Question of the Month: What Benefits Are Available to Me as a Disabled Widow or Widower?

April 1, 2017

When your spouse dies not only is it emotionally overwhelming, it can be financially devastating as well. However, many do not realize that when a spouse passes away, the surviving wife or husband may be eligible for widow/widower benefits, which can be a financial lifeline.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) reports that “at present, there are about 5 million widows and widowers receiving monthly Social Security benefits based on their deceased spouse’s earnings record. And, for many of those survivors, particularly aged women, those benefits are keeping them out of poverty.”

If a widow or widower is disabled, he or she can receive benefits as early as age 50 if their disability started before or within seven years of a spouse’s death. In order to receive benefits on a deceased spouse’s work record, the deceased spouse must have worked enough to be insured for benefits. And the widow or widower must have a medically proven physical or mental condition which is either a terminal condition or has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months and prevents you from working.

As it is with nearly all Social Security regulations, there are several exceptions and conditions that apply to widow/widower benefits, which include:

  • Time Requirement: In most cases, the widow or widower must have been married to the deceased spouse for at least nine months to be eligible for benefits (but there are some exceptions to this rule).
  • Remarriage: You cannot get benefits as a surviving spouse if you remarry before you turn 50 years old.
  • Individual Disability Benefits: For many surviving spouses who worked in the past and who are disabled, the benefits on their own work record may be larger than the surviving spouse payments. They can choose whichever payment is higher.
  • Working: If a surviving spouse is working, his or her eligibility for disabled widow or widower’s benefits may be affected.
  • Caring for a Child: A surviving spouse may qualify for widow/widower benefits if they are caring for the child of a deceased spouse. Typically, these benefits end when the child reaches 16 years of age. However, if the child is disabled and certain conditions are met, surviving spousal benefits may be extended.

As you can see, the details and rules governing disabled widow/widower benefits are complex. If you believe you are eligible as a disabled widow or widower, we encourage you to contact us at Nash Disability Law. The Nash attorneys dedicate their practice to Social Security disability law and can help you through the process. Contact us for a free evaluation of your situation.

And one final note: You cannot apply for widow/widower Benefits online; you must visit your local Social Security office. There are specific documents you have to bring with you:

  • A death certificate or a notice from the funeral home,
  • Your own and your deceased spouse’s Social Security numbers,
  • Your deceased spouse’s birth certificate,
  • Your Marriage certificate,
  • Your most recent tax forms.