It’s easy to focus solely on individuals who receive SSDI benefits directly and forget about their family members who also rely on the income. But a widow or widower, who has lost their spouse, is in a unique and often confusing position. They depend on the SSDI benefits as much as their spouse did but the benefits didn’t belong to them. What options do they have?
The Social Security Administration does make allowances for family members, under certain circumstances, when the primary recipient of SSDI benefits passes away. These are known as survivor benefits.
For surviving spouses, there are two classifications which may allow them to draw benefits following the death of the spouse who received SSDI. The first is for widows and widowers who are at least 60 years old. A surviving spouse in this category is entitled to receive at least a portion of the SSDI benefit and perhaps all of it. The amount actually received depends upon the surviving spouse’s age when they elect to start taking the benefit – taking it earlier will result in a lower benefit than waiting a few years.
The second category is for surviving spouses who are also disabled. This individual may begin receiving their deceased spouse’s SSDI benefit as early as 50 years of age. Their disability must have appeared prior to the spouse’s death or within seven years of their death. If they are already receiving SSDI benefits themselves, due to their own disability, and their spouse’s benefit was higher than theirs, they are entitled to continue receiving their own benefit plus the difference between their benefit and their spouse’s benefit.