The Importance of Social Security Survivors Benefits

May 31, 2017 • By

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Last Updated: November 3, 2023

elderly woman drinking coffee Most people don’t like to think about death. We plan for life, for that day when we retire, for the places we’ll go and the things that we’ll do then. Unfortunately, death is a part of life we must prepare for. The death of a worker is devastating for the entire family, not only emotionally, but also financially.  

Social Security is here to help you secure today and tomorrow with financial benefits, tools, and information to help support you throughout life’s journey. Part of that promise is protection for your family when a worker dies. Some of the Social Security taxes you pay go toward survivors benefits for your family. When an income earner dies, certain members of the family may be eligible for survivors benefits, such as widows and widowers, including divorced widows and widowers; children; and dependent parents. The amount of benefits your family receives depends on your lifetime earnings. The higher your earnings are, the higher the benefits will be. The value of your survivors benefit is probably more than the value of your individual life insurance.

You can check your Social Security Statement to see an estimate of survivors benefits we could pay your family. It also shows an estimate of your retirement and disability benefits, and provides other important information. To review your Social Security Statement online, create a personal my Social Security  account. Your my Social Security  account is secure and gives you immediate access to your earnings records, Social Security benefit estimates, and a printable Statement.

When a worker dies, we recommend that their survivors apply for benefits right away. You can apply by telephone or at any Social Security office. For more information about survivors benefits, visit If you think you qualify, please don’t wait. Apply today.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Frances A.

    I know, its so hard to get what you are entitled to. And what LITTLE you get isn’t enough to make ends meet. I have to go to food banks to eat…that is just not right.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Frances, some individuals may also be eligible to receive social services from the state in which they live. You can get information about services in your area from your state or local social services office. Please visit the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) web page for more information.

  2. Christina L.

    Myvhusband of over 41 years died suddenly July 27, 2016. I applied as soon as I got back from his funeral. I finally started receiving his benefits today. Ten months after I filed. They screwed up my backpay and I am being told now that they refigured what I am suppose to receive… Problem? They don’t know how soon I will be receiving the corrected backpay amount. Losing your spouse after so many years is hard enough to deal with and move on from. NOW THIS. I am on disability and have to live with other people in their homes because I can’t afford on just what I am receiving to pay a deposit and first months rent, utility deposits and moving costs without the backpay. I had an apartment waiting for me and I may have lost it because of the ineptness of Social Security. I have no idea when I will be able to move into my own place. Needless to say I am very upset right now. Tell me please… HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO KOVE FORWARD IN MY LIFE. I am 61 years old. Without my beloved husband and without a place of my own.

    • BettyG

      that’s why we need to have a paper trail showing the date, time, people talked to, and EXACTLY what was said with each person; FILE SAFELY AWAY to refer back to.

      they should give you BACK PAY promptly.

    • Bill B.

      That’s why everyone your age should have a home paid off by the time you’re 60 or younger.

      • lorie

        yeah right some people our so lucky they have a home at all

      • Bonnie

        Mr. Brown your comments are not helpful but hurtful. Most importantly, KNOW that everyone just does not have the same opportunities as another. Furthermore, you do not know what has happened in ones own personal journey. There are life events that are very real that create lasting effects where one does not even have a choice for no choice was ever given. It is easy to cast blame, but have you even ever stopped to think that sometimes it is just LIFE. Life given was not promised to be fair, but as humans we should treat others in fairness. I find it wise to take heed from all, for it is our very differences that creates the same. We all are equal in value.

  3. Sandra

    I’m not sure I understand why if my husband and I have been married for 40years and we always had a combined income Ssdi stopped sending me 1099 for 2016. This prevents us from doing our income taxes. Yes he is in Lowell Mass because medical is cheaper than nh. And with Alzheimer’s he threw away the 1099 forms anyway. Now I need a lawyer for this guardianship.

    • BettyG

      contact local ss office promptly!

      you should have received 1099 regardless.

      need for medical decisions as well as for general/selling things, etc.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Sandra. It sounds like your husband will need help managing his Social Security benefits. If you or another relative are interested in applying to become your husband’s Representative Payee, you will need to contact your local office for a face-to-face interview. As a representative payee, you will be able to talk with us and have access to your husband’s records. To include copies of your husband’s Form 1099. In the future, it will make it easier for you to update his account information. We understand how inconvenient this may be, but we hope that you understand our role in protecting everyone’s personal information. If you have specific questions, or to make an appointment, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to speak to one of our representatives. Generally, you’ll have a shorter wait time if you call later in the week. Thanks!

  4. john

    I think about death almost every day especially all those scum out there who wast to profit from it.

    • lorie

      you got right thats why they keep changing it untill we even get much older and older until we can collect because their hoping we die frist so the govermenr can keep our money cant they
      give. widiows their money now and they can just redused it some just my opinion.

  5. Mary P.

    Not sure about the death benefit and how to apply for it. Who gets the benefit. Sure would help in paying end of life bills.

    • BettyG

      $255.00 will not pay for anything MUCH!!

    • Ray F.

      Hi Mary. Only eligible family members may be able to receive the one-time Lump Sum Death Payment in addition to monthly survivor benefits. For more information visit our Survivors Planner. Thanks.

      • Julia H.

        Would the suviors children qualify for anything? Single mom of2 and$780 is really hard

  6. Fred H.

    How much will my wife receive when I pass away? How is this amount computed.

