applying for survivor social security benefit

Under the Social Security system, the widow or widower of a deceased worker who would have been eligible to receive Social Security benefits may be entitled to those benefits or a portion of them through survivor benefits. A widow or widower may collect survivor benefits even if the widow or widower has eligibility to receive Social Security benefits under their own work record.

However, Social Security regulations place restrictions on eligibility to receive surviving widow/widower benefits and may reduce the amount of the benefit received under various circumstances. A widow or widower may also be entitled to switch over to a higher Social Security benefit (such as retirement benefits under their account) when those benefits become available.

Establishing eligibility for widow/widower survivor Social Security benefits, or determining which benefit will provide the highest payment, or switching benefits when one benefit will provide a higher payment can prove to be a complicated task for someone not well-versed in Social Security law.

If you are having trouble applying for survivor benefits for widows and widowers, or you believe you are not receiving the full benefits you are entitled to, or you are having trouble figuring out what Social Security benefit may be best for you and how to maximize your benefits, contact an experienced Social Security lawyer from Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons. Call us to schedule a free case review, so you can learn more about your legal rights and options.

How to Get Your Social Security Survivor Benefits

In order to apply for Social Security survivor benefits for a widow or widower, you will need to file Form SSA-10 with the Social Security Administration either by calling the Social Security Administration’s toll-free number or by visiting your local Social Security office.

When you file Form SSA-10, you will also need to submit documents that demonstrate your eligibility for widow/widower survivor benefits, such as:

  • Proof of your spouse’s death
  • Marriage certificate, or if you are applying as a surviving divorced spouse, the final divorce decree
  • Your birth certificate or other proof of birth
  • Proof of your U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status
  • W-2 or self-employment tax return
  • Forms SSA-3368 and SSA-827, if applying for disability benefits
  • Military discharge papers, if you served before 1968

You will also need to provide the Social Security Administration with other information regarding your eligibility, such as:

  • Whether you or someone else has filed for Social Security, Medicare, or Supplemental Security Income on your behalf
  • Whether your deceased spouse has ever filed for Social Security, Medicare, or Supplemental Security Income
  • Whether you have been disabled from work at any point in the prior 14 months
  • Whether your deceased spouse was disabled from work in the 14 months prior to their death
  • Whether you or your spouse ever worked in the railroad industry
  • Whether you or your spouse ever earned Social Security credits in another country
  • Whether you qualify for or expect to receive a pension or annuity for government employment
  • Your and your spouse’s marriage history (including any prior marriages)
  • Your and your spouse’s earning history
  • Whether your spouse had a dependent parent at the time of their death
  • Whether you were living with your spouse at the time of their death

Denied Widow/Widower Benefits? We Can Help

If you have been denied widow/widower survivor benefits from Social Security that you believe you are entitled to, Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons wants to help you. For more than 30 years, the attorneys of Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons have worked tirelessly to help those in legal need.

Denied social security benefits require you to appeal the SSA’s decision for your spouse’s benefits. Appeals can be intimidating and confusing, don’t go at it alone.

All of our partners have spent their entire legal career at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons, advancing our mission of providing one-on-one attention to each of our clients. Each Social Security lawyer at our firm practices exclusively in that area of law, so you can trust that you will have a highly experienced professional working on your case.

Contact the Oklahoma Social Security lawyers at Ryan Bisher Ryan & Simons today to talk to one of our attorneys about your situation and to learn more about how our firm may be able to help you recover the widow/widower benefits you are entitled to. Call us or reach out online for your free consultation.

How Long Does a Spouse Get Survivor Benefits?

A surviving widow or widower is entitled to receive survivor benefits indefinitely as if they were traditional Social Security retirement benefits. However, a widow/widower may have the option to switch over later to receive Social Security retirement benefits under their own account if those benefits end up exceeding the survivor benefits.

If a widow or widower claims survivor benefits at the widow’s/widower’s full retirement age, they will receive 100 percent of the deceased worker’s benefit amount. Taking the benefit earlier, beginning at age 60, will result in a reduced amount ranging from 71.5 to 99 percent of the basic benefit amount, depending on how close the widow/widower is to their own full retirement age.

Disability benefits equal 71.5 percent of the basic benefit, while widow/widower caregiver benefits equal 75 percent of the basic benefit.

Types of Widow or Widower SSD Benefits

Widows and widowers may be entitled to one of three different types of survivor benefits, depending on the widow’s/widower’s circumstances.

The types of survivor benefits include:

  • Retirement benefits, which can begin as reduced benefits when the widow/widower turns 60, or full benefits upon reaching full retirement age
  • Disability benefits, beginning at age 50, if the widow’s/widower’s disability started before or within seven years of the deceased spouse’s death
  • Caregiver benefits, available at any age if the widow/widower has not remarried and cares for the deceased worker’s child who is either disabled or under the age of 16 and who receives benefits under the deceased worker’s record, and the child is the widow’s/widower’s natural or legally adopted child

A widow/widower who remarries after reaching the age of 60 (or 50 if applying for disability benefits) will not affect their eligibility for survivor benefits by remarrying.

A surviving divorced spouse may also be entitled to the same widow/widower benefits provided the marriage lasted at least 10 years, and the surviving divorced spouse does not remarry prior to age 60 (or age 50 for disability benefits).

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