A surviving spouse is able to receive social security benefits based on the earnings of the deceased spouse, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration. Restrictions based on age, disability and family status impact when a surviving spouse begins receiving benefits.
A surviving spouse receives the deceased's full social security benefits once the surviving spouse reaches retirement age or older, reports the U.S. Social Security Administration. Reduced benefits are sometimes issued at age 60, and spouses collect social security payments at age 50 if a disability exists. Surviving spouses caring for children under 16 years of age are entitled to social security benefits immediately after a spouse's death.