Social Security Survivor Benefits- Do You Qualify?

Survivor Benefits are benefits paid to the surviving spouse, divorced spouse, children or parents of a deceased worker. 

In order to qualify for Social Security Survivor Benefits, you must meet certain criteria.

First, the deceased must have the requisite number of work credits. The number of work credits required varies depending on the year he was born, the year he died or became disabled, and his age at death.  The maximum number of work credits required is 40- the equivalent of 10 years of work.  To find the number of work credits required of a deceased worker, see www.ssa.gov.

Second, you must fall into one of the following categories.

  • You are a surviving spouse or divorced surviving spouse over age 60.
  • You are a disabled surviving spouse or divorced disabled surviving spouse over age 50 who became disabled within seven years of your deceased spouse’s death.
  • You are a surviving spouse at any age if you take care of the deceased spouse’s child who is under age 16 or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits.
  • You are an unmarried child under 18, or up to age 19 and attending high school full time. Under certain circumstances, benefits can be paid to stepchildren, grandchildren, or adopted children.
  • You are a child of any age who was disabled before age 22 and remains disabled.
  • You are a parent of the deceased if you are at least age 62 and were dependent on the deceased for at least one-half of your financial support.  (Marriage of the dependent parent after their child’s death would cause these benefits to cease.)

Third, if you are a surviving spouse, you must have been married for at least 9 months prior to your deceased spouse’s death to qualify, unless you are the parent of a child with the deceased spouse, you were married to the spouse previously for at least 9 months, or the deceased spouse died on active military duty or as a result of an accident. 

Fourth, if you are a divorced surviving spouse, you must have been married to the deceased for at least 10 years.