When the Parents of Social Security Disability Recipients Can Get Survivors Benefits

If your son or daughter who was receiving Social Security disability benefits dies, you can receive a parent's benefits if you were partially dependent on your child.

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The parents of a disabled worker who was receiving SSDI are eligible for benefits when their child dies, if their child was supporting them. Social Security disability insurance (SSDI) is a federal disability program that pays cash benefits to disabled workers. To qualify, a worker must meet the Social Security Administration’s (SSA's) of disabled and have worked long enough for employers that paid taxes to the SSA (and paid self-employment taxes).

SSDI benefits can also be extended to a covered worker’s family, including dependent children, former spouses, and even parents. While, unlike minor children and spouses, parents cannot collect dependents benefits during the lifetime of their child, they can collect survivors benefits after their son or daughter's death, in some situations.

In this article we will explain how you may be eligible for SSDI parent’s benefits if your adult child was insured based on his or her own earnings record at the time of his or her death.

What Are the Requirements for Getting Parent's Benefits?

You may be eligible for parent's benefits if all of the following are met:

  • You are 62 years old or older.
  • You have not gotten married since your insured child died.
  • You aren’t eligible for old-age benefits that are higher than the parent's benefits amount.
  • Your insured child was providing at least half of your financial support when he or she died, or at the beginning of your child's disability.
  • You provide the SSA with proof of that financial support.
  • You have a qualifying relationship with your insured child.

What Kinds of Relationship Qualifies for Parent's Benefits?

For the purposes of this benefit, your relationship with your insured child qualifies if:

  • You are the mother or father of the disabled worker who was collecting SSDI benefits and would be considered his or her parent under the laws of the state where your child had a permanent home when he or she died, or

  • You legally adopted your child before he or she turned 16, or
  • You became your child’s stepparent and married his or her parent or adoptive parent before the child turned 16.

If you are unclear about whether you meet these requirements, contact the SSA or a disability lawyer.

Proof of Financial Support

One of the requirements is that you must provide proof to the SSA that your child had been providing at least half of your financial support. Your child must have been financially supporting you in this way up until his or her death or until your child's disability made it impossible for him or her to work and continue to support you. In the latter case, your child's disability must have continued until his or her death.

Time Limit

There is a time limit to this requirement. If your child was providing half of your support up until his or her death, you must give the SSA proof of the support within two years of the date your child died. This should not be difficult since you should be applying for benefits before this time limit is up, and you can submit the necessary documentation with your application.

However, if your child was providing half of your support when he or she became disabled, you must provide the SSA with proof of the support within two years of the date he or she filed for disability. This is true even if though you weren't yet eligible for parent's benefits.

Exceptions to Time Limit

There are two exceptions to the two-year filing requirement:

There is a “good cause” for the late filing. The SSA will find “good cause” in one of the following circumstances:

  • You were mentally or physically incapacitated, had a long-term sickness, you could not speak English, or there were other circumstances beyond your control.
  • The SSA gave you the wrong or incomplete information.
  • You tried to get proof of the support and didn’t understand that you could submit the proof after telling the SSA that you were receiving this support and providing some type of evidence, or
  • There were unusual or unavoidable circumstances that show you couldn’t reasonably be expected to know there was a two-year time limit.

You are an active service member. If you are an active service member (including a reservist or and member of the national guard), the Soldiers’ and Sailors Civil Relief Act of 1940 provides for an extended filing time.

When Will My Parent's Benefits Begin and End?

If you are approved for parent's survivor benefits, your entitlement to benefits will begin with the first month that is covered by your application as long as all the requirements for parent’s benefits are satisfied at that point.

You will lose benefits in the month before the month in which one of the following happens:

  • you become eligible for an old-age benefit that is the same as or more than the parent benefit amount
  • you get married (except for protected marriages), or
  • you die.

If you get married to someone who is entitled to one of the following types of benefits, your marriage is considered protected, and your parent’s benefits will not be affected:

  • spousal Social Security benefits
  • widow or widower’s Social Security benefits
  • parent’s Social Security benefits, or
  • disabled child’s Social Security benefits.

How Much Will My Benefit Amount Be?

Your benefit payment is calculated in one of two ways.

  • If you are the only parent entitled to benefits, your benefit amount will be equal to 82.5% of your child’s SSDI benefit amount.
  • If there is more than one parent entitled to benefits, your benefit amount will be equal to 75% of your child’s SSDI benefit amount.

Your benefits amount may be reduced, however, in some circumstances. If the spouse or child of your deceased child is receiving benefits based on your child's earnings record, your benefit amount will be reduced because it's subject to a maximum family benefit. Also, if there was an overpayment made on your child’s earnings record or if you have other earnings, your payment may be reduced. To give you an idea of what your benefits might be, in 2013, the average SSDI benefit is $1,132.

Exceptions to Eligibility

Someone who has been found by a court of law to have intentionally caused the death of an insured person cannot receive benefits based on that insured person’s earnings records.

Also, if you have waived your right to benefits or been granted a tax exemption for religious reasons, you cannot get benefits based on your child’s earnings record.

How Can I Find Out if I Qualify?

If you have questions about whether you qualify for parent’s benefits, contact the SSA. Their phone number is 800-772-1213. If you are hard of hearing, call 800-325-0778. The SSA is available by phone from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also make an appointment at your local field office if you need help. You can find your field office on the SSA’s website by entering your zip code into the SSA's field office locator.

by: , Contributing Author

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