Soc. Security Survivorship Benefits - help!

share_oh

My dad (85) passed away last month from covid.

My mom (83) had it and survived, thankfully. Now we are dealing with all kinds of unexpected situations and I'm trying my best to help her figure them out.

My dad's social security was about $1700/mo. My mom was getting about $600/mo. She thought once he died, she wouldn't get hers any longer, but she would instead collect his amount.

This seemed to be true with a letter she received telling her in Feb. she would get about $1500 - that confused her but I saw they were deducting about $150 for Medicare. So the amount was a little bit less than what he was getting, but pretty close.

Then yesterday she received another letter saying they were deducting $500 from the amount, making her total monthly check now about $1000. She read everything to me over the phone and there's really not a good explanation for why they are making this deduction.

She tried calling the local SS office to no avail. Today she was going to try the national office.

I went online to try to see if I could figure out if this is the case or if it is an error. I'm confused after reading their website!

She is meeting with her attorney next week, so if she can't get ahold of anybody from SS, maybe he can figure it out.

But I thought maybe someone here has experienced something similar and can give me a heads up on what should or shouldn't be happening!

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Comments (19)
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ritamay91710

Sadly, I think that's probably correct. You don't get your spouse's full amount. I think about 2/3 rds.

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Olychick

I am editing this as I just found this on the SS benefits page and it confirms what others are writing below this post:

Social Security uses the deceased worker’s basic benefit
amount to calculate the percentage survivors can get.
The percentage depends on the survivor’s age and
relationship to the worker. If the worker who died was
getting reduced benefits, we’ll base your survivor’s benefit
on that amount. In most typical claims for benefits:
• A widow or widower, at full retirement age or older,
generally gets 100 percent of the worker’s basic
benefit amount;

Be sure she also applies for the one time SS burial benefit. It's not much, but most people don't even know it exists.

Area Agency on Aging has contracts with Legal Aid offices all around the country to provide free legal help to Seniors. One of the priorities in many of those offices is problems with Social Security, or Medicare or Medicaid. You can see if there are services in her area and she might be able to get a phone consult for free. If you cannot find a resource in her area, post the county and state she is in and I'll see if I can look it up.

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woodsy_1

My husband died August 16. I finally got SS straightened out as of January 4. It took 4 1/2 months. The good news is, I received every penny they owed me.

Nobody at SS seems to be in a hurry to help. In my case, I was calling the national office, which I am told is staffed by a bunch of work from home people giving pat answers off of a script. This is not a political opinion, it is a fact. If there is anything outside the norm they don't have an answer. The problem is, they give one anyway.

I had much better luck when I called my local office. The woman who answered was experienced and was able to determine where the problem was. It seems that, way in the beginning, there was a form mailed to me that had to be filled out and sent back. I never received the form, only a host of letters stating that I was not eligible for survivor benefits. That was wrong, and finally fixed.

I only told the highlights, the long version isn't important and doesn't apply in your mother's case. I honestly can't say what the full amount of my husband's was every month or what percentage I am receiving. I can say it is more than I thought it would be. You have to stay on top of the situation. It takes more than a phone call. It takes time, and she is just getting started.

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Rose Pekelnicky

When my husband died I was getting around half of his. The way they explained it was a little confusing but after his death I get the full amount he was getting. For example if I was getting 750 and he was getting 1500, I now get my 750 plus 750 of his to equal the 1500 he was getting. The letter may be trying to explain it that way.

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share_oh

That's what I was thinking - she should get his full amount based on her age. Around here many govt offices are still closed and people are working from home - usually that means you leave a message and someone calls you back, but she wasn't even getting thru to leave a message. :(

Rose, my husband thought maybe that was the case here as well - her original $600 plus the $1000 now would be about the same amount - but it didn't say that.

How hard would it be for them to just use plain English in these letters and spell everything out?!

Thank you for the responses. I feel a little better that she is most likely entitled to the larger amount. If we have to fight for it, we will for sure!

And Olychick - thanks - she got a third letter offering condolences and I believe the $255 death benefit check was enclosed. I think the funeral home sent the info to SS so she didn't have to do that.

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satine100

I believe she will get the amount that her husband received. I was given a choice of mine or his when my husband died and chose his because it was much higher than mine.

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maifleur03

When my husband died I was told that I would receive all of his and none of mine which I already knew. Part of the confusion may lie with the reclaiming of the last month that your father received. What I was told was that they would reclaim his. Then pay me the difference between his and mine for that month. He died in January but the first appointment was not until March. It took about three months for me to receive his full amount less Medicare and taxes. During that time I still received my regular amount.


Something to be aware of when she files taxes. She should file the taxes that are due April 2021 using Married. For the taxes that will be filed in 2022 she will file as Single. You may want to use the IRS withholding calculator in a couple of months when she has accurate figures on her income. When I did it last year I was able to adjust what was withheld to reduce any surprise money due when I file next month. Based on other widows/widowers I was aware that not knowing that a change was needed created major stress in some of their lives. Tax Withholding Estimator | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov)


Funeral homes homes are now required to notify Social Security of deaths although some seem to wait for months.

