Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) can provide benefits to a disabled party’s surviving family members after that party dies. Based on your relationship to a deceased disabled person, you may qualify for continuing benefits after his or her death. However, you need to be an advocate for yourself or a family member in order to ensure you receive these benefits from Social Security Administration (SSA).
Social Security Disability Death Benefits Overview
Below are the different ways families may qualify for benefits after a family member dies:
- Widow(er) benefits: If the spouse was married for nine months before the disabled person’s death, he or she is eligible to claim these benefits if he or she meets other considerations. Widow(er)s who aren’t disabled can claim retirement benefits from the deceased after reaching 60 years old, while disabled widow(er)s can claim the benefits at over 50 years old as long as they were declared disabled after age 50.
- Parental benefits: If a spouse is taking care of a deceased disabled person’s biological children, stepchildren, grandchildren or step-grandchildren, he or she qualifies for continuing benefits. The child needs to be less than 16 years old at the death and not disabled.
- Children benefits: Children of the deceased 18 years or younger may qualify for benefits.
- Divorced spouses: If the marriage lasted more than 10 years, and the spouse hasn’t remarried, he or she may collect benefits.
- Dependant parents: The parent needs to be under 62 years old, not married and must have relied on the disabled child for half of his or her financial support. Adoptive and stepparents qualify as well.
5 Ways to Help Your Family Member in the Process
You cannot always trust SSA to assign these benefits to surviving family members automatically. The system is a giant bureaucracy and often people fall through the cracks. Below are some ways to help make sure you or your family member receives these benefits after a disabled family member dies:
- Don’t rely on the funeral director to report the death: Sometimes funeral directors report the death to SSA, but you shouldn’t count on this. SSA cannot begin to assign survivor benefits without being aware of the death.
- Speak with SSA quickly after the death: Depending on your relationship to the deceased, you may need to file an application for benefits. You cannot receive retroactive benefits until you file the application, so it’s in your financial interest to get a handle on the situation quickly.
- Maintain records from the original disability determination: If SSA denies your requests for survivor benefits, you may need to access this information in an appeal to prove your eligibility.
- Find other records of eligibility: You may need to file proof of your age, relationship to the deceased, or financial dependence on the deceased. Birth certificates and financial records can help prove this.
- Return any benefits paid after the family member’s death: You cannot keep any benefit paid to the deceased’s account after his or her death. For example, if someone dies in July, you cannot keep his or her August benefits.
Other Ways to Help Your Loved One
If you have trouble receiving these benefits, speak with an attorney. An attorney can help you prepare an application and can file an appeal with SSA if you have trouble accessing your benefits
Rob Levine, the Heavy Hitter, is committed to helping individuals receive all the disability benefits to which they’re entitled. Contact our office at 866-LAW-SSDI (529-7734) to schedule a free consultation.