Note: We updated this article to reflect current guidelines for 2022. Recently, a reader submitted a question about drawing survivor’s Social Security disability (SSD) benefits. She asks: “Is there a certain age you have to be to draw SSD off of my deceased spouse? I’ve been off work for 16 months due to his passing.” While we’re sorry to hear of your loss, the answer to your question is yes. Any widow or widower can draw a deceased spouse’s SSD payments, provided they meet the age and other eligibility requirements. First, we’ll review age requirements for drawing survivor’s benefits. Then, we’ll explain other eligibility rules that may impact you, how much money to expect and more below.
Widow/Widower Age Requirements for SSD Benefits
In most cases, a widow or widower cannot draw survivor’s SSD benefits until age 60 unless you have a child younger than 16 living at home. These are commonly called “survivor’s benefits,” and your children can receive them, too (if they meet all requirements). Widowed parents at any age can draw survivor’s SSD benefits up until their youngest child turns 16 years old. If you’re childless or only have older kids, then you cannot apply before age 60. However, if you yourself are disabled (or become disabled within seven years), then that age limit drops down to 50. Once you reach full retirement age (FRA), however, you cannot receive both yours and your deceased husband’s Social Security benefits. Instead, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will only pay the higher of the two benefit amounts.
Income Limits for Widowed Spouses Applying for Survivor’s SSD Benefits
In addition to the age question, our reader mentioned being off work for 16 months due to her husband’s passing. As a widow, your work income affects how much benefit money you’ll get each month. To make sure you’ll qualify for survivor’s payments, let’s look at an example of how the SSA calculates this below:
- You apply for survivor’s SSD benefits at age 62.
- The survivor’s annual earnings limit for 2022 is $19,560.
- For every $2 you earn above this amount, the SSA deducts $1 from your benefits.
- Your deceased husband’s SSD benefit was $1,500/month.
- The SSA calculates your maximum survivor’s benefit at $1,194/month.
- You do not have any children younger than 16 living at home.
- Your annual salary is $20,000.
- This means the SSA deducts $880 from your benefits, leaving you with $314/month.
Any widow or widower who earns too much money may not qualify for survivor’s benefits. Your age, disability status, income and length of marriage all play a role in determining your eligibility and payments.
How Much Money Will Survivor’s Benefits Pay A Widow or Widower?
As a widow, the SSA calculates your survivor’s benefit payment amount as a percentage of your deceased spouse’s check. Here’s how the payment percentages break down, based on your age and other relevant factors:
- Parent of a child younger than 16, any age: 75% of your deceased spouse’s monthly SSD payment
- Disabled widow or widower, aged 50-59: 71.5% of your deceased spouse’s monthly SSD payment
- Widow or widower, aged 60-FRA: 71.5%-99% of your deceased spouse’s monthly SSD payment
- Widow or widower, FRA or older: 100% of your deceased spouse’s monthly payment or your own regular Social Security benefit, whichever amount is greater
The SSA uses some complicated rules for survivor’s SSD benefits. Want a more specific answer that applies to your situation without sharing too many personal details? Sign up for a free phone call from a local Social Security advocate to get advice that’s customized for you.
Other Things to Keep In Mind
Here are two last things to consider:
- Any widow or widower whose marriage lasted less than nine months cannot qualify for survivor’s benefits.
- You can also apply for a one-time lump-sum death benefit of $255 from the SSA.
Lori Polemenakos is Director of Consumer Content and SEO strategist for LeadingResponse, a legal marketing company. An award-winning journalist, writer and editor based in Dallas, Texas, she's produced articles for major brands such as Match.com, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, Xfinity, Mail.com, and edited several published books. Since 2016, she's published hundreds of articles about Social Security disability, workers' compensation, veterans' benefits, personal injury, mass tort, auto accident claims, bankruptcy, employment law and other related legal issues.