What Percentage of Social Security Benefits Does a Widow Receive?
If you are married to a person who is “insured” for SSDI benefits at the time of their death, you may be able to collect a large portion of their monthly SSD benefit payment. How much you are entitled to receive from your deceased spouse’s SSDI benefits depends on several factors. (The term “widow” is used here to refer to a surviving spouse, regardless of gender.)
In this blog post, we at MJ Ellis Disability Law want you to learn how a surviving spouse becomes eligible and how the amount of the widow’s benefit is determined. If you are wondering about your eligibility to receive surviving spouse benefits after you lost your spouse, call or email me at MJ Ellis Disability Law. I’ve been representing people with disabilities and their families for decades and I want to help you.
SSDI Surviving Spouse Benefits
The first condition required to collect benefits as a widowed spouse is that your deceased spouse must be insured (covered) under the Social Security eligibility rules. This is determined by how many years your spouse worked and how recently they worked before the date of their death. They need to have earned enough “work credits” to become eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits if they did not reach their full retirement age when they passed away.
If your spouse worked for at least ten years and worked within the five years preceding their death, then you are probably eligible to receive Social Security benefits if you were married for at least one year prior to their death.
How Much Do Widows Receive from Social Security?
The amount of the benefit a widowed spouse receives from Social Security depends partially on their age, whether they are caring for children or disabled dependents, and whether they are eligible for benefits through their own employment history.
Widowed Spouse Who Is Full Retirement Age (FRA) or Older — If a widowed spouse has reached their full retirement age (FRA), then they are eligible to receive 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefit amount.
While Full Retirement Age (FRA) used to be 65 for everyone, concern about the financial viability of the Social Security Trust Fund led to an adjustment in the FRA. Now, your FRA is determined by the year of your birth.
Widowed Spouse Aged 60 to FRA — A widowed spouse can begin to receive Social Security benefits through their deceased spouse’s work history beginning at age 60. But the amount of the benefit will be reduced because of the early filing age. At age 60, the widowed spouse would receive 71.5% of the deceased spouse’s basic benefits. The longer the widow waits to file for survivor benefits, the higher the benefit amount, climbing up to 99% for a widow who waits until just before they reach their FRA.
Widowed Spouse of Any Age Who Cares for a Child Under 16 — If a widowed spouse has a dependent child under age 16 whom they care for, then the widow would receive 75% of the decedent’s benefit amount.
Widowed Spouse of Any Age Is Disabled — If you are disabled at the time of your spouse’s death, or if you become disabled within 7 years after your spouse’s death, you would be eligible to receive Social Security benefit payments through your deceased spouse’s work history no matter how old you are.
For example, if you were only 42 and you were not otherwise eligible to receive widowed spouse benefits, your own disability would qualify you to apply for disability benefits through your spouse’s work credits. Again, this would require your spouse to have been work-credit-qualified for coverage at the time of their death.
In some cases, the widow’s own Social Security benefits will be higher than their deceased spouse due to their long history of higher earnings. You should always speak to a Social Security benefit expert before you apply for benefits. Determining what benefits you apply for is essential to ensure you are receiving the highest benefit payments to which you are entitled.
The Law Office of MJ Ellis — Disability Law Specialist
Here at MJ Ellis Disability Law Office, our entire staff is prepared to answer all your Social Security questions and I devote my entire legal practice to working with and for disabled residents in and around Northern New Jersey.