Disability, General, Retirement, SSI, Survivors

You and Your Family May Be Eligible for Increased Benefits

September 9, 2021 • By

Last Updated: September 9, 2021

mother and daughter using laptop onlineWe know your circumstances may change after you apply—or become eligible—for benefits. If you, or a family member, receive Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), certain life changes could entitle you to an increase in your benefit amount.

As part of our Potential Entitlement initiative, we want to help you identify where you might qualify for a higher benefit. For example, you may be entitled to higher benefits based on your own earnings record or someone else’s record. Some of the life changes that could possibly increase your benefits include the following scenarios:

  • If your spouse or ex-spouse dies, you may be eligible for a higher survivor benefit based on his or her earnings record. The death of an ex-spouse may entitle you to a higher survivor benefit even if you are already receiving a survivor benefit on another spouse. Our publication, Survivors Benefits, has additional information we encourage you to check out.
  • If you are receiving Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work and you have worked, you may be eligible for a higher retirement benefit based on your own work.
  • If your deceased adult child provided at least half of your support, you may be eligible for a higher parent’s benefit based on your child’s work history. Our publication, Parent’s Benefits, includes more information you may want to consider.

We continue to focus our Potential Entitlement initiative on people who face barriers to service. This includes our elderly population, children with disabilities, veterans, SSI recipients, and people with limited English proficiency. We are proud to say that since we started the initiative in 2017, our efforts have resulted in approximately $553 million in retroactive and total monthly increased benefits paid.

We encourage you to check out our Explore the Benefits You May Be Due page for more information on any additional benefits available for you and your family. You can use your personal my Social Security account to check your benefit and payment information – along with your earnings record. If you don’t have a personal my Social Security account, you can create one today!

Please share this information with your friends and family—and post it on social media.


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Deputy Associate Commissioner, Office of Strategic and Digital Communications

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  1. Dan B.

    My wife recently died from Covid complications. Her SS income was 3 times the amount of my SS income. Will I be able to continue receiving the amount she did, or will I have to continue receiving my regular amount? Somewhere in between?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Dan, we are very sorry for your loss. You may be eligible for reduced widows benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled) and at any age if caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving benefits on the deceased’s record. Survivor benefit amounts are based on your wife’s earnings. The more she paid into Social Security, the higher the benefits would be. The benefits will not be established automatically, you will have to contact us.

      There is also a one-time lump-sum death payment of $255 that can be paid to the surviving spouse. You would need to call and make an appointment to file for both benefits. 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. 

      Check out our If You Are The Survivor web page for details. We hope this helps! 

      Reply
  2. Marci D.

    I was just told by a friend that I may be eligible for survivor benefits (ex-husband) when I retire. I’m not quite ready to retire but wanted to get clarification on this. My husband and I were married for almost 11 years and he never remarried, nor have I. Am I able to qualify for survivor benefits? What if my benefits work out to be more than his (I would think that would be the case in most situations) as he is deceased while I continue to work for several years. How are these benefits calculated? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Marci, thanks for using our blog. If you are the divorced spouse of a worker who died and you are not married, you could get benefits just the same as a widow or widower. For more information, please visit our Surviving Divorced Spouse webpage.

      Reply
  3. Yvette

    My children and I were receiving survivor benefits. I received a letter from SS saying once my youngest turns 16, I will no longer be receiving my survivor benefits, but my son still will. Will there still be a limit on my earned income, or can I earn an unlimited amount?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Yvette, thanks for using our blog. If you’re no longer eligible for Social Security benefits, your earnings will not affect your children’s Social Security survivor benefits. 

      Reply
      • Yvette

        Thank you so much for the prompt reply.

        Reply
  4. Tom

    I have read the message re:extra SS benefits if you were in the Military and am confused on whether my active duty pay was included when I applied for SS. If I remember correctly, I was told it didn’t matter what my Military pay was because they only take the best 10 years of income. After reading your article about Military extra benefits it sounds like this is an extra benefit I-may be entitled to. Do you have a # I can call for more info if you are unable to answer this. I am in the State of NY.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Tom, thanks for using our blog. Since 1957, if you had military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training), you paid Social Security taxes on those earnings. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security.

      Under certain circumstances, special extra earnings for periods of active duty from 1957 through 2001 can also be credited to your Social Security earnings record for benefit purposes.

      There are no special extra earnings credits for military service after 2001.

      These special earnings credits are added to your earnings record automatically when you apply for Social Security benefits.

      Check out our Military Service and Social Security publication for more information. We hope this helps!

      Reply
  5. sf

    can i change my social security from my own to my spouses..his benefit is much higher than mine

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi SF. Thanks for using our blog. We will always pay your own retirement benefit first. If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. However, the spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your spouse’s full retirement amount (not their reduced benefit amount). So, you can only receive additional spouse’s benefits if your own full retirement benefit (not your reduced benefit) is less than half of your spouse’s full retirement benefit.

      Generally, during the initial interview when applying for Social Security benefits, we typically explore all other benefits that could yield you a higher benefit amount. To find out if you are eligible for a higher benefit amount, you can 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
  6. Carol C.

    I receive Social Security Disability payments. I live in Alabama & did not realize for over two years that you are or can be exempt from paying property taxes. How do I find out other benefits or exemptions because I am disabled?

    Reply
    • Kenny O.

      Hello Carol C. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. Please contact 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
  7. Kathy M.

    I started receiving widow benefits at age 62 and working 24 hours weekly. I’m now 64 and not working. Will my benefit amount change until I apply for social security benefits when I turn 66?

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Kathy, thanks for using our blog. A Social Security retirement benefit is calculated by using your highest 35 years of earnings. If you do not have 35 years of earnings, we will use all of the earnings on your record and factor in an annual total of $0.00 earnings for each of the remaining years.

      Because you’re already receiving widow’s benefits, you will need to call and make an appointment when you’re ready to apply for your own retirement benefits. You can appy four months in advance of when you want your retirement benefits to begin. To make an appointment, 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
  8. Arnold V.

    I retired from the United States Army in July 31, 1988. I applied for Social Security Benefits when I turned 67 years old. I did not bring my DD214 when I applied SS benefits. Is it true if I bring my DD214 to the SSA office, they will readjust and increased my monthly benefits due to my service with the military. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Arnold, thanks for using our blog. Since 1957, if you had military service earnings for active duty (including active duty for training), you paid Social Security taxes on those earnings. Since 1988, inactive duty service in the Armed Forces reserves (such as weekend drills) has also been covered by Social Security.

      Under certain circumstances, special extra earnings for periods of active duty from 1957 through 2001 can also be credited to your Social Security earnings record for benefit purposes.

      There are no special extra earnings credits for military service after 2001.

      These special earnings credits are added to your earnings record automatically when you apply for Social Security benefits.

      Check out our Military Service and Social Security publication for more information. We hope this helps!

      Reply
  9. Eddie P.

    Is disability taxable

    Reply
    • Vonda

      Hi Eddie, thanks for using our blog. Some Social Security beneficiaries have to pay federal (not state) income taxes on their Social Security benefits. This usually happens only if they have other substantial income in addition to their benefits (such as wages, self-employment, interest, dividends and other taxable income that must be reported on the federal tax return).

      For information about taxation of benefits, visit our Income Taxes And Your Social Security Benefits web page. We hope this is helpful!

      Reply

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