Child Survivor Benefits Eligibility: Social Security’s Disqualifying Factors


Social Security survivor benefits have been a lifeline for millions, providing financial support to those left behind after the death of a loved one. As of March 2023, approximately 5.9 million individuals were receiving survivor benefits, which are extended to spouses, former spouses, children, and sometimes even parents of those who were receiving or qualified for Social Security benefits. These benefits play a crucial role in providing stability during difficult times, but not everyone has access to them.

However, not all eligible offspring are eligible to receive survivor benefits. A minor must be unmarried to qualify. As of March 2023, slightly more than 2 million children of deceased employees were receiving survivor benefits. These eligible offspring can receive up to 75% of the benefit paid to their deceased parent. The child must be under 18 years of age or, if still in secondary school full-time, up to 19 years and 2 months of age. In addition, children with disabilities that began before the age of 22 are eligible for survivor benefits regardless of age. Stepchildren and grandchildren may also qualify, provided they satisfy the requirements.

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Survivor Benefits: Who’s Excluded from Receiving Assistance?

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It is important to realize that survivor benefits have specific eligibility requirements, and not everyone can receive this assistance. An insightful examination of eligibility reveals several categories of ineligible individuals:

Early Remarriage Among Widows and Former Spouses: Ineligible for survivor benefits are widowed spouses and former spouses who remarry before age 60 (or 50 if incapacitated). However, if the subsequent marriage dissolves, eligibility can be restored. Remarrying at or after age 60 (or 50 if disabled) has no bearing on survivor benefits eligibility.

Individuals Who Remarry After the Eligibility Age: If a person remarries after attaining age 60 (or 50 if disabled), their eligibility for survivor benefits remains unaffected.

Minor or Disabled Children in Marriages Under 10 Years Divorced spouses of deceased employees are only eligible for survivor benefits if their marriage lasted at least 10 years. The eligibility requirements closely resemble those for widows and widowers.

Financial Dependence for Parents: Parents aged 62 or older who were financially dependent on a deceased son or daughter are eligible for survivor benefits. The benefit amount fluctuates, with one parent receiving 82.5 percent and two parents each receiving 75% of the deceased’s benefit.

Survivor benefits for numerous family members are subject to a maximum family benefit threshold, capping the total payout based on the deceased worker’s earnings record. If this group benefit exceeds the utmost, individual payments are reduced proportionally.

If an individual is already receiving Social Security benefits based on their own work history, they will only receive survivor benefits if the latter amount is greater. In essence, eligibility for survivor benefits is meticulously outlined, taking into account variables such as age, marital status, and financial dependence. Understanding these criteria ensures that those who genuinely require this assistance can obtain it in times of need.

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Source: Marca

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