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Post-death benefits in a work related tragedy – and availability of Social Security benefits

Prematurely losing a loved one to an accident at work is a tragedy simply unparalleled. If that person also happened to be the primary breadwinner in a family, the shockwaves extend well beyond the personal turmoil that will follow. In addition to the pain of loss, you must now figure out how to continue to support yourself and the remaining members of your family that depend on you. Although nothing will replace the loss of a loved one, there are certain safety nets set up through the government that are specifically meant to address this horrific ordeal. Through the Social Security system, widowers and children of deceased family members are entitled to certain rights, including monetary compensation to account for lost income. Visit www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan for more information.

Here are some of the summarized benefits available through Social Security:

General benefits

  • As you work and pay into Social Security, you earn credits towards post-death benefits. The younger you are when you die, the fewer years you need to have paid into the system. Nobody needs to work for more than 10 years to be eligible for these benefits.
  • If you have only worked for one and a half years, and you die within three years of starting that job, benefits will be available to your spouse and your children.
  • A one-time payment of $255 may be available to the surviving spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, a surviving child may be eligible for this payment.

Widows and widowers

  • Any widow or widower may be eligible for full monthly benefits once they reach retirement age. The retirement age for people born in 1945-1956 is 66. People born after 1962 reach retirement age at 67.
  • A widow or widower can get reduced benefits as early as age 60
  • If your surviving spouse is disabled, they may receive benefits as early as age 50.
  • If a widow or widower is caring for a child of the deceased under the age of 16, or if the child is of any age and disabled, they may be eligible for monthly benefits.
  • In certain circumstances, a surviving divorced spouse may be eligible for benefits as well.

Children of the deceased

  • An unmarried child of the deceased may be eligible for benefits is they are younger than 18 (and up to age 19 if they attend school full-time)
  • A child of the deceased may receive monthly benefits if they are age 18 or older and have a disability that was diagnosed before they turn 22.
  • In certain cases, a stepchild, grandchild, stepgrandchild or adopted child may be eligible for benefits.

Parents of the deceased

  • Parents of the deceased may be eligible for benefits if they are older than 62 and depended on the deceased for at least half of their income.

If the deceased was already receiving Social Security benefits, then you must return the payment received in the month after the death occurred. So if the deceased passed away in October, you must return the Social Security payment received in November and then contact Social Security to see if post-death benefits are available.

Outside of benefits, legal action may be possible

While Social Security benefits are a potentially helpful recourse for a family coping with the loss of a family member, at Altman & Altman LLP we understand that these benefits may simply not be enough to maintain a lifestyle that is sufficient for your needs. Additionally, there is no guarantee that you will receive these benefits.  If your loved one was taken from you as the result of a work accident steeped in negligence on behalf of the company, or was otherwise avoidable, you have the right to file a Massachusetts lawsuit against that company for wrongful death and are entitled to financial compensation. Our team of experienced attorneys has over 40 years of experience litigating every different kind of wrongful death case, and we will never give up until you have received the financial recompense you need to continue on with your life.

Call us for a completely free consultation today at 617-492-3000 or toll-free at 800-481-6199. We are available 24/7, and we do not collect any payment unless you are successful in your claim.

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