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Olychick

This might not apply to the OP, but thought I'd just add it for others. My husband died when we were in our 40's. We'd followed his career, so my wages were spotty after we married. After he died, I got a better job and started earning more money than I had in the past, but still not near what he'd earned. When I turned 60, I was eligible for Survivor's benefits, so I quit my job and collect on his SS.

When I turned 70, since I'd never collected on my own benefits, SS notified me that switching to my own benefits would give me more $$ than what I was collecting on his account. Who knew? I never would have thought to check, but because I'd delayed until age 70 to collect on my own account, the benefits were higher. I was impressed that they computed that and notified me.

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maifleur03

I have to shake my head at the above comment since it also blasts all the stay at home moms that it seems a good number of people think is the only thing that women are good for. Perhaps people who parrot that idea that any person woman or man that did not work full time long enough for a full retirement should rethink their position if they had ever really thought about it.

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maifleur03

I came back to add to my earlier comment. I too received more SS than what my husband was drawing after he died. I seem to remember it was just under $30 additional.

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sjerin

Share_Oh, here's what you do: My husband just retired and there was a tiny typo on his original SS paperwork, causing big problems. Because SS offices are closed, it was impossible, despite many phone calls and passport sent, to get the problem remedied. So he called our congressperson's office and bing, bang, boom, that person got right on it, making sure the problem was fixed. It doesn't show up on his account yet, (another phone call soon!) but Medicare protocols were put in place with the correct info and that is completed, indicating to us that all systems are go. I hope!

Addressing these kinds of problems are part and parcel of Congressional offices. Dh had a passport problem years ago and the same office did the magic necessary for a quick solution.

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share_oh

sjerin - I'm waiting to hear if she was able to get thru to SS yet... if not, this could be the next step. Thank you for the info and I hope it all works out with your husband's situation. : )

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sjerin

Ok. My dh had many calls over many weeks but the head of the office near us was the one designated to correct the error--they said no one else could do it. That person never called dh back nor sent an email. I hope your mom has better luck.

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Olychick

I think what maifleur wrote above that the discrepancy in the letters might be for the 1st month only - that they will take back the money her husband was paid in the month he died, then will give her the increased amount after that. I know I had to repay his SS for the month he died in because they pay you a month ahead, apparently.

I don't know how they will figure her benefit for the month of his death; whether she will qualify for his that month or have to wait a month. If she does qualify for his in the month he died, she'd have to pay back HIS benefit, pay back HER benefit, then receive his full amount in her name (in theory, just to figure the math correctly). But some of the discrepancies might involve all the pay backs and reissuing of benefits.

I wouldn't stress too much about it until you see what they actually do. If it's not right, then you can tackle fixing it.

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Izzy Mn

Share-oh. Did your mother start drawing SS before she was at full benefit age? Assuming 65 was their the full benefits age then. If she herself started before 65 drawing SS benefits it would be reduced from what she would otherwise receive as surviving spouse. Same reduction against the amount she would receive because of spouses higher amount .

This is just a guess of why. Still keep trying to contact as office or a professional.

My spouse is a few months away from drawing SS at age 66 plus 3months so I've been reading stuff but yeah, confusing stuff.

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woodrose

When my husband passed away last July, I lost my benefits, but started drawing the exact amount of his benefits.Your Mom may be able to get help paying her Medicare premium. I don't know what the limit is for this year, but you can find that information at medicare.gov, and her state DCBS website.

Olychick, you don't have to apply for the burial benefit from Social Security, it will be autromatically deposited in your bank account.

bob_cville, that statement is absolutely false. Please stop spreading disinformation.

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share_oh

UPDATE: Thank you everyone for your help and responses. My mom finally got thru to someone on the phone at SS... and she should be getting the original $1500 like the first letter said. Fingers crossed that's the end of it and no more confusion!

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Olychick

"Olychick, you don't have to apply for the burial benefit from Social
Security, it will be autromatically deposited in your bank account"

Thanks, Woodrose.

I just looked on the SS website and it says the death benefit is only automatically paid if the surviving spouse or children are either already receiving SS or become eligible for it upon the death of the person.

"If the eligible surviving spouse or child is not currently receiving
benefits, they must apply for this payment within two years of the date of death."

My husband died in the 1990's, was not on SS, nor was I, so I would have had to apply for the lump sum benefit. I didn't know about it, so didn't apply and never got it.

So re: the OP, she did get the benefit without applying, because they were already on SS.

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woodrose

share_oh, I'm so glad she got that settled. Around here it's nearly impossible to get any help from the local office. I've always had better service from the main SS office.

Olychick, I thought since she was already drawing SS benefits, she shouldn't have any problem with the death benefit. I didn't know you would have to apply if you weren't receiving SS benefits. As my late dear Mom would say , " I learn something new every day " !

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