A widow, or survivor benefit, is determined based on the earnings of the person that died. It also depends on the survivor's age and the type of benefit she is eligible to receive.
A widow who is of full retirement age or older receives 100 percent of the deceased's benefit amount. If the widow is age 60 to the age of full retirement, she receives 71 1/2 to 99 percent of the deceased's basic amount. If the widow is age 50 to 59 and disabled, she receives 71 1/2 percent, and a widow at any age that is caring for a child under age 16 receives 75 percent of the deceased's benefit amount.
There is a limit to how much the widow can receive each month. The limit varies, but it is usually equal to 150 to 180 percent of the deceased's basic benefit rate. If the total amount payable to the widow is greater than the limit, the benefits are reduced accordingly.
Benefits for a widow may be affected by additional issues, such as if the widow remarries, becomes eligible for her own retirement benefits, or receives a pension that was based on work not covered by Social Security.