What Happens to Social Security Disability Benefits When a Spouse Dies?

In this article...
  • When a spouse dies, you may be able to receive Social Security disability benefits. Find out how Social Security disability works when your spouse passes.
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The loss of a spouse is difficult enough, but along with it, there are financial issues to sort out. When a spouse who had been collecting Social Security disability benefits passes away, that benefit is sometimes passed onto the surviving spouse if they meet certain criteria.

Remember that each person's situation is different, and if you have any questions about whether or not you'd qualify to receive Social Security disability after a spouse passes, you can contact your local Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213 to speak to a Social Security representative.

Learn more below about the intricacies of how Social Security disability works after a spouse dies.

Social Security Disability After a Spouse Dies

Under normal circumstances, you can't receive disability benefits based on anyone's disability but your own, but you can receive survivor's benefits in some instances.

For regular Social Security Income (SSI), generally speaking, if you're of retirement age — 62 years old — you can receive Social Security retirement benefits based on your deceased spouse's record with the Social Security Administration (SSA). And, if you're disabled, you may also be able to receive Social Security disability benefits after your spouse passes away.

Qualifying for SSDI When a Spouse Dies

It's important to remember that everyone's situation is different, so what one person may qualify for, another person may not. It's usually best to consult with a Social Security representative either by phone at 1-800-772-1213 or at your local Social Security office if you have questions about your eligibility.

In general, though, in order to qualify to receive Social Security disability benefits:

  • You must be either disabled at the time of your spouse's death or become disabled within 7 years of your spouse's death.
  • You must have been married for at least 9 months.
  • You are the parent of the deceased spouse's minor children, either biologically or through adoption.

In some cases, the 9 month rule may not apply if the circumstances surrounding your spouse's death meet these criteria:

  • The death of your spouse was accidental.
  • Your spouse was a member of the armed services and died while on active duty.
  • Your spouse was previously married to someone who he was legally unable to divorce, such as someone who was institutionalized.
  • If you had previously been married to this same spouse in the past for at least 9 months.

How Much SSDI Can I Qualify for?

The amount of Social Security disability benefits you qualify for depends on the amount your deceased spouse was receiving. The amount you receive may be based on your age and how long you were married.

In general, if you're 62 or older, you'll likely qualify for the full benefit upon your spouse's passing. If, however, you're between 50-62, you likely will qualify for a percentage of that benefit based on your age. 

As with most things related to federal and Social Security benefits, it's best to contact a Social Security representative so they can answer questions specific to your situation.