Category Archives: About Social Security

Social Security Survivor Benefits

Why you should get Social Security survivors insurance

Losing a wage earner in the family can be emotionally and financially detrimental to those involved. Social Security will provide income to help relieve the financial burden of missing the disease members income. 98% of children could get money from Social Security when a parent dies.

What you need to know about survivor benefits if you are working

Social Security “Life Insurance”

Contrary to popular belief, Social Security is not only a retirement program. Part of the taxes that you pay go to providing survivor benefits to those who lose family wage earners. The value of your Social Security life insurance is usually greater than that of your personal life insurance.  Widow, widowers, children, and dependent parents are all eligible for survivors benefits when a death occurs.

How to earn survivors insurance

As you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn
credits toward your Social Security benefits. The number
of years you need to work for your family to be eligible
for Social Security survivors benefits depends on your age
when you die. The younger you are, the fewer years you
need to work. But no one needs more than 10 years of work
to be eligible for any Social Security benefit.
Under a special rule, if you have worked for only one
and one-half years in the three years just before your death,
benefits can be paid to your children and your spouse who
is caring for the children.

Who is eligible for survivors benefits based on your work?
  • Widow or widower may receive full benefits based on your work if they are of full retirement age. The full retirement age for survivors is 66.  For more information on widow/ widower survivors, click here. If there is a child, under 16, receiving benefits the widow or widower is eligible for benefits at any age.
  • Your unmarried children, under the age of 18. If your child is disabled they are able to receive benefits till the age of 22. In some circumstances, benefits could be available to stepchildren, grandchildren, stepgrandchildren, or adopted children.
  • Your dependent parents could be eligible for benefits if they are 62 or older.
Benefits for surviving divorced spouses

If you have been divorced, your former wife or husband who is age 60 or older can get benefits if you marriage lasted at least 10 years. Benefits paid to you as a divorced spouse, however, does not have to meet the age or length of marriage rule if he or she is caring for his/her child who is younger than age 16 or who is disabled and also entitled based on your work. The child must be your former spouse’s
natural or legally adopted child. Benefits paid to you as a surviving divorced spouse who meets the age or disability requirement as a widow or widower won’t affect the benefit rates for other survivors
getting benefits on the worker’s record. However, if you are the surviving divorced mother or father who has the worker’s child under age 16 or disabled in your care, your benefit will affect the amount of the benefits of others on the worker’s record.

How you sign up for survivors benefits depends on whether or not you are getting other Social Security benefits at the time you apply.

If You Already Get Benefits

If you are getting benefits on your spouse’s or parent’s record when he or she dies, you should report the death to us. Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also call or visit your local Social Security office.

  • We’ll automatically change any monthly benefits to survivor benefits after the death is reported to us.
  • We may be able to pay the Special Lump Sum Death Benefit automatically.

If you are getting retirement or disability benefits on your own record, you will need to apply for the survivor benefits. Call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can also call or visit your local Social Security office. We will check to see whether you can get a higher benefit as a widow or widower.

Important: If you want to apply in person, please call and make an appointment before

If you are not getting benefits

If you are not getting benefits, you should apply for survivor benefits promptly because, in some cases, benefits may not be retroactive. You can:

  • Call our toll-free telephone number 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can call us at TTY 1-800-325-0778.
  • Call or visit your local Social Security office.

    Important: If you want to apply in person, please call and make an appointment before you visit your local office.

When you apply, please be ready to supply the information we need to approve your application for:

  • The Lump-Sum Death Benefit,
  • Widows, Widowers, Or Surviving Divorced Spouse Benefits,
  • Mother’s Or Father’s Benefits, (You must be caring for a dependent child of the deceased,)
  • Dependent Child,
  • Parent’s Benefits (You must have been dependent on the worker for 1/2 of your support at the time of his or her death.)

You  may need to present the following documents:

  • Proof of death (either from funeral home or death certificate);
  • Your Social Security number, and the deceased family member’s number;
  • Your birth certificate;
  • Your marriage certificate if you are the widow or widower;
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were born outside the United States;
  • Your divorce papers if you are applying as a surviving divorced spouse;
  • Dependent children’s Social Security numbers and birth certificates, if available;
  • Deceased worker’s most recent W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return;
  • The name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be directly deposited into your account.

