Social Security_Survivors Insurance

Agency - Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration advances the economic security of the nation's people through compassionate and vigilant leadership in shaping and managing America's Social Security programs.

Office - Consult Appendix IV of the Catalog.

Program Accomplishments

For fiscal year 2007, an average of 6,544,000 received monthly cash benefits. During fiscal year 2008, the average number receiving benefits is expected to increase to 6,499,000.

Uses and Use Restrictions

Monthly cash benefits are paid to eligible family members of deceased workers.

There are no restrictions on the use of benefits, although the right to future benefits is not transferable or assignable.

The Federal government gives the States funds, in advance or by way of reimbursement, for necessary costs in making disability determinations under 20 CFR part 404 subparts P and Q.

Necessary costs are direct as well as indirect costs as defined in 41 CFR Part 1-15, Subpart 1-15.7 of the Federal Procurement Regulations System for costs incurred before April 1, 1984; and 48 CFR 31, Subpart 31.6 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations System and Federal Management Circular A-74-4 as amended or superseded for costs incurred after March 31, 1984.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

Benefits are payable only if the deceased was insured for survivors insurance protection.

Coverage credits under the social security systems of certain foreign countries with which the U.S.

has reciprocal agreements may be taken into account to meet the requirements.

Survivors eligible for monthly cash benefits are the following: widows or widowers age 60 or over; surviving divorced spouses age 60 or over (married to the deceased worker for at least 10 years); disabled widows, widowers or surviving divorced spouses ages 50- 59; widows, widowers, or surviving divorced spouses at any age who have in their care a child under age 16 or disabled and entitled to benefits on the deceased worker's Social Security record; unmarried children under age 18, under age 19 and a full time student in elementary or secondary school; or age 18 or older and under a disability which began before age 22; and dependent parents age 62 and over.

All survivors benefits, other than for beneficiaries at full retirement age (FRA) or older, are subject to an earnings test.

Beginning with the year 2000, the retirement earnings test was eliminated beginning with the month in which the beneficiary reaches FRA.

A person at and above FRA will not have Social Security benefits reduced because of earnings.

In the calendar year in which a beneficiary reaches FRA, benefits are reduced $1 for every $3 of earnings above the limit allowed by law, $31,080 in 2005, but this reduction is applied only to months prior to attainment of FRA.

For years before the year the beneficiary attains FRA, the reduction in benefits is $1 for every $2 of earnings over the annual exempt amount, $12,000 in 2005.

Except for benefits to children and dependent parents, all survivors benefits are subject to a pension offset if the person is also receiving a governmental pension based on his or her own work in non-covered employment.

However, the offset does not apply: (1) If the person receives, or is eligible to receive, the pension before December 1, 1982, and can meet the requirements for the Social Security auxiliary's benefit as they existed in January 1977; or (2) if the person receives, or is eligible to receive, the pension before July 1, 1983, and the person was dependent on his or her spouse for at least one-half support at the time the spouse died, became disabled or became entitled to Social Security benefits.

The amount of the public pension used for purposes of the offset against Social Security survivor's benefits is equal to two-thirds of the public pension.

Benefits for widows/widowers and surviving divorced spouses are also offset dollar for dollar by any Social Security benefit the surviving spouse receives based on his or her own work.

Under certain conditions, a lump-sum death payment of $255 is payable to the widow or children of the deceased worker.

Further, no benefit can be paid to an alien in the United States unless he is lawfully present in the United States.

Also, an alien cannot qualify for benefits if he or she never had a work-authorized Social Security Number (SSN) (effective for benefit applications based on SSNs issued after 2003).

Beneficiary Eligibility

Widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses age 60 or over are entitled as long as the worker met the insurance requirements. Widows, widowers, and surviving divorced spouses also qualify at any age if they have entitled children of the worker under age 16 or disabled children in their care; unmarried children: under age 18, under age 19 and a full-time student in elementary or secondary school or age 18 or older and under a disability which began before age 22; and dependent parents age 62 and over. To claim benefits as disabled widows, widowers, or surviving divorced spouses, individuals ages 50-59 must show that they have a disability that started no later than 7 years after the insured died or 7 years after certain other events. "Disability" currently has the same meaning for these entitlements as it does for workers who claim disability insurance (see 96.001). As in worker disability claims, there is also a 5-month waiting period after the disability began before benefits begin and entitlement to Medicare after 24 months of entitlement to benefits. Children of the worker claiming benefits because of disability are also subject to the definition of disability used for workers and must show that they have been disabled since before they reached age 22. There is no waiting period for these benefits.


Social Security number, proof of death, age, and relationship. For certain auxiliaries, proof of support may be required.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination


This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.


Application Procedures

Call toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 or telephone or visit the local Social Security Office.

Award Procedures

After review of the application is completed, the applicant (or representative payee) will be notified by mail.


Retroactivity is limited to 6 months if unreduced benefits are being awarded. Other than a minor exception that permits one-month retroactivity if the widow(er) files for benefits in the month after the month of the worker's death, no retroactivity is provided in most cases when reduced benefits are being awarded. For disabled surviving spouses and disabled surviving divorced spouses, benefits may be retroactive for up to 12 months.


Social Security Act of 1935, Title II, as amended; 42 U.S.C. 401-433.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

Not applicable.


Call toll free at 1 (800) 772-1213 or telephone or visit the local Social Security office. The appeal process can range from a case review to a review by the Federal courts. An appeal must be requested in writing within 60 days of the date on which a written notice of SSA's decision is received by the applicant. The 60 days start, the day after receipt of the notice.


Not applicable.

Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

This program has no statutory formula or matching requirements.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Not applicable.

Post Assistance Requirements


Any change in address or in eligibility requirements (such as work status, marital or family status, or school attendance) must be reported to Social Security when it occurs.





Financial Information

Account Identification



(Benefit Payments) FY 07 $69,830,000,000; FY 08 $71,704,000,000; and FY 09 est not reported. (Note: These figures represent benefits actually paid, or expected to be paid.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

Monthly cash benefits range up to $1,939 for the widow or widower of a worker who dies at age 65 in January 2005. As of December 31, 2004, the average benefit paid to an aged widow or widower alone was $920, and the average amount paid to a widowed mother or father with two or more eligible children was $1,905.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

Code of Federal Regulations, Title 20, Parts 401, 404, 422. "Your Social Security," and other publications are available from any Social Security office without charge. The Social Security internet address is and it includes copies of all disability-related laws, regulations, rulings, and free publications, as well as other information about Social Security programs.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

Consult Appendix IV of the Catalog.

Headquarters Office

Office of Public Inquiries, Room 4100, Annex, Social Security Administration, Baltimore, MD 21235. Telephone: (410) 965-2736. Use the same number for FTS.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

Not applicable.

The Great Social Enterprise Pitch, a project of Assets Lancaster and the Lancaster County Community Foundation, has now opened its voting portal for people who will donate money to the projects they like best.

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Edited by: Michael Saunders

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