    • BettyG

      $255.00 …. hasn’t changed since law was 1st set out 40-+ yrs. ago!

      contact the 1-800 no. or your local ss office to file a claim.

      • AKA

        Did it ever occur to you he might want to know about monthly benefits paid to a widow and not the lump sum death payment?

        • Ben

          Good one!

        • lorie

          your so right.forget the lump sunI I need to know what about someone like me that was married for 39 years and im only 57 years old now its not my fault my husband died at 59 now i have to wait untill im 62 my husband supported me he was the only one working same job 40 years and ssi says the care of the survivors widows. thats a lie and a one time lup sum of 255 or 250 is nothing i cant help me live on. and im not trying to get a free ride we paid into ssi all our working
          life now what!

    • Ray F.

      Please visit our Survivors Planner: How Much Would Your Benefit Be? to learn more about Widow’s Or Widower’s benefits.

    • Bill B.

      She’ll get your benefits, if yours are higher than hers. The $255 is not enough to even bury even animal, so you need to have life insurance.

  7. SARDER S.

    I am under unemployment now. Could you please help me how to get benefit fro my child who is in Grade 9?

    • Gina

      You can’t get SS for your child unless the child is disabled or if you are disabled and receiving SSDI not SSI. The other way would be if the child or children’s father received SSDI then your 9 year-old would be eligible to receive benefits from the biological father providing he never signed away his parental rights. Also you wouldn’t be not be eligible for Transitional assistance because you are receiving unemployment benefits you should be able too get foodstamps though. Also child support is an option, hope this information provided was a help to you.

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Sarder. Disabled children whose parents have little income or resources may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits. Also, when you qualify for Social Security retirement or disability benefits, your children may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. See “Benefits for Children” for additional information.

    • AKA

      How is this question pertinent to SS survivor’s benefits?

  8. Lesly F.


    • Donald B.

      do you have a lawyer? because realistically that is the only way to be prepared for a hearing. I hired one when I decided to file for Disability and it was great idea. even though it took 2 years to get a hearing they were with from day one right thru the hearing. Social Security has a cap on how much they can charge you. max is 1/3rd of back check.
      Feel free to email me if have any more questions.

    • ALA

      An attorney at the initial and recon levels is totally unnecessary

      • Ice

        Agreed. I did mine alone with no problems. Just make sure you read.

    • Sandra R.

      Get an attorney you’ll need one!

      • Janet

        Took me 3 years to get approved. An at toe that specializes in Disability is absolutely necessary, however no need to get one until after your first denial. Yes, I said first denial because you will more than likely be denied a few times before getting approved, if ever. Only 40% of people who apply get approved. Do a lot of research to prepare yourself for the hearing if you get that far. It’s really helpful to know the process backwards and forwards. Good luck!!!

        • AKA

          Do you think that 40% get approved because they are actually disabled and the rest of the folks are looking for a free ride?

          • Tom

            The law was written so that if there are jobs you can do that exist in significant numbers in the national economy you are not considered disabled. That is the law as written by Congress. It is not like a comp payment simply you cannot work your last job. If there is any job you can do based on your experience and education, you may not qualify. Congress believed if you can work, you should. Sadly, most people apply that rule to someone worse off than they are (e.g. the poor). If you are middle class you get different rules apparently.

          • Elaine J.

            Can’t be a free ride if the applicants have worked and paid into social security. If approved, they’re not even getting all that they contributed. Even receiving retirement, you’re paid a month later that your qualify date. And if you die before receiving benefit payment for any given month, the survivor is not even allowed to keep the check for funeral ecpenses. They have to send it back!
            Sounds very shortchanged to me!!!

          • Rosemary A.

            Re: deceased xSpousal support.. It’s been nearly 90 days since I filed but can’t get an answer from anyone @ your 800#. Please help me. I have filled all on the requisite paperwork ie marriage/& divorce forms…I went into the Plantation office on August 3, 17 and filled a claim.. but have heard from no one.. I desperately need your assistance..Thank you very much, Sincerely Rosemary A.

          • Ray F.

            Hello Rosemary, we apologize for this inconvenience. For security reasons, we do not have access to personal records via this blog. Please continue working with your local office and know you can request to speak with the local office manager to see how we can help to expedite resolution of your situation. If you are unable to visit your local servicing office, you may call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thanks.

      • BettyG

        lawyers normally do NOT get involved until the admin law judge hearing date is set!

        my ssdi lawyer of 4 yrs. QUIT me during the 2nd claim process.

        i represented myself and WON saving me $6,000+ lawyer would have gotten.

        so it can be done, but this was drawn out to 5 hellish years and 3 drawers full of redundant ssdi/medical records! grrrr.

    • Ray F.

      Hi Lesly! Please keep in mind that the Social Security Act sets out a very strict definition of disability. 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 to result in death. We pay disability benefits through two programs: the Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Our representatives will guide you and provide the assistant needed to complete the application process. You can help us, if you’re prepared and ready to provide the information we need to process your claim. To learn more, visit our Disability Planner. We hope this help.

  9. Janie R.

    Not sure what I have to write

  10. Janie R.

    4909 Princeton drive Bartlesville ok 74006

    • Carolyn P.






      IN MY CASE.

      • bonnie

        I agree with you!

      • MIMI

        ME THREE

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