What proof is required to collect disabled widow(er) benefits?

If you are a disabled widow or widower, you may wonder whether you can collect federal benefits after the death of your spouse. The Social Security Administration notes that there are a few age restrictions that may limit your benefits and how you collect them, but if you meet those qualifications, you may move forward with your application.

Gathering some important data before attempting to collect these benefits may make the process simpler and save you time as well.

Proof of relationship

To receive widow or widower benefits, you must prove your relationship to the deceased. There are several different types of marriage accepted, including:

  • Legal
  • Putative
  • Deemed

The qualifications for each of these circumstances vary, but in each, you do have the rights to widow or widower benefits if you can gather the required proof. Putative and deemed marriages are those that you enter in good faith but are not aware that conditions exist that may make the union invalid, such as if a previous marriage exists.

Proof of disability

Because not all disabilities are apparent, you may need a letter from your doctor or some other official notation before you can collect disabled widow or widower benefits. In most cases, you must sign a medical release form so the SSA can examine and verify your disability claims.

Depending on the nature of your disability and when you make your claim, you may have to wait nearly six months until it completes. This period may not apply if new disabilities appear before age 60 and/or seven years prior to any previous disability claim.