Spouse and Survivor Benefits

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Delayed Credits Do Not Increase a Spousal Benefit Amount

Percent of Full Retirement Age Spousal Benefits

Percent of Full Retirement Age Spousal Benefits

Some claimants may qualify for benefits based on a current, divorced or deceased spouse’s work record.

Divorced Spouse

You may qualify for a divorced spouse’s benefits if you were previously married for 10+ years and divorced for at least two years.

  • - If you qualify, you may start to collect benefits before your ex-spouse starts to collect.
  • - If you qualify, you may receive up to 50% of your ex-spouse’s maximum full retirement age benefits.
  • - If you qualify, you may collect reduced benefits before age 66.
  • - There is no additional benefit for delaying past your full retirement age.

Survivor Benefits

A survivor benefit is a benefit paid to the designated beneficiary of a worker (usually a spouse) upon the death of the worker.

Survivor benefits are offered to widows and widowers at full retirement age, or a reduced survivor benefit is available as early as age 60.

  • - You may not collect survivor benefits if you remarry before 60 (unless the later marriage ends).
  • - You may collect the greater of your retirement benefits or your deceased spouse’s benefits.
  • - If you remarry after age 60, you can still choose to receive survivor benefits based on your former spouse’s record.
  • - You may collect your new spouse’s benefits if they exceed your deceased spouse’s benefits.
  • - You may collect your survivor benefits, while allowing your benefits to increase over time. Later, you may consider receiving your benefits, in substitute of survivor benefits, if your benefits exceed survivor benefits.

How Much Will I Receive?

The Social Security Administration bases the benefit amounts on the earnings of the person who died. The more the worker paid into Social Security, the greater your benefits will be.

SSA uses the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount to calculate the percentage survivors get. The percentage depends on the survivor’s age and relationship to the worker. If the worker who died was getting reduced benefits, the survivor’s benefit will be based on the reduced amount.11

  • - A widow or widower, at full retirement age or older, generally receives 100% of the worker’s basic benefit amount;
  • - A widow or widower, age 60 or older, but under full retirement age, generally receives 71%–99% of the worker’s basic benefit amount; or
  • - A widow or widower, any age, with a child younger than age 16, generally receives 75% of the deceased worker’s basic benefit amount;
  • - A child generally receives 75% of the worker’s benefit amount.

For more information, refer to the 2019 Social Security Changes.pdf on the Social Security Administration website.

Benefits for Children of Retirees

When you qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, your children may also qualify to receive benefits on your record. Your eligible child can be your biological child, adopted child or stepchild. A dependent grandchild may also qualify. A child may receive benefits until age 18 with a few exceptions.

Survivor Benefits for Children

In order to receive benefits, your child must:

  • - Be unmarried; and
  • - Be under age 18; or
  • - Be under 18–19 years old and a full-time student (no higher than grade 12); or
  • - Be under 18 or older and disabled from a disability that started before age 22.

Within your family, each qualified child may receive a monthly payment up to one-half of your full retirement benefit amount. However, there is a maximum benefit amount for each family. The maximum benefit amount depends on your benefit amount and the number of family members who also qualify on your record. The limit varies between 150% and 180% of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.

If you have a divorced spouse who qualifies for benefits, it will not affect the amount of benefits you or your family may receive.

For more information on survivor benefits, refer to the Retirement Benefits for Children.pdf on the Social Security Administration website.

Federal Disability Program

Federal Disability Program

There are two programs administered by the Social Security Administration, which provide assistance to people with disabilities. Although these two programs are very different, only individuals who have a disability and meet medical criteria may qualify for benefits under either program.


Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are insured, meaning you have worked long enough and paid Social Security taxes.


Supplemental Security Income pays benefits based on financial need.


  • - You may apply as soon as you become disabled.
  • - You may receive benefits if you have a medical condition expected to last at least one year or result in death.
  • - You may not receive benefits for up to six months after becoming disabled.


  1. Your spouse, if he or she is age 62+.
  2. Your spouse, if he or she is caring for your child who is under 16 or disabled.
  3. Your unmarried child under 18 (or 19 if he or she is attending high school). This may include stepchildren or grandchildren.
  4. Your unmarried child with a disability that started before age 22.

For more information, refer to the Benefits Eligibility Screening Tool on the Social Security Administration website.

Additional Resources

Brave Conversations on Personal Retirement

Insights, programs and tools


Financial Advisors

Call your local BNY Mellon Wholesaler for a copy of our client-use Social Security Resource Guide


Individual Investors

Call for a copy of our Social Security Resource Guide



This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular investment, strategy, investment manager or account arrangement. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. Please consult your legal, tax or investment advisor in order to determine whether an investment product or service is appropriate for your particular situation. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. BNY Mellon Corporation and BNY Mellon Securities Corporation are companies of BNY Mellon.

11 “Survivor Benefits, 2017,” Social Security Administration.