Survivor Benefits

Information about survivor benefits when financial help is needed

Last updated: 2 February 2017

After the loss of a partner, you may find that you need added financial support. If your loved one paid Social Security taxes and earned enough ‘credits’ during their working life, there could be certain benefits you can claim, including a one-off $255 Survivor’s Benefit.

First, though, Social Security must be notified of your loved one’s death. The funeral home will usually do this on your behalf, but you will need to provide them with your loved one’s social security number.

Spouses over retirement age and children under the age of 18 are among those eligible to qualify for monthly Social Security survivor benefits. The amount you may be paid varies, according to the contribution your loved one paid into the scheme during their working life. Details about who can qualify are outlined on the Social Security Administrations’ website.

Military

If your loved one served in the military, there are a number of tax-free benefits that you may be entitled to receive, as identified by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This includes Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, generally paid to a spouse, dependent children or parents when a member of the services dies on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.

Financial dependents whose loved one dies as a result of service-related disabilities may also be supported, under the Special Monthly Compensation Program, if they are in need of aid and assistance, due to circumstances such as a disability.

Civil Service

If your loved one was an employee in the civil service at the time of their death, unmarried children aged under 18 (or up until aged 22, if in full-time education at a recognized school) may receive monthly benefits under the Office of Human Resources Civil Service Retirement System. Children who were registered as disabled before the age of eighteen may receive a monthly payment, ongoing until they marry.

If you or your family do not qualify for a monthly survivor annuity, you may receive a lump sum made up of the unpaid balance of your loved one’s retirement contributions into the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund. Your loved one will have signed a Designation of Beneficiary form identifying the beneficiaries by order of precedence.

Other employers

Many large organisations and workers unions offer membership of welfare funds that include death benefits. These may be paid out as lump sums or monthly annuities to the dependents of the employee or former employees. Factors they consider when reckoning the benefit include the length and time of your loved one’s service and their rate of pay.

If your loved one was working at the time of their death and had not claimed their pension, contributions they paid into their retirement scheme may be refunded to those who do not qualify for monthly survivor benefits. The recipients are determined according to the individual organization’s order of precedence.