96.004: Social Security: Survivors Insurance

Objectives: To replace part of the earnings lost to dependents because of the worker's death.



Applicant Eligibility: Benefits are payable only if the deceased was insured for survivors insurance protection. Coverage credits under the social security systems of certain foreign countries with which the U.S. has reciprocal agreements may be taken into account to meet the requirements. Survivors eligible for monthly cash benefits are the following:

All survivors benefits, other than for beneficiaries age 70 and over, are subject to an earnings test. In 1996 benefits are reduced by $1 for each $2 of earnings over $8,280 for people under age 65 and $1 for each $3 of earnings over $12,500 for people ages 65 through 69.

Except for benefits to children and dependent parents, all survivors benefits are subject to a pension offset if the person is also receiving a governmental pension based on his or her own work in non-covered employment. However, the offset does not apply: (1) if the person receives, or is eligible to receive, the pension before December 1, 1982, and can meet the eligibility requirements for the Social Security auxiliary's benefit as they existed in January 1977; or (2) if the person receives, or is eligible to receive, the pension before July 1, 1983, and the person was dependent on his or her spouse for at least one-half support at the time the spouse died, became disabled or became entitled to Social Security benefits.

The amount of the public pension used for purposes of the offset against Social Security survivor's benefits is equal to two-thirds of the public pension. Benefits for widows/widowers and surviving divorced spouses are also offset dollar for dollar by any Social Security benefit the surviving spouse receives based on his or her own work.

Under certain conditions, a lump-sum death payment of $255 is payable to the widow or children of the deceased worker.

Beneficiary Eligibility: Benefits are payable to the following:

Credentials/Documentation: Proof of death, age, and relationship. For certain auxiliaries, proof of support may be required.


Preapplication Coordination: None. This program is excluded from coverage under E.O. 12372.

Application Procedure: Phone or visit the local Social Security Office.

Award Procedure: After review of the application is completed, the applicant (or representative payee) will be notified by mail.

Deadlines: Retroactivity is limited to 6 months if unreduced benefits are being awarded. Other than a minor exception that permits one-month retroactivity if the widow(er) files for benefits in the month after the month of the worker's death, no retroactivity is provided in most cases when reduced benefits are being awarded. For disabled surviving spouses and disabled divorced surviving spouses, benefits may be retroactive for up to 12 months.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time: Not applicable.

Appeals: Phone or visit the local Social Security Office. The appeal process ranges from a reconsideration to a review by the Federal courts.

Renewals: Not applicable.

Criteria for Selecting Proposals: Not applicable.

Examples of Funded Projects: Not applicable.

Range & Average of Financial Assistance: Monthly cash benefits range up to $1,199 for the widow or widower of a worker who dies at age 65 in January 1996. As of December 31, 1995, the average benefit paid to an aged widow or widower alone was $655, and the average amount paid to a widowed mother or father with two eligible children was $1,338.


96.004 PROGRAM ACCOMPLISHMENTS: In fiscal year 1995, an average of 7,381,000 survivors received monthly cash benefits. It is estimated that in fiscal year 1996, an average of $7,398,000 survivors received monthly cash benefits, and in fiscal year 1997, the number will increase to $7,470,000.



Type of Assistance: Direct Payments with Unrestricted Use; Direct Payments for Specified Use.

Obligations: (Benefit Payments) FY 95 $66,344,000,000; FY 96 est $69,255,000,000; and FY 97 est $72,883,000,000.

Budget Account Number: 20-8006-0-7-651.

Authorization: Social Security Act of 1935, Title II, as amended; Public Laws 74-271, 92-603, 93-66, 93-233, 95-216, 96-499, 97-34, 97-35, 97-123, 97-248, 97-455, 98-4, 98-21, 98-76, 98-118, 98-168, 98-369, 98-460, 98-604, 98-617, 99-221, 99-272, 99-335, 99-509, 99-514; Public Laws 100-360, 100-485, 100-647, 101-140, 101-166, 101-234, 101-239, 101-508, 101-517, 101-624, 101-649, 102-40, 102-54, 103-296, 103-382, 103-432; 42 U.S.C. 401-433.

Regulations, Guidelines, & Literature: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 20, Parts 401, 404, 422. "Your Social Security," and other publications are available from any Social Security office without charge.


Regional or Local Office: Consult Appendix IV of the Catalog.

Headquarters Office: Office of Public Inquiries, Room 4100, Annex, Social Security Administration, Baltimore, MD 21235. Phone: (410) 965-2736. Use the same number for FTS.


Formula & Matching Requirements: This program has no statutory formula or matching requirements.

Length & Time Phasing of Assistance: Not applicable.

Uses & Use Restrictions: Monthly cash benefits are paid to eligible family members of deceased workers. There are no restrictions on the use of benefits, although the right to future benefits is not transferrable or assignable. The Federal government gives the State funds, in advance or by way of reimbursement, for necessary costs in making disability determinations under 20 CFR Part 404 Subparts P and Q. Necessary costs are direct as well as indirect costs as defined in 41 CFR Part 1-15, Subpart 1-15.7 of the Federal Procurement Regulations System for costs incurred before April 1, 1984; and 48 CFR Part 31, Subpart 31.6 of the Federal Acquisition Regulations System and Federal Management Circular A-74-4 as amended or superseded for costs incurred after March 31, 1984.


Reports: Any change in address or in eligibility requirements (such as work status, marital or family status, or school attendance) must be reported to Social Security when it occurs.

Audits: None.

Records: None.

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