already ,I would to apply for his retirement,I will be 66 in March 2022.
    How can I do it ?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Sharon, thanks for using our blog. If you are the widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can start receiving reduced survivor’s benefits as early as age 60 (50 if disabled). If you are also eligible for retirement benefits on your own record, you may have an additional option.

      You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit at a later date. The earliest age you can apply for your own (reduced) retirement benefits is 62.

      To inquire about potential benefits on your own record, you can 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. We hope this helps.

      Reply
      • Ronald

        Ron C.

        Vonda: Your answer to Sharon’s almost answers mine: Years ago, I spoke with Social Security about my wife’s benefit(s) when I die.
        I am trying to verify: ” Your wife can start drawing 72.3 %(?) of your current and future benefits at age 60 while working until she retires; at which time she could stay with the 72.3 or move to her benefit amount.” Please clarify.

        Reply
        • Vonda

          Hi Ronald, thanks for using our blog. Typically a widow(er) at their full (survivors) retirement age or older generally receives 100% of the deceased worker’s amount or reduced benefits as early as age 60. For more information about survivor benefits, visit our If You Are the Survivor web page. If you click on Find Your Full Retirement Age you’ll see a monthly percentage breakdown based on year of birth.

          Reply
  2. Nancy k.

    My husband passaway on 5 of october 2020,we have one daughter he is american citizen he is 72 years old and he is american how can i get benifits with my daughter and i how long to wait to process i already send email in US emabassy in Philippines i already send all ducumens xerox copy in ther main office in baldemore until now no feed back for new updates hope some one help me please,,thank u so much keep safe,

    Reply
  3. Patricia A.

    What is the procedure in receiving survivors benefits? My ex-husband passed on Nov 20th and I need to know what documents to bring and how to apply for the benefits.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      We are very sorry for your loss, Patricia. If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who dies, you could get benefits the same as a widow or widower, provided that your marriage lasted 10 years or more. Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse won’t affect the benefit amount for other survivors getting benefits on the worker’s record. If you remarry after you reach age 60 (age 50 if disabled), the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits.

      You may be able to receive full benefits at your full retirement age for survivors or reduced benefits as early as age 60.

      Check out our Survivors web page for additional details.

      To apply for benefits, 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. We hope this information helps.

      Reply
  4. CNBrown

    I called SSA asked what I do to report wages earned in 2021 for October-December! Was told to go to report wages section on SSA site!! I did all this to NO AVAIL
    Why did He send me there!! If I’m SUPPOSED TO CALL SSA to get issues resolved??? Worthless to call SSA if you get INCORRECT INFORMATION!!

    Reply
  5. Wendy

    My husband passed away just over 3 years ago leaving behind myself and our two boys 15 & 8 at the time. I applied for survivors benefits for them only and was informed at the time that they were each getting 50% of his maximum earnings and once my oldest turned 18 my youngest would then receive 75% of his earnings. Its been 6 months since my oldest turned 18 and my youngest benefits have remained the same. I’ve reached out to my local ss office on multiple occasions with no such luck & struggling as my expenses have increased and income has decreased and my wages are below the average median income for a family of 3. Yes my oldest is 18 but he is still a child an needs support. His full time job while entertaining school barely pays for his car insurance at $800 a month and food & gas. What happened to our SSI supporting our dependants till they were 21 or while still in school at a minimum? Our government continues to fail us and our future (our kids). Please help!

    Reply
  6. Amy

    My 16 year old son receives survivors benefits from his dad. He receives 1,059.00 right now when I sign into the social security account and check his overview he payments decreased to 1,021.00 for 2022 thought it was supposed to go up not down, can anyone tell me why?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      For your security, Amy, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can 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.

      Reply
  7. Bruce F.

    My sister, Karen Frenton,
    died Sept. 28 2021 and was receiving ssd. I’ve been trying to close out her account through direct express, which handles payments for SS. I’ve contacted them (1-888-741-1115) 3 times in Nov & Dec. I’ve provided all the information they’ve requested and was told they would send me the paperwork to close out her banking account. I have Not received any paperwork to this date.
    I need assistance from social security dept. (legal) for them to comply.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      For your security, Bruce, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can 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.

      Reply
  8. Tammy r.

    My ex husband is 77 I’m 49( don’t ask) we had 4 children and they all ( at some point have collected SS benefits) my question. Does my ex husband collect less Social security benefits because the children collect. We only have two children collecting at this point . I hear all the time how my ex worked his whole life so the kids can collect and the money the kids collect comes basically out of his pocket . Is this true

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Tammy, thanks for using our blog. Social Security payments to family members do not decrease the retirement benefit amount. Check out our Benefits For Your Family web page for more details.

      Reply
  9. Delores C.

    How do I apply for this survivors benefit? Just found out my husband died on Dec. 10th. We was still legally married (and have been married for 44 years) but he lived in another state. I need help please.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Delores, thanks for using our blog. You would need to call and make an appointment to file for widow’s benefits as you cannot apply for that online. To make an appointment, you can call us at 1-800-772-1213 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. We hope this is helpful.

      Reply
  10. Jo A.

    12/27th/2021. Re: Survivor’s Benefits!? “Mother
    passed 1974.(IThink)? My Dad passed 1984. And,
    I’m the only family member Left.(I’am 70+) already drawing Social Security.(My Own). I mailed last-year to S>S> My Dad’s Photo,S.S. card, marriage License,etc. What happens to his
    …Retirement Funds,(If there’s any) Seems-Like I
    could get some H E L P!

    BETWEEN The 2 of Them. Thanks for Listening!

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Jo Ann, thanks for using our blog. Check out our If You Are The Survivor web page for details on who is eligible for survivor benefits. We hope this helps!

      Reply

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