Disability benefits given to a worker who leaves behind a spouse after death may be receivable to the widow, widower or a surviving divorced spouse under certain circumstances. The eligible individual must be between the ages of 50 to 60, the disability must meet Social Security’s definition of adult disability and the disability must have been present at least seven years before the worker’s death.



As stated, the Social Security Administration uses the same disability definition as they do for any other adult disability. Only full disability is paid for, whereas partial disability or short-term disability is not. The definition is based on your ability to work.

The basic conditions are as follows.

1. You are not able to work as you once did.
2. Social Security decides that you are unable to perform other work because of your condition.
3. The disability is expected to persist or has persisted for a year or will result in death.

Additionally, first and foremost, the deceased worker must have been fully insured at time of death in order for a widow or widower or surviving divorced spouse to qualify for disability benefits.

An individual who applies for these disability benefits must also prove their relationship to the deceased. A widower, widow or a surviving divorced spouse must either be a legal spouse, a putative spouse or a deemed spouse.

The widower or widow must have been married to the deceased worker at least nine months previous to the worker’s date of death. In the case of a surviving divorced spouse, he or she must have a final divorce decree and must have been married to the deceased worker for a period of 10 years or more. If the deceased worker and the individual’s divorce was not final at the time of death, the individual may be able to receive benefits as a widow or widower.

The SSA also examines the relationship to the deceased worker’s children. Defining factors such as adoptive rights are also taken into consideration for the claim. The agency must verify any of these records through your own documentation or through legal documents such as death or birth certificates.

Social Security also reviews entitlement at the time of the claim. This includes the fact that the claimant is not married (can be dependent on age), an application has been filed and the claimant’s own benefits do not exceed the deceased worker’s benefits.

These points are just a quick overview of the requirements deemed by the Social Security Administration. Many variances can occur and additional information can be found on the SSA website. Contact our offices with questions and concerns and we will help you expedite this complicated process.