Social Security is an important safety net for millions of Americans. It allows you to recover certain amounts of income based on your prior work history, such as how many years you worked, how much you earned over your career, and more. It’s a useful tool to ensure you live out your golden years in comfort.
However, what happens if you die before you start to collect Social Security, and you leave your children or other family members behind? That’s a reality many Americans have to grapple with when planning their financial futures, especially Veterans.
Thankfully, your children may be able to recover some of your Social Security benefits if they are legally designated as survivors of your estate. Let’s explore how much an eligible child of a deceased worker gets for survivor benefits.
Survivor benefits are Social Security and related benefits paid to the survivors of Social Security recipients or contributors.
For example, say that you contribute to Social Security through automatic withholdings for 20 years. However, if you die before you start to collect Social Security after the age of 55, your family can still benefit from the Social Security payments you are owed by the government.
Survivor benefits are crucial for many American families. They allow widowed or widower spouses and any dependent children to receive monthly benefits checks from the government if the primary caregiver or earner of a family dies earlier than full retirement age or earlier than expected. However, a divorced spouse cannot receive their former spouse’s benefits.
Children and other dependents can only recover survivor benefits if they qualify and complete the application process.
Generally speaking, yes: So long as a child’s parent was contributing to Social Security, they may qualify for survivor retirement benefits by receiving a certain proportion of that contributor’s income.
Children’s survivor benefits are dependent on how much the deceased person received from Social Security at the time of their death. Alternatively, they may depend on what the deceased was entitled to receive if they died prior to filing for benefits.
However, not all children automatically qualify for Social Security survivor benefits.
In order to receive Social Security Administration survivor benefits, a child must have a parent who:
Therefore, only some children have parents who qualify for Social Security at all. The vast majority of full-time jobs allow parents to contribute to Social Security, thereby permitting them to qualify for Social Security withdrawals later in life.
Furthermore, children can only receive Social Security survivor benefits if:
A stepchild or adopted child with an eligible dependent parent can qualify for death benefits; recipients do not have to be biological children of the deceased.
Let’s take a closer look at qualifying children in each age bracket so you can determine if you or your dependents qualify for survivor benefits.
Generally speaking, any child under the age of 18 qualifies for survivor benefits if they had a parent who contributed to or was withdrawing from Social Security. This is the easiest way to determine whether your child will receive survivor benefits to contribute to your family finances.
However, benefits don’t necessarily stop when your child reaches 18 and becomes an adult in the eyes of the law.
If your child is below the age of 19 and still attending either elementary or secondary school, your benefits may continue if you fill out the appropriate paperwork.
The Social Security office will send you a notice a few months before your child’s 18th birthday notifying you of this. They will also provide instructions on how to file the correct paperwork to ensure that the benefits continue for an additional year.
For your child to receive survivor benefits in this circumstance, the paperwork must accompany a statement of attendance from a certified school official. Benefits continue until either after your child graduates from school or two months after the age of 19, depending on which comes first.
Alternatively, a surviving parent can still receive survivor benefits for a disabled child. Disability benefits are payable from age 18 and onward if the disability began before your child turned 22.
Disability benefit applications must be accompanied by records of the disability, as well as medical proof that the child requires assistance living that was previously provided by the deceased parent(s).
Now that you know which children qualify for survivor benefits, let’s take a look at how much money you can expect to receive for qualifying kids in your family.
Any child who qualifies for survivor benefits can receive up to 75% of their deceased parent’s “basic” Social Security benefit. For example, if a qualifying parent would have received $1000 a month as part of their basic Social Security benefits, their child can receive up to $750 a month if the qualifying parent dies before the child turns 18 or if the child meets the other qualifications above.
However, maximum child’s benefit payments can be affected by how much your family already receives from Social Security. Social Security only pays up to a maximum amount per family regardless of what things they may qualify for, such as benefits to a surviving spouse.
Family maximum payments from Social Security can be up to 150% to 180% of a parent’s full benefit amount. If the total amounts payable from different benefits exceeds the above limit, Social Security will reduce every person’s individual benefit proportionately until it reaches the maximum limit.
You can apply for Social Security survivor benefits for your child with a few pieces of paperwork and identifying information. Specifically, you’ll need:
Once you have this information, you can either go to your local Social Security office or call the office at 1-800-966-4999.
While children can receive survivor benefits from Social Security, they may also qualify for a monthly VA pension benefit if their deceased parent was a former Veteran.
The VA monthly pension is awardable to children who are single and under the age of 18. Children may also qualify if they are between 19 and 23 years old while also being enrolled in a VA-approved school. Those children with disabilities that occurred before 18 can also apply for the VA pension program.
Note that any child that takes advantage of the Pension for Survivors of Deceased Wartime Veterans must be unmarried or alternatively be incapable of self-support before the age of 18.
This benefit is also contingent on certain Veteran qualifications. The deceased Veteran must have:
In conjunction with Social Security survivor benefits, this could allow children or the families of deceased Veterans to stay financially stable or to pay for funeral costs and other expenses.
As you can see, you or your children may qualify for survivor benefits. However, it can be tough to know what benefits you qualify for and fill out a survivor benefits application to make sure you get paid promptly to cover bills and other necessary expenses.
Veterans law attorneys can help you get your paperwork straight and make sure you qualify for both Social Security survivor benefits and VA pension survivor benefits. We can offer sound advice for all of your financial goals and help you navigate this trying time.
Don’t worry about facing these challenges alone — contact Berry Law today.
Benefits for Children | Social Security Administration (SSA.gov)
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