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.

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. Claudia

    Social Security DOES NOT take care of the survivors. My husband became disabled and was approved for disability in June, but we had to wait 6 months to receive the benefits. We were barely able to survive on my paycheck, and he passed away 15 days before he was to receive his benefits, and yes, the benefits just disappeared. In order for me to collect on his disability, he had to have had collected his first check, which hadn’t come yet. He worked all his life and paid into social security, as have I. Neither of us were EVER recipients of welfare. It was HIS money, and now I am dealing with all the hospital bills and funeral expenses. Social Security Administration bets that you will die before you receive your benefits, and it happened. $255 isn’t much for his life.

  2. verica b.

    Benefits,Social Security,It is a hard earn Money.Death benefits for the loved one $255,it is an Insult on Human being,left behind.Worked,payed taxes.No Raise.on cost of leaving.Gas is Cheep,Does that account that every Retired person has in mind,every day?How about,the fact,Medication,Health insurance,car insurance,food Prices are Up.Did anyone In our Government research these facts?Medicaid recipient have many incentives ,free! Does these facts,compare to the Retired Seniors? Or do we need more equality and respect here.

  3. Manuel S.

    There is an argument to be had with that $5.2 Trillion Dollars Mr. Clinton took out of SS to balance the budget.
    Just as quickly as he pulled that money of SS; it should be replaced even quicker.
    Obama recently paid Iran or Iraq 5.4 Billion dollars when that money should have gone back into our SS fund.
    Who is tough enough to tackle that one???

    • John O.

      The 5.4 B obama returned to Iran was Iran’s money that we had frozen. Clinton did not use SS to balance the budget.

  4. Pamela

    With all the money Our Great Government wastes We could All have Funeral Expenses paid in full from the Taxes, etc. We have paid. And No im not one of those that puts my hand out for anything. I struggle to survive on my own hard work. It just amazes me about the so called Death Benefit! That is a joke!

    • John O.

      The benefit was established when SS started and the amount has never been updated. Is there some reason the government needs to bury you? Buy life insurance.

  5. Phyllis H.

    I am disabled since the last few years and I am now age 62. My husband is 70. Does anyone know if there is something I need to do to collect my full amount at age 66? What happens with spousal benefits and would I be eligible along the way?

    • John O.

      You failed to say if you are drawing a benefit now. In order to get disability on your own work record you have to prove you became disabled before you were last insured, generally you would have worked 5 of the 10 years before onset. Check with SSA before the end of the month.

    • Susan

      YOu need to GO TO the SS office before April 30, 2016 because you will lose benefits of spousal benefits if you qualify. YOu need to discuss it with them I think one of you has to have delayed taking benefits at the time of eligibility to qualify for the spousal benefits, but those benefits disappear at the end of this month.

  6. Kevin V.

    In 2010 a person pulled out from a side street and I hit her vehicle all down the drivers side . I was on a motorcycle and she was driving on a suspended DL. Haven’t been able to work since then . I was airlifted from the scene and taken to the med , where I spent the next two months. My med bill at the time of release was almost 500,000. I have been turned down for disability for the second time now . How am I supposed to live the rest of my life ?

    • John O.

      File an appeal. Also, no one here can help you based upon sketchy incomplete information. Good luck!

    • Susan

      I was denied 4 times for disability and then I got my lawyer after a couple of surgeries and a year off of work to appeal before a SS appeals judge and got it through. Of course the lawyer gets his share, but at least I got some for that year. Then when I was disabled for good 10 years or so later it went straight through when I jumped through their hoops of getting an exam by their doctors. Didn’t you get a lawyer for your accident?

  7. Rick

    Apparently, it is National check your statement day. It would more appropriately named national don’t check your statement day. The website is down and SSA will not print one for you through the 1-800 number. You go Obama.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, same issue I’m encountering. At least an banner announcing nothings is working would be useful.

      • Jaclyn

        Gosh, I wish I would have had that inraomftion earlier!

      • Scout

        Too many coeinpmmlts too little space, thanks!

    • Ray F.

      Hi Rick, the site appears to be up and running, please try again.

  8. Annie

    What is it with this “all about me – government should give me a hand out mentality”? We should all be responsible for planning for our own funeral expenses, whatever they may be. I understand that $255 death benefit isn’t a great deal of money, but why should anyone think they are entitled to that let alone full funeral expenses paid by Social Security?
    Grow up and take responsibility for yourself people!

  9. Officer

    no thats no fare my husband pass and I am retired but work part time and I am getting some of his but when I get a rise for working they don’t give it to me without taking it off his. that whole business they are doing is wrong. you need to contact AARP and get them to fight for you.

    • CPoulin

      You will be able to keep all of your earnings and his SS when you reach SS retirement age. Sorry, I don’t know when that is for you, for me it was when I turned 65.

      • Maria

        I went to the SS office because very soon I will turn 66, and what the clerk told me is that I need to select mine because is higher than my husband’s (whom already pass away) she never mentioned that I can select his, and that at my full retirement age, that honestly I do not know what age is that, I can switch to mine, I am planning to continue working, but she also mentioned that I need to have an income not greater than $15,700!! who can live in California with that!
        Was the information I receive in the SS office correct?

        • Chris

          Maria you can select his if you want even though it is lower and switch to your own at age 70 which would give you what is called delayed retirement credits adding a percentage for each year between 66 and 70 where you did not draw on your own. You can use this chart to figure out what the additional amount would be at age 70. Please note that as you continue to work that can also result in an increase to your own benefit regardless of your age as recalculations will be done.

        • Ray F.

          Hi Maria, if you were born between 1/2/1943 and 1/1/1955, your full retirement age is 66 years. You can work while you receive Social Security retirement (or survivors) benefits, but if you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, your earnings may reduce your benefit amount. For 2016, the yearly limit is $15,720. See our “Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working” for more information.
          In some cases, a widow can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then, at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate. Please continue working with your local office if you have specific questions about your situation, or call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. for assistance.

      • Ray F.

        Full retirement age is the age at which a person may first become entitled to full or unreduced retirement benefits. Also, when you reach your full retirement age, you can get your Social Security benefits no matter how much you earn. See our “Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working”.

    • John O.

      There is nothing to fight for and the AARP will do nothing for you.

  10. Premlata V.

    The surviving spouse may still receive spousal SS benefit. If the spouse is earning greater than $15,700 then the spouse will have to pay more to SS, but that excess applies to spouse’s SS earnings which will increase her/his SS benefit at retirement. Make appointment and visit SS. Make sure to tell them that you want survivor benefit and not your own.

Comments are closed.