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When is a widow entitled to widow(er)'s insurance benefits?

Excerpted from "Social Security Handbook". See the up-to-date, official Social Security Handbook at ssa.gov.

401. When is a widow(er) entitled to widow(er)'s insurance benefits?

You are entitled to widow(er)'s insurance benefits on a worker's Social Security record if the following conditions are met:

  1. You are either (1) age 60 or over; or (2) at least age 50 but not age 60 and disabled (as defined in §515) and you meet the disability-related requirements in §513;

    NOTE: A widow(er) age 60-64 and under a disability is entitled to disabled widow(er)'s benefits for Medicare purposes.

  2. The worker died fully insured (see §203.1);

  3. You are not entitled to a retirement insurance benefit that is equal to or larger than the worker's primary insurance amount;

  4. You have filed an application for widow(er)'s insurance benefits (see §405 for exceptions and see §1511 for completing application forms);

  5. You are not married or your marriage can be disregarded (see § 406 for exceptions); and

  6. One of the following conditions is met:

    1. You were married to the deceased worker for at least the nine months just before the worker died (see §404 for exceptions);

    2. You are the mother or father of the worker's son or daughter (this requirement is met if a live child was born to you and the worker, even if the child did not survive) (see §411);

    3. You legally adopted the worker's son or daughter during your marriage and before the child reached age 18 (see §329);

    4. You were married to the worker when you both legally adopted a child under age 18;

    5. The worker legally adopted (as defined in §329) your son or daughter during your marriage and before the child reached age 18; or

    6. In the month before the month you married the deceased worker, you were entitled or potentially entitled to either (1) spouse's, widow(er)'s, father's (based on the record of a fully insured worker), mother's (based on the record of a fully insured worker), parent's, or childhood disability benefits on the record of a fully insured individual under the Social Security Act; or (2) widow(er)'s, child's (age 18 or over), or parent's insurance annuity under the Railroad Retirement Act.

      NOTE: You are “potentially entitled” if you meet all requirements for entitlement, other than the filing of an application and attainment of the required age.

See §402.1 for definition of widow(er) for social security purposes.

Last Revised: Sep. 1, 2009

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