The Social Security Act allows for benefits to be paid to you if you are the widow or widower of a deceased worker (insured party) who has paid the necessary amounts into the Social Security system.
Generally, as the surviving spouse and without considering your health, you are entitled to receive benefits at 60 years of age if:
• You were validly married to the deceased, and
• Your marriage had lasted for at least nine months before the insured worker died. If the marriage lasted less than 9 months then there are no available benefits unless at the time of the marriage the insured worker was reasonably expected to live for at least 9 months. This would apply where the death was accidental or caused by an event that the insured did not expect. An intentional and voluntary suicide will not be considered an accidental death. Another exception to the 9 month rule is that the insured was serving on active duty as a member of the uniformed services at the time of death and death was occurred in the line of duty, Additionally, if the marriage did not last 9 months and death was unexpected, benefits would still be available if you and the insured had been previously married and that earlier marriage lasted longer than 9 months.
For individuals that are 50 years of age but not yet 60, there are also benefits available if you can prove you are disabled under the Social Security Act and its Regulations.
• However, the disability must have become disabling within 7 years of the date of death of the insured or 7 years after you were last entitled to mother’s or father’s benefits, whichever comes later. For example, if a man dies in 2009 and his widow, who is in her 50s, is in a disabling car accident in 2017 and applies for disability on her husband’s account, benefits would not be available because the widow became disabled more than 7 years after her husband’s death. But, if she was receiving mother’s benefits on a minor child until the benefits stopped in 2014 when the child turns 16, the benefits would be available because she became disabled within 7 years after the mother’s benefits stopped.
• The widow\widower does not have to have paid into the Social Security system as long as the insured had paid in enough quarters based upon his\her age at time of death. Generally, if you draw benefits on your own Social Security record, then you only get the higher of the two benefits.
For Surviving Divorced Spouses, benefits can still be available on the insured’s account if the following criteria was satisfied:
• You were validly married to the insured under State law where the marriage occurred.
• You were married to the insured for at least 10 years immediately before the divorce became final.
• You are unmarried at the time of application.
• You are 60 years of age or older.
• There is an exception if you are remarried and the remarriage occurred after age 60.
For individuals who are 50 years of age but under 60, a surviving divorced spouse can still apply and be eligible if they meet the requirements of disability as noted above as it pertains to widow\widowers between ages 50 and 60. If you remarried between age 50 and not yet 60 , generally, you had to already be entitled to widow’s or widower’s benefits as a disabled widower\widower.
Application is Required
• All of the Above Benefits Require an Application.
• Generally any Benefits Will Begin with the First Month Covered by the Application in Which You Meet all Other Requirements for Entitlement.
Special Note on Medicare
Even though you do not have to be disabled at age 60 to draw benefits, if you are disabled you can still apply for DISABLED Spouse\DISABLED surviving spouse benefits if you want to become eligible for Medicare before waiting to age 65 for automatic eligibility if all other requirements are met. Generally one must be receiving disability benefits for 24 months before Medicare eligibility becomes available. Your disability could have begun before age 60.