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Can a widow receive a deceased spouse's benefits?

If anyone in your family has received Social Security Disability benefits, you know how that monthly check can be a lifesaver for everyone in the household. When, due to illness or injury, you can no longer work to earn a living, the Social Security Disability Insurance program can provide you and your family with much-needed income. But if the disabled recipient passes away, does that income disappear?

The short answer is no, not necessarily. Widows may file an application to receive a late spouse's disability benefits.

The Social Security Administration may provide benefits for survivors, including a spouse, a child or the parent of a worker who has passed away. However, the system is complicated.

The Social Security Disability benefits program operates as a form of insurance, and workers must pay into the system in order to be able to receive the benefits, if necessary. The dollar amount of the benefits is based upon the worker's work history. To accumulate enough to work history to qualify for benefits, the worker must have a certain number of work credits on his or her record. These credits are calculated according to the worker's earnings, and every worker can earn up to four work credits per year.

Theoretically, the widow of a disability benefits recipient can collect 100 percent of the deceased spouse's benefits. However, there are many complicating factors. For example, a widow or widower may be required to take a smaller amount if he or she applies for these benefits before full retirement age.

Getting the most out of your benefits requires careful planning. An attorney with experience in Social Security Disability law can help you understand your options.

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