Widows, widowers and Social Security benefits

Widows and widowers are unique survivors in the context of Social Security. This article will look at some of the ways that you might collect benefits if you had recently lost a spouse.

Remember that this system is for workers. Your spouse must have worked and collected credits to qualify for benefits. Many people who have worked for at least ten years qualify. Self-employment income counts as well as wages.

Main benefits for widows and widowers

As the survivor in a marriage, you might be able to collect benefits early. For example, a widow could typically start taking reduced benefits at age 60.

If you also have your own benefits, you might be able to switch those as early as age 62. If you are younger and you are taking care of an under-16 or disabled child, you could be eligible to start collecting survivor’s benefits at any age.

Generally speaking, the SSA also often lets you switch to the highest benefit that is available to you. The details of this would depend on your exact case. For example, you might apply for benefits as a widow if your current retirement benefits are lower than the survivor benefits you would receive.

Disabled survivors

You might be able to collect benefits even earlier if you have a disability. You may typically start as early as 50 years old. You could also remain eligible for survivor’s benefits if you remarry after age 50 as a disabled widow or widower — that age limit is 60 for non-disabled people.

Dealing with the unexpected

Although the SSA tries to make everything clear, this is still a complex system. If the Social Security Administration recently denied your claim, it might be because there was some kind of mistake somewhere in the process.