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SSA Widow's benefits

How do I know if I can get widows benefits?

Recently on our disability forum we had a widow ask if they would qualify for widow's benefits if they were fifty years old and disabled. According to the Social Security Administration, there are currently five million widows and widowers receiving monthly Social Security Disability benefits based on their deceased spouse’s earnings record. This benefit is often the only cash payments these individuals receive to sustain them. So how do you know if you can qualify for widow’s benefits? There are very specific criteria outlined by the Social Security Administration.

Requirements to receive Social Security Administration widows benefits:

  1. You can receive a reduced benefit if you are age 60 or full benefits when you reach your full retirement age.

  2. You can receive benefits as early as age 50 if you are determined disabled by the Social Security Administration and your disability started within seven years from the date of your spouse’s death.

  3. You care for a child who is under the age of 16 (and you have not remarried).

How does the Social Security Administration determine if you are disabled as a widow?

To determine if you are disabled for widows benefits the SSA will use the same criteria they use to determine if other workers are disabled. Proving you are disabled can be very difficult. The SSA will ask the following questions to make their disability determination:

  1. Are you working and performing "substantial gainful activity"? Substantial gainful activity is defined as making more than $1010 per month (for the nonblind) or $1640 (for the blind).

  2. Is your condition severe? And is it expected to last for at least 12 continuous months?

  3. Is your condition on the Social Security Administration's Listing of Impairments or "Blue Book"? If your condition is as severe as a condition on their listing they will find you automatically disabled, assuming you meet the other requirements. If not, they will proceed to step 4.

  4. Can you perform the work you have done in the past?

  5. Can you be retrained for new work? At this step the SSA will review your education, work history and skills, your age, and your residual capacity to work. If you can adjust to new work you will be denied benefits.

How does marriage affect your widow’s benefits?

According to the SSA, if you remarry after you reach age 60 (50 if you are disabled) than the marriage will not affect your survivor’s payments. If you are carrying for a child under the age of 16 and you receive survivor’s benefits your benefits could be affected. Talk to the SSA if you are receiving survivor’s benefits and you are considering getting married.

How much will I receive for survivor’s benefits?

Payments for survivor’s benefits are based on the deceased worker’s average lifetime earnings, the higher the worker’s earnings, the higher the survivor payment. The payment calculation is based on the amount you would have received if your spouse died at their full retirement age. Contact the SSA or review their website at for more information.
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