Am I Eligible to Receive a Social Security Widow’s Benefit?

Social Security is an important source of income for widows. Check the list below to determine if you may be qualified for widow ’s benefits.

  • A widow who is already receiving Social Security benefits can receive either their own benefit or their spouse’s, whichever amount is higher, but not both.
  • A widow who has not started receiving Social Security benefits will be eligible for a survivor benefit when she reaches full retirement age, or a reduced benefit as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled).[2]
  • A divorced widow is eligible for a survivor benefit at these same ages as long as she was married to the deceased for at least 10 years and is now single.
  • A widow who remarries before the age of 60 cannot receive survivor’s benefits unless the later marriage ends by death, divorce, or annulment.
  • A widow who remarries after age 60 (50 if disabled), can still collect benefits on their former spouse’s record. When they reach age 62 or older, they may apply for and receive retirement benefits based on the record of their new spouse if those benefits are higher than those of the former spouse.
  • A widow with dependent children may be eligible for benefits for each child of the deceased who is under age 16.
  • A disabled widow may qualify for disabled widow’s benefits as early as age 50 if they became disabled before or within seven years of the death of the spouse.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Widows cannot apply online for survivor’s benefits. You can call SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visits to the SSA offices are by appointment only for certain services. Please visit SSA’s Coronavirus page at Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) | SSA to see if you may be eligible for an in-person appointment.

[1] For more information on navigating the financial challenges of widowhood see WISER’s step-by-step guide, Going it Alone – A Guide for Widows.

[2] For more information on how retirement age affects your benefit amount, go to the Social Security website at: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/1943.html

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