2004-07-02 / Columnists

Social Security And You

The Basics of Social Security Survivors Benefits
By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Center

Social Security And You

James GlasserJames Glasser

By James Glasser, Manager, Far Rockaway Social Security Center

The Basics of Social Security Survivors Benefits

Oftentimes government statistics can simply bore you; but there are some statistics that may surprise you.

Here is one example.

The Administration on Aging reported that in 2001 there were more than four times as many widows as widowers.

And, perhaps even more surprising, the statistics show that almost half of all older women are widows.

As a Social Security manager, those statistics remind me why it is vitally important for all women to understand at least the basics of the Social Security survivors insurance program.

Here are four of the most important facts about Social Security survivors insurance that every woman should know.

If your husband dies and you are age 60 or older, you can receive widow’s benefits.

If you are disabled, you can get widow’s benefits as early as age 50. The amount of your monthly payment will depend on how old you are and on how much your deceased husband would have been entitled to, or was receiving, when he died.

If you remarry before reaching age 60, you cannot receive widow’s benefits based on your late husband’s earnings record as long as that marriage remains in effect.

If you remarry after age 60, you will continue to receive benefits on your deceased husband’s Social Security record.

However, if your current husband is a Social Security beneficiary, you may want to apply for a wife’s benefit on his record if it would be larger than your widow’s benefit.

You cannot get both.

If you are a widow with children, you may be eligible for a widow’s benefit at any age when you are caring for a child who is under age 16 or who is disabled and entitled to benefits.

Unmarried children may receive survivor’s benefits on your husband’s record until they are age 18, or until 19 if they go to school full time.

If your child’s 19th birthday occurs during a school term, benefits will usually continue until completion of the term, or for two months following the 19th birthday, whichever comes first. Also, benefits to your children will continue as long as they are eligible, even if you remarry.

For more information about Social Security survivors benefits, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/women/, or call our toll free number, 1-800-772-1213, and ask for the booklet, Social Security: What Every Woman Should Know.

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