When Do SSA Survivors Benefits Begin?

Q: When do Social Security survivors benefits begin?

A: Social Security survivors benefits can begin effective with the month of death, assuming there are eligible family members to pay.

When a person receiving Social Security benefits dies, even at the end of a month, benefits are not payable for that month. For example, if the death is in April then the benefit for April is not payable. Since Social Security benefits for a month are received in the following month, the benefits for April, received in May, would not be due. If received, the financial organization usually returns the funds directly to Treasury.

Any survivors benefits payable will be for the entire month of April. Social Security benefits are either payable or not payable for a month. They are not pro-rated for a portion of a month.

Survivors benefits are different from benefits when a person is alive. Even if benefits are not payable to a wife or husband, they might be payable to a widow or widower.

When eligible for SSA benefits on two records, such as your own retirement and as a widow or widower, you receive the higher amount and not all of one plus all the other.

Death comes to all ages. Always contact Social Security when there is a death in the family. If monthly survivors benefits are immediately payable, action can begin to start them and, if not, other information can be given. A one-time death benefit of $255 might be payable even if ongoing benefits are not.

Each has specific rules but, depending on the circumstances, minor or disabled adult children, widows and widowers ranging from young to old or disabled, and surviving divorced spouses potentially could receive Social Security survivors benefits.

Learn about Social Security survivors benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/survivors/. You can also call the national SSA toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or your local office.