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In this article, I will cover a very important topic related to social security benefits for surviving spouses and surviving divorced spouses. It is one of the topics many people do not know about, but it is so important to have full information about this most important benefit. So, in today’s article I will cover in detail all the information related to the topic, including eligibility.

Can surviving/divorced spouse collect Social Security Benefits?

Most people do not know that what will happen to Social Security benefits, if their spouse died and can they collect their Social Security benefits or not. First of all, that depends on a few factors, such as whether you were married or divorced at the time of their death and how long you were married. Secondly, was your spouse receiving their Social Security benefits at the time of his/her death.  

So, you may be eligible to collect survivor benefits on a deceased spouse and it could be up to 100% of what your spouse was getting from social security, or what they were entitled to get if he/she had not started collecting yet.

How do you Know if you are eligible?

In most cases, you have to be at least 60 years old to claim survivor benefits and how much of your Deceased Spouse’s Benefits you get depends on your age when you claim, just like regular social security benefits. It is pertinent to mention here that you need to have been married for at least 9 months unless the death was accidental or happened at the time your spouse was serving in military.

Do You Automatically Get Survivor Benefits?

When it comes to getting Social Security benefits in this category, you may be eligible to collect these benefits, provided your spouse was already getting Social Security benefits. In that case, Social Security Administration will make the switch from spousal to survivor benefits. Otherwise, if will have to call the Social Security Administration or visit your local Social Security office to apply for the benefits.

Can you get survivor Social Security benefits in addition to your own monthly Social Security payment?

You can not get a survivor benefit in addition to your own monthly Social Security payment. However, you can get a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount. But, you need to apply to switch to survivor benefits.

What if you were divorced before your spouse died?

You might still qualify for survivor benefits if you were married at least 10 years when your spouse died. It is important to mention here that re-marriage can also affect your eligibility. Detailed information could be found at

How Social Security Survivor Benefits are calculated?

Generally, Social Security calculates the benefit for a surviving spouse or a surviving divorce spouse based on the deceased worker’s full benefit amount, which Social Security calls the primary insurance amount. The primary insurance amount is the amount you collect if you start your benefit at full retirement age. It is important to note that your full retirement age depends on your year of birth. It is worth-mentioning here that full retirement age used to be age 65 and is gradually increasing to age 67.

Calculation of full survivor benefits

It is added here that Social Security also looks at whether the worker claimed benefits before they died. If the worker had not claimed benefits and died before reaching for retirement age, the full survivor benefits will be the amount the worker would have collected at full retirement age. Moreover, if the worker died before claiming Social Security and after reaching for retirement age, the full survivor benefit would be the increased amount the worker would be collecting if he or she had started collecting in the month of death. However, if the worker was already collecting Social Security before they died, then the survivor benefit is based on the amount the worker would still be collecting if they were alive. But if the worker took early retirement with a reduced benefit, then the survivor benefit is also reduced.

When can you claim survivor benefits?

You can collect Social Security as a surviving spouse or a surviving divorced spouse as early as age 60, which is two years earlier than you can collect under the Social Security Retirement Program. Social Security may also pay a benefit at any age if you have a dependent child on the deceased’s record in your care and the child is under age 16 or disabled. But here we will just focus on collecting based on your age. It is pertinent to mention here that member benefits increase for each month you delay claiming from age 60 all the way up to your full retirement age.

For example, let’s say your spouse died before collecting Social Security and had a primary insurance amount of $2,000. Remember that the primary insurance amount is the amount your spouse would have collected at full retirement age. So, if you claim the benefit at age 60, you receive 71.5% or $1,430 per month. Now, the benefit increases for each month you wait and if you wait and claim at your full retirement age, then you would get the full survivor benefit of $2,000 per month. So, you will get the highest survivor benefit if you claim it at your full retirement age. It is important to note that unlike Social Security retirement benefits, Social Security survivor benefits do not increase if you delay claiming past your full retirement age.

What if your spouse did not pay Social Security taxes?

The situation will be little complicated if your spouse who worked in a government job and did not pay Social Security taxes on his/her wages, then the Government Pension Offset may reduce the Social Security you can collect on a deceased worker’s record.

Another situation that can get a little complicated is when you are eligible for a survivor benefit and a retirement benefit. However, you can not collect both at the same time, but fortunately you do have some other options. You could collect on one record early and then wait until you’re older enough to switch to the other record to get a higher amount.

How can you reach out to Social Security Administration?

In case you need any assistance, you can reach out to your local Social Security office by visiting slash locator or calling 800-772-1213 and a representative can help you make an informed decision about your benefits. For safe and secure access to your Social Security information online, you can create a My Social Security account at account. And for general information about Social Security, check out Security. You can also visit where you will be able to find more information about Social Security and a variety of other topics such as Medicare, caregiving, and fraud.


In this article, I tried my best to cover this very important topic, but if you still have any further questions related to this topic, please feel free to visit my website: to check out for more advanced learnings about other Social Security topics including windfall elimination provision and government pension offset on my website.


Q. Can Surviving/Divorced Spouse Collect Social Security Benefits?

A. Yes. In most cases surviving/divorced are eligible to collect Social Security benefits.

Q. How can you find your survivor/divorced benefits?

A. You can find out your Social Security benefits either by visiting your local Social Security office of by calling toll free number 1-800-772-1213.

Q. Do You Automatically Get Survivor Benefits?

A. If your spouse already getting Social Security benefits before he/she died then you will be eligible to get automatic benefits, otherwise you will have to visit your local Social Security or need to call to apply for the benefits.


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