What Are Some Social Security Benefits for Widows?


Quick Answer

Widows of spouses who earned enough work credits can receive full monthly Social Security benefits if they retire at full retirement age or reduced benefits if they retire at age 60 or later. Widows can receive benefits earlier if they care for the decedent worker's minor child or are disabled.

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Full Answer

Widows are able to receive full Social Security benefits if their spouses paid Social Security taxes for 10 years of work and earned 40 work credits, as of 2015. If the worker died young, even less credits are needed for the widow to receive benefits. Although the benefits can begin at age 60, the amount is reduced by a small percentage for each month that widows receive them before full retirement age. However, disabled widows may begin receiving payments by age 50, and widows can receive survivors benefits at any age if they are caring for a worker's child who is under 16.

If a widow is already receiving spousal benefits, the Social Security Administration automatically changes the benefits to survivors benefits when they receive notification of the spouse's death. If the widow is eligible for retirement benefits through her own work, the SSA pays her the higher amount of her own retirement benefits or the widow's survivors benefit. Widows cannot apply for survivors benefits online. They must make an appointment by phone and appear in person at a Social Security office.

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