General, Online Services, Survivors

When Tragedy Occurs, Your Family Can Count on Us

April 11, 2016 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: July 29, 2021

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.

Did you find this Information helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

Tags: ,

See Comments

About the Author

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications

Jim Borland, Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Communications


  1. LYNN T.

    my mom died July 1st having been paid for June. SS took that payment back! Why???
    Now, dad passed Aug 30th and his payment which should have been paid Sept 3rd came early, Aug 30 because of the Labor Day weekend and SS took it back.
    This is SO wrong. I need that money for his final expenses as I needed mom’s for hers. Something is broken when person can live the whole month and then have their benefit taken back.

  2. Garfield S.

    5/23/2019 does it yet again! Quite a perceptive site and a good post. Nice work!

  3. And g.

    My mom became really sick these last few months we found out she has brain cancer I have five children and she’s been my Payee Well she was hospitalized we didn’t realize that my Social Security would end up being cut off because of my papers not getting in And getting them renewed for the year what do I do I need money I’m so broke I’m so scared

  4. Thereseholzinger

    My sister Shirley B. Berman is on SSI and going into Hospice soon. Do you help with cremation services ?
    Thank-you, Therese Holzinger–sister-surrogate

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Therese. We are sorry to hear about your sister’s condition. We do not help with cremation services. However, your sister may be eligible to receive social services from the state in which she lives. These services include free meals, housekeeping help, transportation, or help with other problems. To get information about services in her area and find out if she qualifies, you will need to contact her state or local social services or welfare office. We hope this helps!

      • Dan F.

        6/8/2019 In my view, does a good job of handling subject matter of this type. While ofttimes intentionally contentious, the posts are in the main thoughtful and stimulating.

  5. Ana S.

    My Mother Vera Henriques passed away on February 23, 2019 and I received her Social Security Deposit on March 1, 2019 I called Social Security they never answer the phone after holding for 1hr and 15 minutes I hug up

    • Ann C.

      Hi, Ana. We are sorry to hear about your loss. In some instances, the financial institution will automatically return payments upon notification of the beneficiary’s death. Typically, the funeral director notifies us of an individual’s passing by sending the deceased person’s death certificate to the local Social Security office. However, you may report the death of your mom’s passing, by calling our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. or you can contact your local office. Thanks.

  6. Crystal J.

    My son was murdered and did not have any work credits. So he can not get survivor benefit? What help is there?

  7. Carol B.

    My 44 year old daughter passed away in August. I have her minor daughter. My daughter worked some during the year. Who is responsible for filing her taxes and if there should be a refund who would get it?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Carol, we are very sorry for your loss. For taxation inquiries, please contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) at or by calling their toll-free number at 1-800-829-1040.

      If your daughter worked long enough into Social Security, there may be certain family members eligible for survivor benefits on her record such as a spouse, divorced spouse, and child. To inquire about potential survivor benefits, call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

  8. Marc N.

    I was told that I need to schedule an appointment for an in person meeting to claim the $255 death benefit after my spouse died.
    Why does this need to be in-person?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Marc, typically, you can apply for the lump sum death payment over the phone or face to face. You may want to call back and speak to a representative again for clarification.

      You can schedule, reschedule or change an appointment by:
      •Calling us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; or
      •Contacting your local Social Security office.

  9. martha w.

    wife died and I recd fifty thousand dollars life insurance money. our son is autistic and receive ssi benefits. do I have to pay this money to ssa

    • Vonda V.

      Hi there. We are very sorry for your loss. Because Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a needs-based program that gives cash assistance to individuals who are age 65 or older, blind or disabled, with limited income and resources, we must know about all changes in income to determine the proper payment amount. To report the income, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or contact your local Social Security office.

  10. Linda B.

    we heard that there is a one time payment of a nonworking widow of ten thousand dollars.

    Linda Belflower

    • Santo S.

      Congrats for the noteworthy blog you’ve created at Your enthusiastic take on the subject is absolutely inspiring. Thanks again!

Comments are closed.