General, Online Services, Survivors

When Tragedy Occurs, Your Family Can Count on Us

April 11, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: November 6, 2023

Older woman comforting a young boyTragedy strikes without warning. For families who lose a wage earner, it can have a devastating financial impact in addition to the emotional one.

Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin says that Social Security touches the lives of every American, often in times of tragedy and uncertainty. It’s true. Our programs go beyond retirement and disability benefits. Social Security helps care for the surviving families of deceased entitled workers.

If you work, some of the Social Security taxes you pay now go toward survivors benefits for workers and their families. In the event of your death, certain family members — widows, widowers (including your divorced spouse), children and dependent parents — may be eligible for survivors benefits. Social Security’s survivors benefits may be more valuable than your individual life insurance.

The benefit amount your family is eligible for depends on your average lifetime earnings. The more you earned, the more their benefits will be. Check your Social Security Statement to see an estimate of survivors benefits we could pay. You can create a secure my Social Security account to access your Statement anytime and see an estimate of these benefits. With a my Social Security account, you can also see an estimate of your retirement and disability benefits, and ot her important information. You can also visit our Benefits Planner to help you better understand your and your family’s, Social Security protection as you plan for your financial future.

In certain circumstances, we also make a one-time payment of $255 to your spouse or child if you’ve worked long enough. Survivors must apply for this payment within two years of the date of death.

For more information about how Social Security’s survivors benefits can help your surviving dependents, please read Survivors Benefits or visit our website. No one likes to think about death, but, unfortunately, it’s inevitable. When it happens, know that you can count on Social Security to be there for your loved ones.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications


  1. Linda M.

    I just checked my bank acct and SS check came in today but my husband just died the 15th what do i do

    • Sue

      Linda, we are very sorry for your loss. Typically, the funeral director notifies us of an individual’s passing, but you should call your local office to make sure we are aware of your husband’s death. We can pay you, as a surviving spouse, a one-time lump-sum death payment of $255. Please make an appointment to file for that benefit and to discuss your eligibility for surviving spouse benefits. You’ll find your local office phone number with the Social Security Office Locator. Please be aware that our call volume and wait times are higher than normal, so please be patient. For more information, check out our If You Are The Survivor web page.

  2. Kyle

    How do I go about getting a benefit check for my son, since I’m on disability?

    • Vonda

      Hi Kyle, thanks for using our blog. To make an appointment to apply for benefits for your son, 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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