My husband recently passed away. As his widow, shouldn’t I be eligible for social security death benefits?


Question: My husband of 45 years recently passed away. As his widow, shouldn’t I be eligible for social security death benefits? How do I go about finding out what I’m eligible for and whether I can get the benefits? I thought I heard something about a social security death index, but I don’t really know what that means.

Response: Social security pays two main types of death benefits to surviving spouses. First, if you were living with your husband at the time of his death, you may be eligible for a one-time lump sum death benefit. As of 2009, this lump sum payment is in the amount of $255.00. You may also be entitled to survivor’s benefits. Your eligibility depends upon whether you are of retirement age or disabled. If you are over the age of 60, you should be able to receive survivor’s benefits based on the amount of time your husband worked. The benefits will be determined based upon your husbands average lifetime earnings. You can apply by contacting your local social security office over the phone or in person and providing proof of death, your marriage certificate, your tax return and your social security number and birth certificate. You do not need to do anything with the social security death index, as the index is simply a registry or database that contains more than 80 million death records.

Answered by Christy Rakoczy

Additional Resources: Qualifying and Filing for Social Security

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