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Social Security for Widows and Widowers

Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits include retirement benefits for a worker who has reached a certain age and contributed a certain amount into the system. Workers who become disabled before they reach retirement age may also receive benefits, known as Social Security Disability or SSD, provided that they have enough work credits built up and their disability meets the strict definitions of the Social Security Administration.

Spouses, including former spouses, may also be entitled to benefits upon the death of a spouse or former spouse. These benefits include survivor’s benefits as well as disability payments for a disabled widow or widower.

Survivor’s Benefits

If your spouse had worked long enough to qualify for Social Security, then you may be entitled to survivor’s benefits following the loss of your spouse. These benefits include a one-time payment or $255, as well as monthly benefits based on the earnings of the deceased, your own age and the type of benefit, including child-in-care benefits. Different rules may apply if you were divorced or remarried at the time of death of a former spouse.

Disabled Widows and Widowers

You may be disabled from working but not receiving any Social Security Disability benefits because you never qualified for benefits. However, you may be able to receive benefits if your deceased spouse was a worker who qualified for Social Security. In order to receive SSD as a disabled widow, widower or surviving divorced spouse, you must be between the ages of 50 and 60, meet Social Security’s strict definition of disabled, and have a disability that began either before or within seven years after your spouse’s death.

Contact Social Security to Apply for Benefits

You cannot apply for survivor’s benefits online, although a lot of information is available on the Social Security Administration’s website. To report a death, call 1-800-772-1213 or click here to find your local Social Security office. If you provide the deceased’s Social Security Number to the funeral director handling the burial, they can report the death for you.

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