Getting Social Security Disability After the Death of a Spouse

Learn if you are entitled to disability benefits after your spouse has passed away.

Question: I was married to my husband for fifteen years, and he worked and I never did. He recently became disabled and had just applied for Social Security disability benefits. I am only 55, so we never applied for any benefits for me, and I don’t know if I’d even get any anyway since I didn’t work. Now, I don’t know what is going to happen now that he passed away. Will his application be processed or will Social Security throw it out? What are the rules for Social Security income after death as a beneficiary or a dependent?

Answer: As a surviving spouse, you can continue your husband's open claim for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration will likely notify you that there is a pending claim in your husband's name. If not, you should contact the agency at 800-772-1213.

Since your husband had not yet received any benefits, Social Security may owe back disability payments to you, going back to the time he became disabled. This is assuming his claim for disability is approved and he had been disabled for more than five months.

Once your husband's claim is approved, Social Security will provide you with a survivors benefit based on the earnings record of your husband. If you are at least 60, or are taking care of your husband's child under the age of 16, you can collect the survivors benefit.

If your husband's disability claim is denied, you should still be able to collect surivivors benefits based on his Social Security earnings, though you wouldn't get any backpay. 

For details on continuing a claim after death, see our article on Social Security Survivor Benefits.

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