    Note: If you do not have a bank account, you can sign up for the Direct Express® card program. With the Direct Express® program, your federal benefit payment will be directly deposited into your card account.


How Social Security Works

Social Security is a safety net established for the elderly and disabled Americans in 1935 under the Social Security Act. The program is funded from contributions by American workers with the security of having benefits when working is no longer an option. The benefits that the retired or disabled workers initially receive are based on their personal earning history.

How Social Security Works

There are 3 things that are important to understand about social security

  • How to become eligible – you need 40 credits or about 10 years of work.
  • How to calculate the amount of money that you will receive – your benefit is based on your earnings. If you are a low income earner, you will receive a much higher percentage of your income than a higher wage earner.
  • When you can start drawing on the money – The full retirement age varies (see figure below). If you have a retirement age of 66 then you would be able to start drawing on your social security with a 25% penalty at age 62. In addition, if you choose to delay collecting each year, up to age 70, your benefits are increased by 8%.
If you were born in … Your full retirement age is …
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67



Questions about Social Security Card Number

To Apply for a Social Security Card Number:

Complete an ‘Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)

Bring original documents or certified documents proving your

  • US Citizenship or immigration status
  • Age
  • Identity

Bring to a Social Security office near you, or mail your completed application and documents.

*There is no charge for a Social Security card and number.

Different Types of Cards

There are 3 different types of cards that can be issued by the Social Security Administration.

  • The first, shows your name and social security number and is issued to US citizens and people lawfully permitting to live in the United States permanently.
  • The second shows your name and number with notes, “valid for work only with DHS authorization.” This is issued to people who are lawfully admitted to the United States on a temporary basis with DHS authorization to work.
  • The third card shows your name and number with the note, “not valid for employment.” It is issued to people from other countries:

-who are lawfully admitted to the United States without work authorization from the DHS, but with a valid reason for needing a social security number.

-who need a number due to a federal law requiring a Social Security number to get a benefit or service.

Social Security Card Questions

How can I protect my Social Security Number?

You should keep your Social Security Card in a safe place with other important information. Do not carry it around with you unnecessarily. Be selective about who you give your Social Security number. If your Social Security number is requested ask why it is needed; How it will be used; and What happens if you refuse. Based on the answers you can decide if you want to give your Social Security number out.

How to Contact Social Security

Visit for more information and forms or call 1-800-772-1213 (deaf or hard of hearing can call 1-800-325-0778). All calls are confidential and specific questions are answered from 7am – 7pm Monday through Friday.

How do I make sure my records are accurate?

A tax and wage statement called a W-2 is sent to Social Security by your employer each year. Your name and Social Security number are compared between the information on the W-2 with the information from your files. The earnings on the W-2 are added to your Social Security record. You can review your Social Security Statement online.

How to do a Name Change

If you need to change your name with the Social Security Administration due to divorce, marriage, or any other reason, you must contact the SSA as soon as possible to prevent mix up with your tax information and social security benefits later in life.

Required Name Change Documents

Depending on the circumstances behind your name change, the SSA will require one or more of the following documents:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree
  • Court order for a name change
  • Certificate of Naturalization displaying your new name

*Be sure to have a photo ID such as a passport or drivers license available upon request.

Social Security Card Name

Additional Documents for Adoption or Naturalization

In addition to a court order or Certificate of Naturalization, provide:

  • One proof of identification with your former name. The SSA will accept an expired document.
  • One proof of identification with your new name. This document MUST be valid.

Additional Documents for Citizenship

If you are a U.S. citizen born outside of the country and the SSA does not have you listed as a U.S. citizen, you will need to provide proof of your citizenship. Check with the SSA for acceptable documents.

If you do not have U.S. citizen status, be prepared to provide your current immigration documents.

*You will recieve a new Social Security card with your new name however, your Social Security number will remain unchanged

Changing Your Name with the SSA

Step 1: Obtain an “Application for a Social Security Card” form at your nearest Social Security office. You can also download the form from the Social Security website.

Step 2: Gather necessary documentation that must accompany the form. (see above)

Step 3: Complete the “Application for a Social Security Card” completely and legibly.

Step 4: Mail the form (using certified mail) and supporting documents to address listed on the Social Security Administration website. Expect to receive your new Social Security card in 7 to 14 days. If you don’t feel like mailing these important documents, you can visit your nearest SSA center.