How Are Social Security Survivor Benefits Calculated in PA and NJ?

Social Security survivor benefits are benefits provided to eligible widows and widowers by the Social Security Administration (SSA) after a spouse passes away. In order to qualify for survivor benefits, you must fall within certain age limits, in addition to meeting other criteria. For example, some surviving spouses can begin to receive benefits at age 60, at age 50, or even earlier, depending on whether they are disabled, when they became disabled, whether they provide childcare, and other variables. As is true with other types of benefits, the SSA uses complex rules to calculate survivor benefits, which vary from claimant to claimant. In this article, our Pennsylvania disability attorneys discuss how the SSA determines survivor benefits for widows and widowers. Working with an experienced disability lawyer in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, like the attorneys at Young, Marr & Associates, is the best way to ensure that you do not miss out on any of the benefits that you may be entitled to receive as a widow or widower.

Who Qualifies for Survivor Benefits?

Widows and widowers are not the only people who can qualify for survivor benefits. Depending on the situation, other people who may be eligible include the decedent’s:

  • Adopted children
  • Disabled children of any age, if they became disabled before they turned 22 years old
  • Former/divorced spouses
  • Grandchildren and step-grandchildren
  • Parents, if they were dependents of the decedent
  • Stepchildren
  • Unmarried children, up to age 18 (or age 19, in some situations)

Keep in mind that benefits for widows or widowers generally start at age 60, unless the widow or widower is disabled, in which case benefits can begin at age 50. There are two exceptions to this general rule: if the widow or widower provides care for either (1) a non-disabled child who is below the age of 16, or (2) a disabled child who is any age, he or she can receive benefits even if he or she is below age 50.

How Much Survivor Benefits Will I Get?

The amount of benefits available will differ for every applicant, depending on factors like how much the decedent earned, the survivor’s age, and other variables. The greater the decedent’s earnings, or the longer his or her work history, the greater benefit the survivor may be entitled to. This is because benefits are based partially on “work credits,” which are earned by working and earning income. With some exceptions, the SSA generally requires 40 work credits for eligibility for various benefits, such as retirement benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

SSDI benefits, which are available to eligible widows and widowers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, provide benefits for severely disabled individuals whose disabilities have lasted, or are expected to last, for at least 12 months. For more information on applying for SSDI, contact the Pennsylvania SSDI attorneys at Young, Marr & Associates for a free consultation.

Returning to the subject of survivor benefits – which, unlike SSDI benefits, are available for both disabled and non-disabled individuals – there are also some other factors which influence the SSA’s calculation. For instance, the full retirement age (FRA) is a major factor. People who have reached the FRA generally receive a larger amount than applicants who have not, in some cases up to 100% of the decedent’s benefit amount. The FRA varies, ranging from 66 to 67, depending on when you were born. Children are generally entitled to a maximum benefit of 75%. (If you are seeking benefits for your child, you may be also be interested in learning about SSI disability benefits for children, which refers to Supplemental Security Income.)

In addition to survivor benefits, you may be entitled to a one-time payment of $255 from the SSA if a wage-earning spouse passes away. To receive the payment, you must apply within two years of the decedent’s death. Unlike most other Social Security benefits, the death benefit is not a recurring payment.

Can You Receive Survivors Benefits and Social Security?

It is important to point out that you cannot receive survivor benefits and your own Social Security benefits at the same time. Instead of simultaneously paying both, the SSA will provide whichever benefit is larger. That means you would not receive survivor benefits unless they would pay more than your own Social Security payments, where applicable.

PA + NJ Social Security Lawyers for Widows and Widowers

Losing a spouse is not only emotionally devastating, it can also have a major financial impact on you and your family. Survivor benefits or SSDI benefits may help to lighten the financial pressure. You may be eligible for up to $2,861 in monthly SSDI benefits, or, depending on your situation, could qualify for other types of Social Security benefits. Serving Pennsylvania and New Jersey, our Philadelphia disability lawyers are here to help you find an approach that’s right for your family.

We can help you understand your rights, prepare and file your claim, and fight for reconsideration if your claim is denied by the SSA. For a free legal consultation about survivor benefits, SSDI, or other Social Security benefits, contact our law offices online, or call Young, Marr & Associates at (215) 515-2954 today.