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Survivors Benefits

Who Can Get Survivors Benefits?

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Survivors benefits are payable after an eligible worker dies to:

Widow or Widower

  • Widow or widower: Whether full benefits or a lesser amount are payable to a widow/er depends on the widow/er's date of birth. Full benefits are payable at age 65 or older if the widower/er was born before 1938. Reduced benefits are payable as early as age 60.

The age for receiving full benefits gradually increases for people born after 1937 until it reaches age 67 for people born in 1960 and later. See Social Security Retirement (SSR).

  • Disabled widow/er - A disabled widow/er can get benefits beginning at age 50. NOTE: The surviving spouse's benefits may be reduced if he or she also receives a pension from a job for which Social Security taxes were not withheld. For more information, see the Social Security: Government Pension Offset (Publication No. 05-10007) offsite link, available at: offsite link
  • Widow/er who takes care of a workers child under age 16 or who is disabled: Can receive benefits at any age.

Surviving Divorced Spouses

  • A divorced wife or husband of an eligible worker can get benefits under the same circumstances as a widow(er) if the marriage lasted 10 years or more.
  • The former spouse does not have to meet the length-of-marriage rule if she or he is caring for a natural or legally adopted child of the eligible worker who is under 16 or disabled and who is also getting benefits on the worker's Social Security record.
  • Benefits paid to a surviving divorced spouse who is age 60 or older (50-60 if disabled) will not affect the benefit rates for other survivors getting benefits.


  • Unmarried children under 18 (or up to age 19 if they are attending elementary or secondary school full time) can receive survivors benefits.
  • Disabled adult children can get benefits at any age if the child is disabled before age 22 and continues to remain disabled.
  • Stepchildren, grandchildren, or adopted children: Under certain circumstances, benefits also can be paid.

Dependent Parents Age 62 or older

Parents can collect a Social Security benefit if an eligible worker dies with parents who are dependent on him or her for more than one half of their support.

Social Security pays monthly benefits to parents on the record of a deceased worker under the following conditions:

  • The parent must be at least 62 years old and must not have remarried since the worker's death.
  • The parent cannot be entitled to his or her own, higher Social Security benefit.
  • The parent must be able to show that he or she was receiving one-half of his or her financial support from the worker at the time of death. Proof of support must be submitted to Social Security within two years of the worker's death.

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